31 July 2008
"Is Lambeth like the UN, pass all the resolutions you want, it doesn't do crap?"
Or, click HERE.
30 July 2008
Just so cool!!
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey
THEME FOR ENGLISH B
By Langston HughesThe instructor said,
Go home and writeI wonder if it's that simple?
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white---
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me---
although you're older---and white---
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
29 July 2008
He says it all better than me, so check out his post HERE...
And here are a few snippits:
From "Communion in Conflict" blog...
"It struck me then that our American brand of Anglicanism in The Episcopal Church focuses on the "extensification" of Anglican identity through inclusion of the marginalized, through valuing tolerance and diversity.
Other brands of Anglicanism, however, value intensification--strengthening the bonds that already exist, not in an "exclusive" way, necessarily, but sometimes the net effect can feel or come across as pretty exclusive.
So it seems to me that, in part, the reaction to The Episcopal Church's efforts at extensification is an intensification that seems to some like a circling of the waggons, a turning inward in self-protection, while from the perspective of those doing the intensification, it is a matter of gaining clarity on one's core identity.
In short, extensification and intensification are two ways of "doing church," each with its own positive and negative aspects. My question is: can one intensify existing relationships while at the same time extensifying oneself in authentic ways so that new relationships are established?"
Anglican bishops and their spouses marched on London on July 24 in support of poverty reduction worldwide.
O God, heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary and Martha of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Now as Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."
Today is the day that the church remembers Mary and Margaret of Bethany, and I can imagine that many of us feel some compassion for Martha. I know that I do. She is working, she is getting the things done that need to be done; doesn't she have the right to complain about Mary, who is just sitting around? But, I wonder where my own busy-ness and activity get me, and I wonder if I am doing the things that I do because I am anxious or worried, rather than having these activities emerge from a sense of rest, of peace, and out of an awareness of God in the midst?
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
28 July 2008
Posted on 28 July 2008
Sometimes surprising lessons from the life of a great African leader
We are pleased today to welcome a new author to Slow Leadership. Nina Simosko brings both a fresh sets of insights and strong practical experience to her writing and we are delighted to have her as part of the Slow Leadership team.
A recent Time interview with Nelson Mandela provides an open-minded and insightful view of leadership from someone who has both known great power and also been bereft of influence at different times in his 90 years. His advice for leaders is practical, outcome-oriented and courageous. Be sure to take the time to read the article in full as it provides an excellent primer for aspiring leaders and a unique vision for the way leadership can transform lives (and whole countries).
Mandela’s eight lessons are not always what you might expect:
1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it’s inspiring others to move beyond it. Most leaders have faced down fear, but it is during times of stress that the mettle of leadership is tested. This means maintaining the momentum in tough times; or, as Mandela explains, sometimes you must “put up a front.”
2. Lead from the front — but don’t leave your base behind. Mandela focused on a principle objective and employed any and all tactics required to achieve it. However, he always ensured that he brought his support base along with him. To achieve great things, it takes a village. As Richard Stengel writes in the Time article:
“He’s a historical man,” says Cyril Ramaphosa, former Secretary General of the African National Congress. “He was thinking way ahead of us. He has posterity in mind: How will they view what we’ve done?” Prison gave him the ability to take the long view. It had to; there was no other view possible. He was thinking in terms of not days and weeks but decades. He knew history was on his side, that the result was inevitable; it was just a question of how soon and how it would be achieved. “Things will be better in the long run,” he sometimes said. He always played for the long run.
3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front. Be sure to read Mandela’s analogy on this point. While it appears contradictory, you will smile at the wisdom. Remember that leaders can actively assist in the growth of their supporters/teams. Like a herd of cattle, sometimes you can only point them in the right direction from behind.
4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport. Whether you are fighting against or negotiating with an opponent, your destiny is entwined. Finding a common ground for conversation, like sport, allows you a step inside another’s world view — and if you have to focus on one thing, make sure it is communication. It is the door to opportunity. Those that I know who have been in business for many years consistently say that communication is the one thing they wish that they themselves and those around them were better at.
5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer. Mandela understood that “people act in their own interest,” and his approach to dealing with those he did not trust was to bring them into his confidence and neutralize them with charm. But should a crisis ensue, remember the STOP technique to help guide your decisions:
- Make the story your own. Don’t leave it to others to tell what’s happening.
- Set your own timeframe and make timeliness a critical part of your actions.
- Stay objective. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t speculate or make assumptions. Find the facts.
- Sometimes a crisis needs the help of a professional. Reach out to those you trust.
6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile. Our personal iconographies are important: the way that we carry ourselves, the way we walk into a room, the manner with which we greet people and, of course, the clothes that we wear all tell a story. Mandela’s smile symbolized an inclusive, patient yet determined leader. Great things can be achieved with a little grace.
7. Nothing is black or white. As leaders we are often presented with two options — to decide one way or another. Mandela often asked “Why not both?” Again, the focus must remain on the outcome, not the tactics. If a choice has to be made, choose the most urgent of the issues.
8. Quitting is leading too. Not all of our decisions or initiatives will be successful. Leaders must make the difficult decision to cancel or back away from poorly performing projects. Mandela also clearly retired as a way to establish a precedent across Africa — staying long enough to set the course, but not staying on to “steer the ship.” Sometimes leaders must concede to win. Taking one step back may just be the fastest way to your desired goal.
27 July 2008
Photo Credit: Susan Shillinglaw (vts) 2008
26 July 2008
25 July 2008
I, for one, am glad that the bishops marched, in part because I'm sure they talked while they walked, also, because some activity is good for the soul and for the community, and, most importantly to help us focus on the end of world poverty and the Millennium Development Goals~MDGs...
