Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mind the Gap

Sunday's "inclusive opening service" was a boost to my spirits. Gathered in a beautiful, open, grassy park, a couple of hundred folks gathered to give God thanks in the way that Christians have been doing for centuries. Susan Russell "knocked one out of the park" with her sermon. Her theme, a phrase heard at every Tube station in London: Mind the Gap! She talked about all the gaps that separate us -- especially the gap between what we say and how we act. (At the official opening service in the morning, I understand that the sermon by a Sri Lankan bishop was extraordinary, though I've still not caught up with it online. The irony of singing the hymn "All are welcome" apparently was not lost on anyone!) But the gaps, said Susan, need not become chasms that divide us -- it is the greatest of Anglican traditions.

Some 20-30 American bishops joined us for the inclusive service. Many of them gathered with me in the parish hall next door, to walk with me over to the eucharist site. They are sharing the pain of all this with me, and their pain is real too. We're all caught in this institutional web of which we are a part. Their being there, their words of comfort and pain, and their walking with me meant so much.

I learned more about today's planned meeting of the House of Bishops and the official thinking behind my not being able to attend. I don't "get" their reasoning, but here it is: (And the fact is, most of our House of Bishops is probably totally unaware of the "negotiations" going on behind the scenes.) The Lambeth planners do NOT consider this a meeting of our House of Bishops. Rather, they say, this is a part of the Lambeth Conference, and therefore, as a non-invitee, I will not be allowed on the premises where the meeting is taking place. It seems a flimsy distinction to me, but I have decided not to pursue it. It really puts all of us in a lose-lose position: if I abide by their ruling, I am excluded; if I fight it or simply show up, then I'm the troublemaker and rebel. If the House of Bishops takes some action on this, necessitating a vote, then it divides our House -- a further and unnecessary division that I refuse to encourage. So no matter how you slice it, someone loses. I have decided, on my own, to let it go, sad as it is. This is not a ditch I feel called to die in. I will just mourn the sadness of it, and move on. (There's something about shaking the dust off your sandals and moving on that I've read somewhere!)

What I want all of you to know is that there are some amazing people in our House of Bishops who are working constantly behind the scenes to support me. Their support means the world to me. They are as dismayed, discouraged and frustrated as the rest of us. They need to play THEIR roles INSIDE the Big Top (the large tent where they are meeting -- the circus reference has been duly noted by everyone!), and I need to play MINE, OUTSIDE, as our beloved ++Katharine told me back in March. So that's what we'll do.

I'm off early this morning to pray with the Franciscans. Sitting in their 13th century chapel and offering prayers to God, I will be giving thanks for all your prayers and support. I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses -- some here, some far away, and some gathered around the throne of God (+Jim Kelsey comes to mind). Because of your love, some of the bounce is back in my step, and I welcome this new day and whatever it will bring. The Marketplace opens today, and I will be there to talk with whomever wants to talk. And as we know from the Road to Emmaus story, "as they walked and talked, Jesus drew near." I'll be looking for him!