Posthumous Rooftop Shout

The Guardian’s revelations of the late Colin Slee's observations about leaks and tantrums and tears in the English Episcopal Appointment Process is almost old news at this point, but I do have some thoughts.

The reported behavior of the Primates reminds me of Basil Fawlty, whose leadership style was evident when he said, “You people swan in here expecting to be waited on hand and foot! Well I'm trying to run a hotel!!!” Or the unnamed staff person at an unnamed seminary who complained that it actually cost the institution over $10K per student over what they took in, and if only they could get rid of the students they'd have a perfectly solvent school.

This is the sort of Institutional Blindness we see far too often. The purported good of the many comes to outweigh the actual good of the few, and in the long run no one is either well served or well taught. But the Institution, ah! the blessed Institution, slouches on towards its Byzantine goal, quite the opposite direction from Bethlehem of Judea.

Let us remember a simple truth: Institutional Unity is a false God to whom quite enough sacrifices have been made to satisfy even the most jealous god. As it is an idol, it cannot even appreciate the offering, so much as to mumble a "thank you" or a "not enough."

When the idol in question is a church or communion, how much the worse. It might just be barely comprehensible in a church that completely identified its sectarian self with the sole body of Christ on earth -- if there is such a beast -- but for Anglicans?! How soon we forget that the motto of the Anglican Communion is blazoned round the compasrose as “ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς.” They really ought to have spelled it out in plain English: "The truth shall make you free."

In the one conversation I had with Rowan I told him, in spite of his fears that allowing Jeffrey John to go forward might mean a walk-out of half the bishops, that the Truth might liberate the real power of the Spirit. As I put it at the time, “What would happen; what wave of opportunities for new ministry might break forth across the Anglican Communion if we were to take off our masks — all of us? What would happen if we were to be set free by truth for Truth? I am reminded of the eponymous line from CS Lewis’s great novel, ‘How can we truly know and love each other face-to-face, until we have faces?’”

Since then, however I'd come to imagine Rowan, painfully shackled as he is by his own idolatrous bondage to the false god of Institutional Unity, saying to TEC and C of E leadership, "I have betrayed my conscience and my friends for the sake of unity, and I don't see why you bloody well shouldn't do the same!"

Thus, the Slee memo comes not as a surprise, but a confirmation.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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