Check it out, h.t. goes to Scott...
24 July 2008
By Thomas Merton, Love and Living
We must begin by frankly admitting that the first place in which to go looking for the world is not outside us but in ourselves. We are the world. In the deepest ground of our being we remain in metaphysical contact with the whole of that creation in which we are only small parts. Through our senses and our minds, our loves, needs, and desires, we are implicated, without possibility of evasion, in this world of matter and of men, of things and of persons, which not only affect us and change our lives but are also affected and changed by us…. The question, then, is not to speculate about how we are to contact the world—as if we were somehow in outer space—but how to validate our relationship, give it a fully honest and human significance, and make it truly productive and worthwhile for our world.
h.t. Inward/Outward blog
The Body's Grace
By Rowan Williams
Reprinted from Igreens.org
To ask, "Why does sex matter?" sounds a rather futile way of beginning an address in these circumstances. It's rather obvious that it does matter, and that it matters in different ways to different people. To some it matters as a cause for alarm, to others as a cause for celebration: there would be less need for LGCM and kindred organisations if sex were not alarming to so many, and less impetus to join or support LGCM, if sex were not something a little more than another good cause.
Most people know that sexual intimacy is in some ways frightening for them; most know that it is quite simply the place where they begin to be taught whatever maturity they have. Most of us know that the whole business is irredeemably comic, surrounded by so many odd chances and so many opportunities for making a fool of yourself; plenty know that it is the place where they are liable to be most profoundly damaged or helpless. Culture in general and religion in particular have devoted enormous energy to the doomed task of getting it right. In this address, I want to try and understand a little better why the task is doomed, and why the fact that it's doomed, is a key to seeing more fully why and how it matters - and even seeing more fully what this mattering has to do with God. And to conduct this exploration in this context may turn out to have a particular "rightness" about it, as I hope may be clearer by the time I've finished.
Perhaps the only thing more risible than a professor theorising about sex is a professor theorising about jokes, so I'll try to keep away from rampant naked theory as long as I can, though I warn you that it's there. Better, though, to start from a particular thing, a particular story. Paul Scott's Raj Quartet is full of poignant and very deep analyses of the tragedies of sexuality: the theme which drives through all four novels and unites their immense rambling plots is Ronald Merrick's destruction and corruption of his own humanity and that of all who fall into his hands; and that corruption effectively begins at the moment he discovers how he is aroused, how his privacy is invaded, by the desirable body of a man, and is appalled and terrified by this. His first attempt to punish and obliterate the object of his desire is what unleashes the forces of death and defilement that follow him everywhere thereafter.
His sexual refusal is dramatised by him in enactments of master-slave relations: he humiliates what he longs for, so that his dominion is not challenged and so that the sexual disaster becomes a kind of political tragedy. Merrick is an icon of the "body politic": his terror, his refusal and his corruption stand as a metaphor of the Raj itself, of power wilfully turning away from the recognition of those wants and needs that only vulnerability to the despised and humiliated stranger can open up and satisfy. We have a hint of this at the very beginning of the sequence, when the missionary teacher, Miss Crane, sits by the side of her murdered Indian colleague, Mr Chaudhuri, and knows that she must hold his hand. "'It's taken me a long time', she said, meaning not only Mr Chaudhuri, 'I'm sorry it was too late"' (The Jewel in the Crown p 69).
Interwoven with Merrick's tragedy is the story of Sarah Layton: a figure constantly aware of her powerlessness before events, her inability to undo the injuries and terrors of the past, but no less constantly trying to see and respond truthfully and generously. At the end of the second novel in the sequence, Sarah is seduced, lovelessly but not casually: her yielding is prompted perhaps more than anything by her seducer's mercilessly clear perception of her. She does not belong, he tells her, however much she tries to give herself to the conventions of the Raj; within her real generosity is a lost and empty place: "'You don't know anything about joy at all, do you?"' (The Day of the Scorpion p 450).
Sarah is absent from the life of the family she desperately tries to prop up, absent from the life of European society in India, and present fully to no one and nothing. Her innate truthfulness and lack of egotistical self-defence mean that she is able to recognise this once the remark is made: there is no joy for her, because she is not able to be anywhere. When the manipulative and cynical but sharp-eyed Clark at last coaxes her into bed, as they "enact" a tenderness that is not really that of lovers (p 452), Sarah comes to herself: hours later, on the train journey back to her family, she looks in the mirror and sees that "she had entered her body's grace" (p 454).
What does this mean? The phrase recurs more than once in the pages that follow, but it is starkly clear that there is no lasting joy for Sarah. There is a pregnancy and an abortion; a continuing loneliness. In the third of the novels, The Towers of Silence, perhaps the most concentrated and moving of the quartet, we see Sarah through the eyes and the feelings of Barbie Batchelor, another ageing missionary teacher: Barbie is in love with Sarah, and Sarah, beneath her kindness and concern for Barbie in her desperate, disintegrating old age, cannot quite meet or even perhaps recognise this.
At the critical moment of Barbie's final mental collapse, Sarah is in Calcutta at the insistence of her appalling mother, undergoing her abortion; when she returns, Barbie does not recognise her. "Miss Batchelor held the girl's hand, She felt that she had to say something important but could not remember what" (The Towers of Silence p 398). Once again, it is too late for speech, for converse and touching and Sarah and Barbie are left alone (one to live, one to die).
