Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ecologies of Grace, Chapters 10, 11, & 12

November 21, 2009

I have decided to bring this project to a close. I still think the idea of an online book discussion is worth pursuing, but am not sure that this was the ideal book to get us going. I find myself no closer to having passion for environmental issues than I did at the beginning. I am however still just as committed to the idea that we are to be stewards of creation. I will continue to try and remember to turn off the tap when I brush my teeth, support sustainable development and the like, all the while hoping that the work of ethicists and politicians can help us get to grips with what is going on in China and elsewhere.

In Chapters 10 and 11, Jenkins moves toward ideas of ecological spirituality and draws deeply on Eastern traditions, who following Maximus work for “reuniting nature and humanity within a cosmic economy of deification.” This is set over and against a perception that Western tradition has separated nature from salvation. (p.189) The theologians cited here push toward an articulation of the cosmic dimensions of salvation in ways that I find intuitive and congenial. It makes sense to me that our interconnectedness with all of creation means that what is going on in my life has something to do with whatever is going on on Mars and vice versa.

Jenkins does explore the avenues of wisdom in the tradition and the intriguing idea of ‘practicing transfiguration’, which seems to mean the conscious narration of nature’s glory. (p.222)

In his conclusion, Jenkins reiterates that he is about the task of “rendering environmental problems urgent and intelligible to Christian communities…Moreover, insofar as ecologies of grace illuminate how environmental problems matter for Christian life, this book shows why ecology makes a claim on Christian identity, and how environmental crises could pressure change in the way churches tell their salvation stories.” (p.228)

For clergy, he specifically invites renewed reflection on the pastoral dimensions of ‘nature and grace’, on the ecological dimensions of the experience and telling of salvation. He sees the tasks of lament and discourse about sustainability going hand in hand. (p.234)

He signals how theologians are affected in their understanding of grace by such things as hierarchies with respect to gender for example and how a shift in understanding grace in one conversation will lead to new resources and views in another. (p.240)

I’m left grateful for this work, left with a deeper understanding of some of the theological and ethical issues in this field, left with remaining questions about the status of nature and disease with attempts to ’personify’ creation, and a continuing hope that there is something for Christians beyond oughts and should, but not persuaded of that as ye

Ecologies of Grace, Chapters 8 & 9

November 20, 2009

So from Aquinas we move to Karl Barth and the idea of stewardship after the end of nature. Jenkins looks to Barth to discover whether stewardship “remain a structurally dominant relation”. Instead of granting some privileged moral position to ‘nature’ this strategy starts from God’s claim on human action. (p.153) He then goes into a spirited defense of Barth who is usually used as a foil by environmental ethicists. Barth insists on the revelational priority of act over being. God’s act determines created reality, in both time and space, history and geography. And third, we know God’s act through the particular event of Jesus Christ. “God’s universal will is elective, revealed in and bound to a particular creature.” (p.155)

Barth ends with a stewardship of earthkeeping or caring for creation on one hand and a stewardship of wise use; earthly perception on one hand and hearing the voice of God on the other. (p.169)

In chapter 9 we go on to consider how, for Barth, Christ’s work makes the ’special place of human obedience’ (p.171) and are led down yet another theologically dense and abstract path to consideration of “the environment of Jesus”. This is brought back toward normal human experience in consideration of Barth’s inversion of ‘Servant as Lord and Lord as servant’ leading to the danger of anthropomorphism in consideration of ‘Humans as Lords.’

There is a great deal of material in these chapters as in those that have gone before that suggest that they are for the cognoscenti of environmental ethics and are mining Christian theologians for resources that might be helpful. I’m a fairly simple soul at one level and find it easy enough to say that God made the heavens and the earth and saw that it was good. That, of course raises the problem of evil which many theologians have reduced to being a consequence of a cosmic fall by which death is introduced to the Garden of Eden. I find the Thomistic approach more helpful than anything Barthian with his suggestion that there is something to be learned about what is of true and ultimate worth in this world through the reality of suffering. It does not excuse God from charges of setting up a world in which many creatures suffer and sometimes for the apparent good of others, but offers another way of thinking about them as moral issues. Based on that, of course we must care for creation, but are the theologians and ethicists helping us know what that means? I can see that our harmful emissions in the developed world are part and parcel of drought and starvation in other parts of the world and that must be addressed as a matter of ethics. I’m not so clear that we shouldn’t evaluate cost and benefit of ding such things as building levees in New Orleans, --clearly a manipulation of ‘nature’. So far in this book, I’m not being taken much further, but find myself glad that those called to this care and concern are going about it thoughtfully and carefully.

Ecologies of Grace, Chapters 6 & 7

November 20, 2009

From here Jenkins takes us into theological resources looking first at St. Thomas Aquinas. Jenkins view is that Thomas manages to combine empirical aspects of Aristotle with the mystical ascent and proclamation of the love of God found in Augustine. He sees the whole of nature seeking its fulfillment in God and so ‘sanctifies biodiversity’. He sees Thomas as setting apart specifically human practices, not in the cause of anthropocentrism, but in order to “explain creation’s common ordination to God.” (p.118) Every creature has specific but fundamental relation to the creator. This raises the question for me as to whether a lion is ‘being natural’ when it tears apart its prey for supper. While clearly part of ‘biodiversity’, is that part and parcel of ecojustice and if so, how?

Part of the answer emerges as Jenkins explicates Thomas thus: “Creatures represent divine perfection as they act for their proper ends, realizing the real relation to their creator that lies at the heart of their existence by realizing the natural perfections that govern the form of their essences.” (p.122) Creation includes “ordered unity and “real diversity” (p.123) and God’s grace uses creation to perfect humans among other things.

