Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breaking Silence

I began writing this on Friday, January 15, 2010 -- the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 9:30 in the evening here in New York. Just over three days earlier, an earthquake devastated the city of Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, as well as many other parts of the country.

Earlier that week, I finished reading Gilead, a novel by Marilynne Robinson. The narrator, John Ames, is a minister in Iowa, whose grandfather fought for abolition in Kansas. Towards the end of the book I spotted this: "doctrine is not belief, it is only one way of talking about belief." I almost wrote a post beginning with that quote.

I've been trying to get something posted for a few weeks now. Early this month, the journal Anglican and Episcopal History arrived. I was attracted to and immediately read three articles. The first two, "Anglican history in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized," by Jane Shaw and "Anglican History in the 21st Century: Remembering All the Baptized: How Then Shall We Teach?" by Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatoski were presented at the annual meeting of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church which took place in Anaheim in July, in conjunction with General Convention. My principal takeaway from the first article is a reminder that it was the "British conservative evangelicals" who were opposed to the early Lambeth Conferences producing any binding resolutions and now "it is the conservative and evangelical bishops, not only in England but all around the globe, who are pushing for Lambeth decisions to be binding."

The second article brought to my attention the early Christian community in China, evangelized in the seventh century by the Church of the East. There are Chinese writings called Jesus Sutras which date from the seventh and eighth centuries. I am interested in this partly because of my renewed interest in learning Chinese and partly for its own sake. The Jesus Sutras reportedly use language drawn from Taoism -- this interests me and I want to find out more about it, to see if it offers any insights that might be helpful in meditative spiritual practice.

Around the beginning of November, Liz and I began going to morning prayer at the Lampman Chapel in nearby Union Theological Seminary. This service was started by our rector at St. Mary's, Earl Kooperkamp, and takes place Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. I call it morning prayer without the capital letters because we do not use the prayer book rite -- instead we use a form from Iona. There's a lot of silence in it, and I am beginning to get used to that. We read two lessons from the Daily Office lectionary, but no psalm, no canticles and no gospel. My interest in the Jesus Sutras is partly so I can use them to briefly meditate on in this morning prayer time.

The third article that grabbed my attention the current issue of Anglican and Episcopal History is "The Challenge of Definition: Conflict and Concord in Anglicanism," by C. K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop. It's an important article, but here I will focus on a what is almost a side issue. Canon Robertson refers to the concept of "a spiral of unmanaged conflict" discussed by Susan Carpenter and William Kennedy in their 1988 book Managing Public Disputes. "Their premise," he writes, "is that any given divisive issue left unresolved will reappear again and again in slightly different guises, so that the passage of time, far from bringing healing, instead creates an ever-increasing intensity of opposition." I had never heard of the spiral of unmanaged conflict and was particularly struck by the idea, not for its applicability to the conflict in the Anglican Communion over sexuality but for its applicability to conflicts in the housing cooperative where I live and am a board member.

Note: This is first of a series of posts that I began in the past. I have rounded off the last paragraph that I wrote earlier and leaving it at that

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