Yet nothing in this drainingly painful novel (which ends with Barbie's death on 6 August 1945, as Hiroshima is destroyed far away) suggests that the moment of "the body's grace" for Sarah was a deceit. Somehow she has been aware of what it was and was not: a frontier has been passed, and that has been and remains grace; a being present, even though this can mean knowing that the graced body is now more than ever a source of vulnerability. Sarah’s mother catches sight of her as she clings to a washbasin and hears the crying of her sister Susan's child. "Sarah raised her head, not to look towards the child's room but straight ahead of her into the mirror above the basin as if the source of the cry were there in her reflection" (ib. p 327). The body's grace, seen in one mirror, is also this in another.
But it is still grace, a filling of the void, an entry into some different kind of identity. There may be little love, even little generosity, in Clark's bedding of Sarah, but Sarah has discovered that her body can be the cause of happiness to her and to another. It is this discovery which most clearly shows why we might want to talk about grace here. Grace, for the Christian believer, is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way: as significant, as wanted.
The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ's body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God's giving that God's self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.
The life of the Christian community has as its rationale - if not invariably its practical reality - the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy. It is not surprising that sexual imagery is freely used, in and out of the Bible, for this newness of perception. What is less clear is why the fact of sexual desire, the concrete stories of human sexuality rather than the generalising metaphors it produces, are so grudgingly seen as matters of grace, or only admitted as matters of grace when fenced with conditions. Understanding this involves us in stepping back to look rather harder at the nature of sexual desire; and this is where abstractness and overambitious theory threaten.
In one of the few sensible and imaginative accounts of this by a philosopher, Thomas Nagel writes:
Sexual desire involves a kind of perception but not merely a single perception of its object, for in the paradigm case of mutual desire there is a complex system of superimposed mutual perceptions - not only perceptions of the sexual object, but perceptions of oneself. Moreover, sexual awareness of another involves considerable self-awareness to begin with - more than is involved in ordinary sensory perception (T Nagel, Mortal Questions, Cambridge 1979 pp 44-45).Nagel elaborates: initially I may be aroused by someone unaware of being perceived by me, and that arousal is significant in "identifying me with my body" in a new way (cf p 47), but is not yet sufficient for speaking about the full range of sexuality. I am aroused as a cultural, not just a biological being - i.e. I need to bring my body into the shared world of language and (in the widest sense!) "intercourse". My arousal is not only my business: I need its cause to know about it, to recognise it, for it to be anything more than a passing chance. So my desire, if it is going to be sustained and developed, must itself be perceived; and, if it is to develop as it naturally tends to, it must be perceived as desirable by the other - that is my arousal and desire must become the cause of someone else's desire (there is an echo here of St Augustine's remarkable idea that what love loves is loving, but that's another story).
So for my desire to persist and have some hope of fulfilment, it must be exposed to the risks of being seen by its object. Nagel (p 47) sees the whole complex process as a special case of what's going on in any attempt to share what something means in language: part of my making sense to you depends on my knowing that you can "see" that I want to make sense, and telling you or showing you that this is what I want implies that I "see" you as wanting to understand. "Sex has a related structure: it involves a desire that one's partner be aroused by the recognition of one's desire that he or she be aroused."
All this means, crucially, that in sexual relation I am no longer in charge of what I am. Any genuine experience of desire leaves me in something like this position: I cannot of myself satisfy my wants without distorting or trivialising them. But here we have a particularly intense case of the helplessness of the ego alone. For my body to be the cause of joy, the end of homecoming, for me, it must be there for someone else, be perceived, accepted, nurtured; and that means being given over to the creation of joy in that other, because only as directed to the enjoyment, the happiness, of the other does it become unreservedly lovable. To desire my joy is to desire the joy of the one I desire: my search for enjoyment through the bodily presence of another is a longing to be enjoyed in my body. As Blake put it, sexual partners "admire" in each other "the lineaments of gratified desire". We are pleased because we are pleasing. It is in this perspective, Nagel says, that we can understand the need for a language of sexual failure, immaturity, even "perversion". Solitary sexual activity works at the level of release of tension and a particular localised physical pleasure; but insofar as it has nothing much to do with being perceived from beyond myself in a way that changes my self-awareness, it isn't of much interest for a discussion of sexuality as process and relation, and says little about grace.
Nagel makes, in passing, a number of interesting observations on sexual encounters that either allow no "exposed spontaneity" (p 50) because they are bound to specific methods of sexual arousal - like sadomasochism - or permit only a limited awareness of the embodiment of the other (p 49) because there is an unbalance in the relation such that the desire of the other for me is irrelevant or minimal - rape, paedophilia, bestiality.
These "asymmetrical" sexual practices have some claim to be called perverse in that they leave one agent in effective control of the situation - one agent, that is, who doesn't have to wait upon the desire of the other. (Incidentally, if this suggests that, in a great many cultural settings, the socially licensed norm of heterosexual intercourse is a "perversion" - well, that is a perfectly serious suggestion.. .)
Trying for the moment to bracket out the much corrupted terminology of norms and ideals, it seems that at least we have here a picture of what sexuality might mean at its most comprehensive; and the moral question I suspect, ought to be one of how much we want our sexual activity to communicate, how much we want it to display a breadth of human possibility and a sense of the body's capacity to heal and enlarge the life of other subjects. Nagel's reflections prompt the conclusion that some kinds of sexual activity distort or confine the human resourcefulness, the depth or breadth of meaning such activity may carry: they involve assuming that sexual activity has less to do with the business of human growth and human integrity than we know it can have. Decisions about sexual lifestyle, the ability to identify certain patterns as sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt, are, in this light, decisions about what we want our bodily life to say, how our bodies are to be brought in to the whole project of "making human sense" for ourselves and each other.
