October 1, 2009
On project that is getting underway under the auspices of the Anglican Communion Office is called ‘The Bible in the Church’. We were introduces to this work at the Compass Rose Meeting. Essentially this is an international project to help Anglicans become aware of the hermeneutic or interpretive principles that they bring (in fact rather than in theory) to the interpretation of the scriptures. I am not optimistic that we will be able to develop or discover ‘Anglican’ hermeneutic principles. I am more hopeful that we can discover what is valuable about distinctive principles.
While I was in England I also took another look at an old book by Lyle Schaller looking at alternative futures and strategic planning for churches. I wanted to make sure that we were covering all the bases with our prayer, process and planning. I am daily more convinced that the direction that is emerging within our committee, vestry and staff both honors our historic concerns and commitments as a parish and offers an exciting way to conceive and shape our work going forward. I do not expect us to come up with one of those plans with seven strategic initiatives and fifteen tactical bullet points ‘to do ‘lists under each one. At this point I expect that we will agree on an understanding of defining vision that will shape all of our ministries in a variety of ways over time. It will be along the lines of emphasizing our commitment to formation for confident Christian Faith (remembering our foundation as a Sunday School) and seeing the essential mission of ‘engaging the other’ as a way of describing what we do (remembering our commitment to ministries of justice in the world). I can imagine changes as a result of such a vision that would be radical if we tried to order everything about our parish in this way on day one, which over time will be more understood as development of who we are.
Recognizing, understanding and appreciating difference is easier said than done. This has been the mission statement of an organization about which I have written before called Visions-Inc. Whether or not and to what extent they might be helpful to us as we seek to respond to the Gospel remains to be seen. What I do not doubt is that it will be hard to find the greater unity beyond clear and contradictory interpretive principles about scripture which lead to clear and contradictory conclusions about ethics or the preferred shape of the society on which we live. I do not believe that it is God’s desire that we separate from those with whom we disagree (especially at the points at which we feel our position is coming to the fore or we feel that our power is being eroded.) That means that we have to find a bigger vision and hold fast our trust in God’s fidelity to us. When I am back with my books I will take another look at Margaret Wheatley’s book Leadership and the New Science which I remember as a book that looked at things like chaos theory and fractals in terms of an ever-widening perspective in what is ‘real’, allowing us to be clear and honest about the tensions we know are present in our relationships with each other while holding fast a greater vision of the way in which God sees all of creation.