General Convention Update–Blogging the Blue Book

Not me, Scott Gunn. He’s writing a series of posts on the various reports and resolutions to be discussed at General Convention. They are all worth reading–thoughtful and challenging–and often addressing larger issues facing the church.

For example, he raises questions about the political resolutions proposed by various bodies here. Here’s the principle he proposes:

Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems.

So rather than tell corporations to mind the environment, let’s pledge to have environmentally sustainable congregations. Let’s stop killing so many trees (ahem, General Convention legislative binder. *cough*). Rather than tell President Obama to do this or that about various Middle Eastern crises, let’s divest or invest or travel or boycott or something. Let’s stop calling for an end to the boycott of Cuba and instead set up travel programs to take people there. You get the idea.

And, for the love of God, let’s stop telling other governments what to do. What possible business do we have telling the government of North Korea what to do? How are 800 deputies and 200 bishops going to monitor the use of drones in warfare? Why should we wade into the complexities of the US tax code (remember, we are an international church!)?

And remember, one of the few budget items to be increased for the the next triennium is the Governmental Affairs office, while other programs like formation were gutted.

Frederick Schmidt also ponders the relationship between the church and the political realm in “Winning the White House and losing our souls.” Some of what he says is quite pertinent to Scott’s analysis of the place of political resolutions at General Convention:

Three, political speech and theological speech are not one in the same. Yes, theology has collective and corporate implications and, therefore, political implications. But the church is called upon to think about those issues from a fundamentally different point of view. Methodists are fond of talking about the resources of Christian theology as lying in Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. That list is inadvertently read as a list of two resources unique to the church (Scripture and tradition), alongside two resources shared in common with everyone else (what goes on inside our heads and what goes on in our lives). But when Christians talk about reason, we are talking about reasoning with the church, and when we talk about experience, we are talking about the experience of the church. When we use political language as if it were theological language, or when we use theology as if were a surrogate for politics, we fail to live and think as Christians were meant to live and think.

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5 thoughts on “General Convention Update–Blogging the Blue Book

  1. Steven Holmgren (Ethics after Easter) would say that we are called to interact with government *as the church*… which I think is fundamentally what Schmidt is saying.

  2. Martha, I’d agree that the church should speak about political issues. However, there are lots of ways “the church” can do that without resorting to General Convention. And not all political speech is equally edifying or effective. That’s what I was trying to say. Whilst retaining ambivalence about the role of resolutions from churchwide or diocesan conventions, I’ll defend vociferously the need for the church to be involved in our political landscape.

    • Scott: I share your ambivalence about resolutions (whether from GC or diocesan convention) being the most effective means of political witness. I also wonder whether a Governmental Affairs Office is an effective means of witness or advocacy. Yes, the church should speak out, but it should do it from the heart of the gospel, using the language of the gospel, to express our understanding of Divine justice and mercy. I think it’s very dangerous to allow our voice to become nothing more than another voice in the cacophony that makes up our political discourse today.

    • Tim: I’m not going to reply to your very thoughtful posts on Standfirminfaith.com, because I’ve been labeled on that site as a “vocally revisionist” priest. I think you and I could have a conversation; I would hope that you and I could have a conversation. Yes, I’m probably on the “left” aisle, but I am also deeply committed to making sure everyone has a place at the table, and in the conversation.

      Blessings to you in your ministry and in our shared love of Anglicanism.

      Jonathan

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