To be able to make such decisions is important: a conventional (heterosexual) morality simply absolves us from the difficulties we might meet in doing so. The question of human meaning is not raised, we are not helped to see what part sexuality plays in our learning to be human with one another, to enter the body's grace, because all we need to know is that sexual activity is licensed in one context and in no other. Not surprising, then, if the reaction is often either, It doesn't matter what I do [say] with my body, because it's my inner life and emotions that matter" or, "The only criterion is what gives pleasure and does no damage". Both of those responses are really to give up on the human seriousness of all this.
They are also, just as much as conventional heterosexist ethics, attempts to get rid of risk, Nagel comes close to saying what I believe needs saying here, that sexual "perversion" is sexual activity without risk, without the dangerous acknowledgement that my joy depends on someone else's as theirs does on mine. Distorted sexuality is the effort to bring my happiness back under my control and to refuse to let my body be recreated by another person's perception. And this is, in effect, to withdraw my body from the enterprise of human beings making sense in collaboration, in community, withdrawing my body from language, culture and politics. Most people who have bothered to think about it have noticed a certain tendency for odd sorts of sexual activity to go together with political distortion and corruption (Merrick again - indeed, the whole pathology of the torturer). What women writers like Susan Griffin have taught us about the politics of pornography has sharpened this observation.
But how do we manage this risk, the entry into a collaborative way of making sense of our whole material selves? It is this, of course, that makes the project of "getting it right" doomed, as I suggested earlier. Nothing will stop sex being tragic and comic. It is above all the area of our lives where we can be rejected in our bodily entirety, where we can venture into the "exposed spontaneity" that Nagel talks about and find ourselves looking foolish or even repellent: so that the perception of ourselves we are offered is negating and damaging (homosexuals, I think, know rather a lot about this). And it is also where the awful incongruity of our situation can break through as comedy, even farce. I’m tempted, by the way, to say that only cultures and people that have a certain degree of moral awareness about how sex forms persons, and an awareness therefore of moral and personal risk in it all, can actually find it funny: the pornographer and the scientific investigator of how to maximise climaxes don't as a rule seem to see much of the dangerous absurdity of the whole thing.
The misfire or mismatch of sexual perception is, like any dialogue at cross-purposes, potentially farcical - no less so for being on the edge of pain. Shakespeare (a, usual) knows how to tread such a difficult edge: do we or don't we laugh at Malvolio? For he is transformed by the delusion that he is desired - and if such transformations, such conversions, were not part of our sexual experience, we should not see any -joke. And it's because this is ultimately serious that the joke breaks down. Malvolio is funny, and what makes him funny is also what makes the whole episode appallingly and irreconcilably hurtful. The man has, after all, ventured a tiny step into vulnerability, into the shared world of sexually perceived bodies, and he has been ruthlessly mocked and denied. In a play which is almost overloaded with sexual ambivalence and misfiring desires, Malvolio demonstrates brutally just why all the "serious" characters are in one or another sort of mess about sex, all holding back from sharing and exposure, in love with private fantasies of generalised love.
The discovery of sexual joy and of a pattern of living in which that joy is accessible must involve the insecurities of "exposed spontaneity": the experience of misunderstanding or of the discovery (rapid or slow) that this relationship is not about joy - these are bearable, if at all, because at least they have changed the possibilities of our lives in a way which may still point to what joy might be. But is should be clear that the discovery of joy means something rather more than the bare facts of sexual intimacy. I can only fully discover the body's grace in taking time, the time needed for a mutual recognition that my partner and I are not simply passive instruments to each other. Such things are learned in the fabric of a whole relation of converse and cooperation; yet of course the more time taken the longer a kind of risk endures. There is more to expose, and a sustaining of the will to let oneself be formed by the perceptions of another. Properly understood, sexual faithfulness is not an avoidance of risk, but the creation of a context in which grace can abound because there is a commitment not to run away from the perception of another.
The worst thing we can do with the notion of sexual fidelity, though, is to "legalise" it in such a way that it stands quite apart from the ventures and dangers of growth and is simply a public bond, enforceable by religious sanctions.
When we bless sexual unions, we give them a life, a reality, not dependent on the contingent thoughts and feelings of the people involved, true; but we do this so that they may have a certain freedom to "take time", to mature and become as profoundly nurturing as they can. If this blessing becomes a curse or an empty formality, it is both wicked and useless to hold up the sexuality of the canonically married heterosexual as absolute, exclusive and ideal.
In other words, I believe that the promise of faithfulness, the giving of unlimited time to each other, remains central for understanding the full "resourcefulness" and grace of sexual union. I simply don't think we'd grasp all that was involved in the mutual transformation of sexually linked persons without the reality of unconditional public commitments: more perilous, more demanding, more promising.
Yet the realities of our experience in looking for such possibilities suggest pretty clearly that an absolute declaration that every sexual partnership must conform to the pattern of commitment or else have the nature of sin and nothing else is unreal and silly. People do discover - as does Sarah Lay ton - a grace in encounters fraught with transitoriness and without much "promising" (in any sense): it may be just this that prompts them to want the fuller, longer exploration of the body's grace that faithfulness offers. Recognising this - which is no more than recognising the facts of a lot of people's histories, heterosexual or homosexual, in our society - ought to be something we can do without generating anxieties about weakening or compromising the focal significance of commitment and promise in our Christian understanding and "moral imagining" of what sexual bonding can be.
Much more damage is done to this by the insistence on a fantasy version of heterosexual marriage as the solitary ideal, when the facts of the situation are that an enormous number of "sanctioned" unions are a framework for violence and human destructiveness on a disturbing scale: sexual union is not delivered from moral danger and ambiguity by satisfying a formal socio-religious criterion. Let me repeat: decisions about sexual lifestyle are about how much we want our bodily selves to mean rather than what emotional needs we're meeting or what laws we're satisfying. "Does this mean that we are using faith to undermine law? By no means: we are placing law itself on a firmer footing" (Romans 3.31): happily there is more to Paul than the (much quoted in this context) first chapter of Romans!
