Thursday, February 16, 2012

Purple Fever: A Retrospect

The honour I never almost had:

Purple Fever is an awful disease, it was candidate’s night, and the next day was the election of a Bishop.  I who was never nominated, and did not desire to be nominated, am somewhat chagrined that not only will I not be elected, but I will not even have bragging rights of saying; “Back in two thousand and something I was nominated for Bishop.”  Even the possibility of a small self-glorifying exaggeration is clean cut off, I fortunately can’t even say, “I was almost elected.”

I looked over the slate of candidates.  There were two obviously good men who were willing to let themselves be lured into a greater suffering on behalf of the church.  Of the others, two had been afflicted with purple fever.  One of them eventually would end up in legal problems, the other was just a sad individual.  At least they had bragging rights.   Come to think about it, at an earlier election one devout and holy candidate, or so we were told, was eventually defrocked for child abuse.  Purple fever can, and does, infect the most unsuitable candidates.

This purple fever is an insidious disease that has led some to leave The Episcopal Church in their lust to become bishops.  I know one “bishop” duly consecrated by somebody, somewhere, who has no diocese, no churches, no priests, and worked as a gardener, and another who admitted to having only 12 people in his congregation, and six similar sized congregations under his shepherding care; but he’s a bishop and he holds wonderful ordinations for his poorly trained disciples.  I know another who left The Episcopal Church with great fanfare and great expectancy hoping to become a bishop in one of the African dioceses, only to discover too late that they don’t consecrate divorced men as bishops.

It’s a terrible thing, this irony of not being nominated for a job I wouldn’t want and wasn’t even nominated for. It’s somewhat akin to being a guardian cherub desiring ultimate enthronement and then being summarily forced out of heaven by those insufferable angels.  “I, the Morning Star, I have fashioned for myself a coat of many colours, I do not have to dress in white.  I do not want to be dressed in white kowtowing to His royal goodness YHWH.  I almost seized the heavenly throne; a throne I could have had, if only, so at least I have bragging rights.”

The great mistake in all this is the attempt to affirm one’s value by seizing power and becoming a human doing instead of accepting the humiliation of being a human being.  In this unrestrained ambition the greater the doing, the greater the power, the emptier the soul!  The truth is that it is a fatal error to say, “I do, therefore I am,” and perhaps RenĂ© Descartes missed the truth, “Je pense donc je suis,” “I think, therefore I am.”  It is closer to the mark to say, “I love, therefore I am.”  Ultimately our human identity is defined by our relationships.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hierarchy and the Dance of Life

Some people are destined for misery, it can be no other way. Their problem is not understanding their place in the dance of life. For a start they do not know, or choose not to know, that there is a natural hierarchy in the created order simply because there is a Creator, and all else by very nature is creation. In the dance of life He leads and all the rest of us are feminine in contrast to his overwhelming masculinity.

This is very difficult both for men and “liberated” women. It is not easy even for women who profess that their husbands are the head of the house and say in the same breath, “But, I’m the neck that turns the head.” Unlike their unfortunate husbands God cannot be manipulated no matter how lovingly.

Hierarchy is the principle of organization for creation and for every human society, even the Church. Remember that Christ Jesus is the Head and we are his body. That is reflected in the four orders of ministry; bishops, priests, deacons and laity. The bishop who said that he was the servant of the servants of the servants of God spoke only a partial truth, and we all know that a partial truth is a heresy. This particular heresy is endemic in the American Church where those who proclaim it most loudly discover that they have lost their authority (how odd?) and end up having to go to the secular courts to sue their brothers over property. Here the problem is the disconnected hierarchy of the American Church that refuses to acknowledge any authority greater than itself. Where is no hierarchy there is no dance of life.

Surrender to the reality of hierarchy is surrender to an hierarchical order that is by nature an authority structure. That should be too obvious to bear mention, but it’s not. The only other alternative is chaos. Dare I mention an unpardonable word? Obey! Dare I interject that word into our understanding of the hierarchical order of bishops, priests, deacons and laity? Humility is understanding and accepting your place in God’s created order. The kingdom of God is not a democracy, and where it attempts to be a democracy it fails to be a kingdom. In a kingdom one reverently obeys the King. One also obeys his delegated officers and ministers. In American democratic fantasy people fancy that they decide things by a popular vote. That is idealized in the Town Meeting system that has the unique characteristic of not working very well, which is why we elect temporary rulers to argue and vote among themselves while the rest of us are just expected to obey. Now my remarks about hierarchy may not seem very American or democratic, but that is because my allegiance is to a kingdom with another King.

Not all are comfortable with the idea of kingdom because the notions of hierarchy and obedience cut cross grain across self-centered human nature and leave them feeling that their freedom of choice is impaired, that their rights are being trampled on. St. Paul points out an uncomfortable reality. We are slaves of sin or we are slaves of righteousness. There is no middle ground. We will end up obeying one or the other. The only alternative to God’s hierarchy, its obedience, order and joy; is chaos, desolation and misery. The reason why some will live in misery is that they do not know that the truth will set them free, and that freedom is of necessity freedom from the tyranny of self, and sin, and freedom from isolation from the dance of life.