Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The World Cup, General Convention 2006 and Learning Biblical Hebrew

Ruth Gledhill in her Times piece "Anglicans look south for unity in diversity" drew a parallel between World Cup Football (aka soccer) and what is going on in the Anglican Communion. (I was drawn to her piece especially because the centerpiece of the article was an interview with my Archbishop, John Chew)

I have been reflecting on that metaphor as I follow both the World Cup and the proceedings of the Episcopal Church's General Convention (GC06) in Columbus, Ohio at the same time. It has been interesting to see how frenzied the proceedings became on the penultimate day of the convention and it reminds me of one of the traditional "powerhouses" of football frantically trying to get another goal (or two) so that they can ensure survival on the world stage.

As we have seen in this World Cup, too often the favorite underestimates the resolve, passion and preparation of the underdog, and they end up paying the price for that oversight. This is where the parallels between WC06 and GC06 seem very apparent to me...

The Windsor Report was released in 2004, almost 2 years before the Convention that is going on right now. And yet there are so many in the leadership of the Episcopal Church that seem to be surprised by how clearly the report called for certain actions on the part of ECUSA. The quibbling over words and the attempts to fudge a response show how very unprepared most of the leadership was. It appears that they have finally realized that their decisions at this convention will determine whether they remain on the World stage or get booted out of the tournament prematurely.

Many of those who backed the decisions of GC03 were painfully out of touch with how their actions had seriously impaired their relationship with the rest of the Communion, in particular the "poorer" and "less developed" brethren in the Global South. I can remember a number of Episcopal leaders remarking that the reaction of the orthodox conservative Anglicans would eventually blow over, and that they will eventually come to see the "wisdom" of what ECUSA has done.

A fine example of this misunderstanding of what is at stake come from the mouth of the Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori (which rhymes with "sorry"). On being asked what she could do to heal the rift between ECUSA and the rest of the communion, she related an anecdote from her days as a marine biologist. She tells of a ship captain who initially snubbed her, but was won over in 15 minutes. "He got over it," she said.

Unfortunately she would be incredibly naive to think that the rest of the primates will "get over it" after GC06 has essentially "thumbed their collective nose" (some others have been less polite in describing their actions) at the requests of the Windsor Report and the Primates of the Communion.

The whole exercise of what I have been observing has been interestingly juxtaposed with my intensive Summer Hebrew course. In class last week we were taught about a Masoretic device in Hebrew Bibles known as Kethibh-Qere. This feature arose because of the Masoretes' high regard for the text of Scripture. Whenever they were copying the Hebrew Bible and came across a recognized error in the text, they chose to make corrections in the margin. This was so that they could leave the original text that was handed down intact, both as an act of extreme reverence and also as a safeguard against tampering with Scripture. If only the leadership of the Episcopal Church were as scrupulous over God's word as they were in manipulating the text of their endless (and ultimately meaningless) resolutions in Columbus.

Here as some links to first hand observations of GC06:

Rev John Burwell,
Deputy from Diocese of South Carolina

Ruth Gledhill,
London Times Religion Correspondent

Bishop James Stanton,
Diocesan of Dallas

Kendall Harmon
of the titusonenine fame

And of course from the
Archbishop of Canterbury
who technically wasn't there but must have been
following the events closely from across the pond