I have suggested that the presence or absence of the body's grace has a good deal to do with matters other than the small scale personal. It has often been said, especially by feminist writers, that the making of my body into a distant and dangerous object, to be either subdued or placated with rapid gratification is the root of sexual oppression. If my body isn't me, then the desiring perception of my body is bound up with an area simply of danger and foreignness; and I act towards whatever involves me in desiring and being desired with fear and hostility. Man fears and subdues woman; and - the, argument continues - this licenses and grounds a whole range of processes that are about the control of the strange: "nature", the foreigner, the unknowable future.
This is not to believe uncritically that sexual disorder is the cause of every human pathology, but to grant (i) that it is pervasively present in all sorts of different disorders, and (ii) that it constitutes a kind of paradigm case of wrongness, distortion something that shows us what it is like to refuse the otherness of the material world and to try to keep it other and distant and controlled. It is a paradigm of how not to make sense, in its retreat from the uncomfortable knowledge that I cannot make sense of myself without others, cannot speak until I've listened, cannot love myself without being the object of love or enjoy myself without being the cause of joy.
Thinking about sexuality in its fullest implications involves thinking about entering into a sense of oneself beyond the customary imagined barrier between the "inner" and the "outer" the private and the shared. We are led into the knowledge that our identity is being made in the relations of bodies, not by the private exercise of will or fantasy: we belong with and to each other, not to our "private" selves (as Paul said of mutual sexual commitment), and yet are not instruments for each other's gratification.
And all this is not only potentially but actually a political knowledge, a knowledge of what ordered human community might be. Without a basic political myth, of how my welfare depends on yours and yours on mine, a myth of persona] needs in common that can only be met by mutuality, we condemn ourselves to a politics of injustice and confrontation. Granted that a lot of nonsense has been talked about the politics of eroticism recently, we should still acknowledge that an understanding of our sexual needs and possibilities is a task of real political importance - which is why it is no good finally trying to isolate the politics of sexuality-related "issues" from the broader project of social re-creation and justice.
There is something basic, then as Freud intuited, about how we make sense sexually, basic for the fabric of corporate human life. But beyond the whole question of how the body's grace is discovered is a further, very elusive question. Sex is risky and grace is not discovered by all; and there is something frightening and damaging about the kind of sexual mutuality on which everything comes to depend - that is why it matters to locate sexual union in a context that gives it both time and space, that allows it not to be everything,
But, as I hinted earlier, the body's grace itself only makes human sense if we have a language of grace in the first place; and that depends on having a language of creation and redemption. To be formed in our humanity by the loving delight of another is an experience whose contours we can identify most clearly and hopefully if we have also learned or are learning about being the object of the causeless loving delight of God, being the object of God's love for God through incorporation into the community of God's Spirit and the taking-on of the identify of God's child.
lt is perhaps because of our need to keep that perspective clear before us that the community needs some who are called beyond or aside from the ordinary patterns of sexual relation to put their identities direct into the hands of God in the single life. This is not an alternative to the discovery of the body's grace.
All those taking up the single vocation - whether or not they are, in the disagreeable clinical idiom, genitally intact -must know something about desiring and being desired if their single vocation is not to be sterile and evasive. Their decision (as risky as the commitment to sexual fidelity) is to see if they can find themselves, their bodily selves, in a life dependent simply upon trust in the generous delight of God - that other who, by definition, cannot want us to supply deficiencies in the bliss of a divine ego, but whose whole life is a "being-for", a movement of gift.
Sebastian Moore remarks (The Inner Loneliness, London 1982 p 62) that 'True celibates are rare - not in the sense of superior but in the sense that watchmakers are rare"; finding a bodily/sexual identity through trying to expose yourself first and foremost to the desirous perception of God is difficult and precarious in a way not many of us realise, and it creates problems in dealing with the fact that sexual desiring and being desired don't simply go away in the single life.
Turning such experience constantly towards the context of God's desire is a heavy task - time is to be given to God rather than to one human focus for sexual commitment. But this extraordinary experiment does seem to be "justified in its children", in two obvious ways. There is the great freedom of the celibate mystic in deploying the rhetoric of erotic love in speaking of God; and, even more importantly, there is that easy acceptance of the body, its needs and limitations, which we find in mature celibates, like Teresa of Avila in her last years. Whatever the cost, this vocation stands as an essential part of the background to understanding the body's grace: paradoxical as it sounds, the celibate calling has, as one aspect of its role in the Christian community, the nourishing and enlarging of Christian sexuality.
It's worth wondering why so little of the agitation about sexual morality and the status of homosexual men and women in the Church in recent years has come from members of our religious orders; I strongly suspect that a lot of celibates do indeed have a keener sensitivity about these matters than some of their married fellow Christians. And anyone who knows the complexities of the true celibate vocation would be the last to have any sympathy with the extraordinary idea that sexual orientation is an automatic pointer to the celibate life; almost as if celibacy before God is less costly, even less risky, for the homosexual than the heterosexual.
It is impossible, when we're trying to reflect on sexuality, not to ask just where the massive cultural and religious anxiety about same-sex relationships that is so prevalent at the moment comes from; and in this last part of my address I want to offer some thoughts about this problem. I wonder whether it is to do with the fact that same-sex relations oblige us to think directly about bodiliness and sexuality in a way that socially and religiously sanctioned heterosexual unions don't. When we're thinking about the latter, there are other issued involved notably what one neo-Marxist sociologist called the ownership of the means of production of human beings.
Married sex has, in principle, an openness to the more tangible goals of producing children; its "justification" is more concrete than what I’ve been suggesting as the inner logic and process of the sexual relation itself. If we can set the movement of sexual desire within this larger purpose, we can perhaps more easily accommodate the embarrassment and insecurity of desire: it's all in a good cause, and a good cause that can be visibly and plainly evaluated in its usefulness and success.
Same-sex love annoyingly poses the question of what the meaning of desire is in itself, not considered as instrumental to some other process (the peopling of the world); and this immediately brings us up against the possibility not only of pain and humiliation without any clear payoff', but - just as worryingly - of non-functional joy: or, to put it less starkly, joy whose material "production" is an embodied person aware of grace. It puts the question which is also raised for some kinds of moralist by the existence of the clitoris in women; something whose function is joy. lf the creator were quite so instrumentalist in "his" attitude to sexuality, these hints of prodigality and redundancy in the way the whole thing works might cause us to worry about whether he was, after all, in full rational control of it. But if God made us for joy... ?
The odd thing is that this sense of meaning for sexuality beyond biological reproduction is the one foremost in the biblical use of sexual metaphors for God's relation to humanity. God as the husband of the land is a familiar enough trope. but Hosea's projection of the husband-and-wife story on to the history of Israel deliberately subverts the God-and-the-land cliches of Near Eastern cults: God is not the potent male sower of seed but the tormented lover, and the gift of the land's fertility is conditional upon the hurts of unfaithfulness and rejection being healed.
The imagery remains strongly patriarchal, unsurprisingly, but its content and direction are surprising Hosea is commanded to love his wife ''as I, the LORD, love the Israelites" (3.1) -persistently, without immediate return, exposing himself to humiliation. What seems to be the prophet's own discovery of a kind of sexual tragedy enable, a startling and poignant reimagining of what it means for God to be united, not with a land alone, but with a people, themselves vulnerable and changeable. God is at the mercy of the perceptions of an uncontrolled partner.
John Boswell, in his Michael Harding Address (Rediscovering Gay History, GCM 1982), made a closely related observation: "Love in the Old Testament is too idealised in terms of sexual attraction (rather than procreation). Samuel’s father says to his wife-who is sterile and heartbroken because she does not produce children - , Am I not more to you than ten children? "' And he goes on to note that the same holds for the New Testament, which "is notably nonbiological in its emphasis" (p 13): Jesus and Paul equally discuss marriage without using procreation as a rational or functional justification. Paul's strong words in I Cor. 7.4 about partners in marriage surrendering the individual "Ownership" of their bodies carry a more remarkable revaluation of sexuality than anything else in the Christian Scriptures. And the use of marital imagery for Christ and the Church in Eph. 5, for all its blatant assumption of male authority, still insists on the relational and personally creative element in the metaphor (''In loving his wife a man loves himself. For no one ever hated his own body" - 5.28-29).
In other words, if we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be. When looking for a language that will be resourceful enough to speak of the complex and costly faithfulness between God and God's people, what several of the biblical writers turn to is sexuality understood very much in terms of the process of "entering the body's grace". If we are afraid of facing the reality of same-sex love because it compels us to think through the processes of bodily desire and delight in their own right, perhaps we ought to be more cautious about appealing to Scripture as legitimating only procreative heterosexuality.
In fact, of course, in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures. I suspect that a fuller exploration of the sexual metaphors of the Bible will have more to teach us about a theology and ethics of sexual desire than will the flat citation of isolated texts; and I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here.
A theology of the body's grace which can do justice to the experience, the pain and the variety, of concrete sexual discovery is not, I believe, a marginal eccentricity in the doctrinal spectrum. It depends heavily on believing in a certain sort of God - the trinitarian creator and saviour of the world - and it draws in a great many themes in the Christian understanding of humanity, helping us to a better critical grasp of the nature and the dangers of corporate human living.
It is surely time to give time to this, especially when so much public Christian comment on these matters is not only non-theological but positively anti-theological. But for now let me close with some words from a non Christian writer who has managed to say more about true theology than most so-called professionals like myself.
I know no better account of the body's grace, and of its precariousness.
It is perception above all which will free us from tragedy. Not the perception of illusion or of a fantasy that would deny the power of fate and nature. But perception wedded to matter itself, a knowledge that comes to us from the sense of the body, a wisdom born of wholeness of mind and body come together in the heart. The heart dies in us. This is the self we have lost, the self we daily sacrifice (Susan Griffin, Pornography and Silence Culture’s Revenge Against Nature, London 1981, p 154).
Rowan Williams. 1989. Archbishop of Canterbury 2002
Copies of this talk can be obtained from The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Click here
Reprinted from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and from Igreens.org
hat tip goes to the Episcopal Cafe...
Hanover (ENI). A German church has far exceeded its initial expectations in distributing more than 200 000 black bracelets intended as a symbolic protest against human rights abuses in China during the Olympic Games in Beijing.
"It shows that people want to stand up for others and show what they believe in," said Bishop Margot Kässmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover who launched the initiative in March. The Olympic Games open on 8 August in Beijing.
Kässmann told the German Protestant news agency epd on 16 July that the reaction to the initiative had been overwhelming. Originally 2000 bracelets were produced for athletes and others attending the games, to be worn as a protest against the violation of human rights in China and Tibet. The idea then found a huge response in schools, sports clubs and church congregations.
The black silicon bracelets are inscribed with a verse from the Bible, "righteousness and peace will kiss each other" (Psalm 85:10).
Kässmann said that standing up for human rights is in line with the Olympic ideal. "We're looking forward to the sporting event, but we should not be so dazzled by the gleaming skyscrapers that we forget that human rights are violated in China," she said.
More than 30 000 euros have already been raised for the Asian Human Rights Commission, a Honk Kong-based human rights group. Those ordering the bracelets are requested to make a donation to the organization.
The sports commissioner of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Valentin Schmidt, praised the action. "It helps to further increase people's awareness of human rights," Schmidt said, adding he hopes the issue will remain in the public awareness after the games.
Schmidt pointed out that the athletes in Beijing are not allowed to wear the bracelets at the competition venues or in the Olympic village, where political demonstrations, and banners, posters and ribbons are forbidden.
However, the "German House" in Beijing, where German broadcasters will have their studios for the Olympic Games is not considered an Olympic venue, says the German Olympic Sports Federation. Athletes would therefore be free to express their own opinions at the daily press conferences that are to take place there, Schmidt noted.
:: The bracelets can be requested by e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line: "Olympia 2008".
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Mike Higton is a writer and theologian who I have found to be very helpful to me as I have worked to have at least a beginning understanding of Rowan Williams' theological work. I have read Higton's book on Rowan Williams' theology, Difficult Gospel, and have also read the book he edited which has several essays by Rowan Williams, Wrestling with Angels.
I find Higton to be extremely clear and helpful in explaining theology and also he has a way of finding connections and uncovering themes that are not easily seen (at leat by me). I read his blog, kai euthus, and was so glad that today he has begun a series of posts about Homosexuality and the Church by examining Rowan Williams' essay, "The Body's Grace." I encourage you to check it out (both the essay, and Higton's discussion), and I am hopeful that it will help many of us to think in deeper and broader ways about this subject.
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Here is a brief snippet from Higton's first post:
This is the first part of a planned series on homosexuality and the church. I’m planning to start with a sequence of posts on Rowan Williams’ famous essay, ‘The Body’s Grace’, and then walk slowly towards more ecclesiological matters.
Over on Faith and Theology, when Ben Myers suggested that Rowan Williams’ ‘The Body’s Grace’, was an example of a life-changing essay, one of the blog’s regular visitors, Shane, commented, ‘What was so great about “The Body’s Grace”? … I was disappointed by this essay - there is one central question in the debate about homosexuality (whatever one’s anwer to it): What does God command me to do? Williams spends the entire essay attempting not to raise that question.’ In a comment to another post, he put the same point again, ‘As far as I’m concerned it’s a straightforward example of why the Anglican church is in the crisis it is in today - Williams is just dodging the central question over and over again. The central question is this: Is homosexuality good, bad or indifferent from God’s perspective?’
Those comments are not the main reason for starting this series of posts, but they do provide a useful starting point – by being exactly wrong.
Williams opens ‘The Body’s Grace’ with the questions, Why does sex matter? and, What does it have to do with God? As he goes on, it becomes clear that he is asking, What on earth do sexual relationships have to do with the Christian gospel?
Albeit in a different theological idiom, Williams is precisely asking, What does God command? He is asking, What difference does it make to see sexual relationships in the light of God’s word to the world in Christ? How does seeing sexuality in that light allow us to understand both what can be right about sex, and what can be wrong? How does the gospel enable us to get a truly Christian clarity about sexual ethics?
Check out the rest HERE.
22 July 2008
Jane Williams: The cathedral service
|A second blog post by Jane Williams|
Monday 21st July
The cathedral service was truly wonderful. I’ve been to many services in Canterbury, the first of which was my husband’s enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury. It is simply one of the most beautiful and numinous buildings I have ever come across, and it always helps me to worship God, even if I go in feeling very unworshipful. But yesterday’s service was a high point.
As the bishops streamed in, a river of colour and movement, I thought back to accounts of the Council of Nicaea in 325. (Well, I do teach doctrine for a living!) At that, the first great ecumenical council of the Church, about 300 bishops were gathered. Some of them came from the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan of cities, some still worked as cattle-herders while exercising their episcopate. Some bore the marks of the torture and persecution that the Christian Church had suffered in the decades before 325. Some were learned, some simple, some holy, some wily, some aged, some young. They met to defend the full humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, and so to defend the heart of the Christian faith.
The bishops in Canterbury cathedral looked ready to take their turn at defending the faith, with the help of all of us gathered there to worship together. As the Melanesian brothers and sisters danced the Gospel book down the aisle with infectious joy, we all knew that this is about Good News for the world, and that’s why it’s worth defending.
Father Terry Martin (the artist formerly known as Father Jake) is the new evangelism officer at the Episcopal Church Center, known as "815" here in New York City. I look forward to reading his blog, offering what bits of ideas that I might to the mission of evangelism, and working with all those Episcopalians and other Christians who are dedicated to reconciliation, justice, mission, and EVANGELISM! I know, for me, I would love so-called "liberals" to once again make their peace with the "E-word" and have the courage to give an account of the hope that is in them (us), and preach the Gospel. This may mean using actions, such as the quote attributed to St. Francis "preach the gospel at all times, use words, if necessary," but it also may mean actually speaking, giving an account of the good that God had done and is doing in your life and in the lives of those around you (us). I am very excited that Father Terry is listening to the World, and will continue in his own way (I'm sure) to "stop the world."
Do check out his blog!
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey
One of the most outstanding teachers I have ever had was Dr. Kathy Grieb, who is a theologian and New Testament scholar currently teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). She is not only a great scholar and teacher, but has also been chosen to serve on several Anglican commissions, including the Covenant Design Team. She is thoughtful and brilliant, and also just a fine person to be around. She increased my understanding of and appreciation of St. Paul as we moved slowly and intensively through his Letter to the Galatians over the course of a semester. Today, she is in Canterbury and has offered a reflection "from mid-court" from the VTS hospitality "booth" on hospitality and on our calling as Christians to welcome the stranger...
Check out this wonderful quote:
"How do we become proclaimers of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our own day? Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge the profound mystery at the heart of every other person – even the one I thought I knew well. In the risen Christ, every one is a new creation. "
Thank you Kathy!
~The Rev. Peter M. Carey
from The Virginia Theological Seminary's Center for Anglican Communion Studies
Today is the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” who first proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus to Peter and the Beloved Disciple. For me, the day began with Matins and the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral before catching the bus to the University of Kent where the Lambeth Conference is meeting.
The words from John’s Gospel continually amaze me: “She turned and saw Jesus, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus only after he calls her by name. At first, she thought she was addressing a stranger, a gardener: “Sir, if you know where they have taken him….” Instead, she herself is addressed by the risen Lord she knows and loves who appears to her in a form she had not quite expected.
What a gift it is to have this lesson to help frame the events of today. In so many ways, the Lambeth Conference is an extended family reunion. Our days at the VTS booth are spent offering hospitality and sending greetings, to long-known family members and to distant relatives whom we are meeting for the first time. In both cases we are blessed whenever we can recognize something of the risen Christ in one another.
How do we become proclaimers of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our own day? Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge the profound mystery at the heart of every other person – even the one I thought I knew well. In the risen Christ, every one is a new creation. The bishops of the Anglican Communion are meeting one another anew in “indaba” groups (“indaba” is a Zulu word that means “respectful encounter”). And here, at the VTS booth, we are encountering new and old friends from all over the Communion for conversations that take us more deeply into the meaning of the risen Christ.
So without knowing what the day will bring, I wait expectantly to be delighted by the stranger who is the friend in Christ I haven’t yet met.
21 July 2008
Well, here we are at the Lambeth Conference in a place called Canterbury. Our VTS “booth” or hospitality center is located at the Lambeth Markeplace in the Sports Centre of the University of Kent. That seems to be an appropriate location for us at this Wimbledon of Anglicanism. We are watching the fast volleys from our courtside perch! No match-point yet!
All kidding aside, you cannot miss the gravity of this event. In the history of the Communion, the Conference may be its most critical hour. It is a time which calls for great sacrifice and wisdom, and so we pray fervently for all the delegates and all who surround and support them.
Last week, the initial days in retreat with Rowan Williams set the right tone. The Archbishop met with his guests in the great nave of Canterbury Cathedral.
His opening address last evening left the impression that Anglicans will have a “Covenant” as this Conference concludes.
But there seems to me to be a larger question than the proposed Anglican Covenant: Will the Conference find the Anglican Communion recovering its religious imagination?
We have misplaced one of the great gifts of Anglicanism to the rest of Christendom: The ability to think outside the box and to imagine a church and a world that does not yet exist. Will we be clear about what we value as Anglicans in a changing church and world once we go home from this sacred place? How do we nurture Gospel values in a church conversation that could dwell on misplaced values? Our history teaches us that we are a broad church, but of late we have asked narrow questions and taken narrow positions. As we deal with current matters, are we connected with our long history and our early church identity? Can we imagine a new Church for this historic Christian way called Anglican?
Last week, amidst my "Lambeth News" reading, I ran across this fascinating article at The Episcopal Cafe on "visualizing the Bible." In these images, one sees the connections between the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the New Testament. The colorful arches reach across the centuries and show in a wonderful visual way the ways that the Hebrew Scriptures informed the New Testament witnesses to the Good News of Christ. I will look forward to more work in this area, but I will be sure to use the images in my classes in the Fall.
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
from Episcopal Cafe...
VisualComplexity offers this very interesting way to visualize the cross references in the Bible. Here is the explanation:
This visualization started as a collaboration between Christoph Romhild and Chris Harrison. As Chris explains: "Christoph, a Lutheran Pastor, first emailed me in October of 2007. He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum - something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level - as one leans in, smaller details should become visible".
This process ultimately led them to the multi-colored arc diagram shown here. The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.
20 July 2008
Media Contact: Susan Shillinglaw
Alexandria, VA – During the next few weeks, several Virginia Seminary alums will share their thoughts about the 2008 Lambeth Conference in a blog entitled Lambeth Journal for Blogging Bishops.
The blog, which will rotate among eight bishops during the length of the conference, includes VTS alums: Sean Rowe (VTS ‘00) of Northwest Pennsylvania; Marc Andrus (‘87) of California; Larry Benfield (‘90) of Arkansas; Sergio Carranza (‘67) of Los Angeles; and Neff Powell, member of Virginia Seminary’s Board of Trustees and Honorary Degree recipient (‘97).
Additional contributors include Jean Zache Duracin of Haiti; Laura Ahrens of Connecticut; and Nedi Rivera of Olympia. Click here to read the Lambeth Journal for Blogging Bishops.
Additional links available for Lambeth Conference coverage are:
Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 42 different dioceses and 5 different countries, for service in the Church.
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
A liberal bishop from Sri Lanka suggested to his colleagues at the Lambeth Conference today that they should take the afternoon off to settle their theological differences over a game of cricket.
The sporting invitation from the Right Rev Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo, came in an otherwise hard-hitting sermon in which he reminded all 650 bishops attending that the Anglican Church was an "inclusive" community where everyone was equal, regardless of sexual orientation.
The sermon marked the official start of the conference in Canterbury and confirmed the Church's liberal direction. But Bishop de Chickera - who was preaching at the personal invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams - freely admitted the "reality" of the current divisions over gay consecrations and same-sex blessings.
"The reality is that we are a wounded Anglican Communion," he said. "Some of us are not here and that is an indication that all is not well."Read the rest HERE.