When Jenkins moves on to chapter 7 he begins by asking how ecological habits of friendship with God respond to natural evils. Once again we go off down a trail of learning to perfect our praises by understanding distinctiveness. Our naming of the animals in the garden is not so much dominion as recognition. (I confess as an aside that I am questioning the wisdom of trying to generate an on line discussion using this book as it is dense, complex and not yet taking me to an understanding of the environmental movement at an existential level.)

Thomas is clear, apparently, that God does not will natural evils as ‘privations for particular creatures’ (p.144). In the end it seems that natural evils function “to tutor charity in perceiving the lovable”. In other words evil is somehow brought in to the service of good. As theodicy, this does not really satisfy, but on the level of a spiritual response to God, I can affirm it.

In conclusion Jenkins summarizes Thomas saying “In Christ, all creation comes to God through God’s friendship with humanity.” An interesting reading of Thomas but hardly compelling enough to get rid of Styrofoam cups. What say you?

Ecologies of Grace, Chapter 5

November 19, 2009

Ecological spirituality asks questions such as ‘what is the value of this world?’ and ‘what is the place of humans, as both physical and spiritual creatures, in the created world?’ (p.93) A variety of approaches to this strategy, “each makes environmental issues matter for Christian experience by appealing to the ecological dimensions of fully Christian personhood.” They seek to articulate a radical relation of personhood and environment. While my pulse is not quickening as I read, I can get with this program a little more readily through remembering Ortega’s line from Meditations on Quixote, namely, “I am myself plus my circumstance.” Of course our environment is critical to and shapes who we are becoming. This strategy seems to have most in common with Eastern themes of deification and ‘the cosmic significance of personal communion’ and the like.

Jenkins takes us through various approaches to creation spirituality and what he dubs ‘sacramental ecology’, including one of my favorites: Teilhard de Chardin and his ‘spiritual cosmology’ seen through the lens of human evolution. He eventually comes to the question as to what all this transforming creativity of God is directed? (p.107) Without a clear answer as yet he heads into a survey of Eastern Orthodox thought and leaves us with the suggestion that ’wisdom’ or Sofia might be a fruitful path of enquiry.

Having surveyed the various ‘strategies’ and theological resources within them, I am still not persuaded that there is any other way for us to look at ‘nature’ except through human eyes. While that need not lead to a kind of irredeemable anthropo-centrism allowing us to use the resources of nature with no regard for ecosystems and other creatures , for example, I find it impossible to get my mind around the idea of some kind of ‘personhood[‘ or its equivalent being ascribed to ‘creation.’ The strategy that makes the most sense to me is that of stewardship as part and parcel of living into right relationship with God and all that God has made. Where do you find yourself amongs all these options presented thus far?

Ecologies of Grace, Chapter 4

November 19, 2009

“In contrast to the ecojustice focus on creation’s integrity, the strategy of Christian stewardship frames environmental issues around faithful response to God’s invitation and command.” (p.77) The status of nature within this strategy is that it is the environment of God’s love for the world, which good stewards inhabit responsibly. Any dominion over the realm of afforded humanity in this strategy is clearly understood as for the purpose of caring for the whole of creation, almost as God’s deputies in the matter.

Stewardship ethicists argue that we only encounter the nature constructed in our encounter with God. And there God confronts humanity with its disordered practices and calls them into authentic freedom. (p.82)

This strategy offers various models of redemption all of which lead to the question as to whether nature itself needs to be redeemed and what that might or could mean. Answers vary depending on how corrupt ethicists of this camp believe nature to be as a result of sin. In any event “stewardship theologies claim that redemption brings environmental issues under Christ’s lordship.” (p.92)

Does anyone have anything to bring to this discussion that redeems a stewardship strategy from being another set of ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’, even if these are a response to tasting the first fruits of salvation?

Ecologies of Grace, Chapter 3

November 19, 2009

From here the book seems to pick up the pace a bit. “The strategy of ecojustice organizes Christian environmental ethics around the theological status of creation.” (p.61) Moral respect for nature is drawn into a wider narrative (and God saw that it was good.) Discussions of justice lead to discussions or environmental sustainability and human dignity. Jenkins surveys various ecojustice ethicists and suggests that they transform the similar and secular strategy. The integrity (with its ethical consequences) of creation is discerned through Christian spiritual practice through which we come to understand something of God’s relation to the world. (p.66)

One challenge of this strategy relates to uncertainty about the role nature might play to form humanity into intimacy with God. A second relates to how we are to understand those aspects of nature that are possibly signs of nature’s degeneracy rather than integrity. What are we to make of earthquake pestilence famine and flood? Is the human suffering caused by these ‘natural occurrences part of the consequence of the fall or are they something to be included in a full account of what God created?

Ecologies of Grace, Chapter 2

November 18, 2009

In this chapter Jenkins pursues criteria for what makes an environmental ethic ‘practical’ and suggests that a synthesis of the three schools or strains of ethics would provide a guide to some minimal standards of practicality. The challenges he sees to practicality are first a deep pluralism of viewpoints, and second the tendency to deal with that pluralism by finding an ‘unjustified keystone’ (p.39) or some other organizing principle that cannot contain the breadth of argument and therefore fails to persuade in a practical direction.

In addition to and partly as a result of practical questions, a second ‘clue’ emerges. As he puts it: “By consistently associating the ‘practical’ with social experience, pragmatists draw attention to the way ethical concepts make environmental issues morally significant within patterns of personal and social experience.” (p.40)

He spends the rest of this chapter describing proposals with a view to their ‘mutual intelligibility’ around a) nature’s standing; b) human agency; and c) ecological subjectivity.

With respect to Nature’s Standing: Some argue for an ethic based on some intrinsic value to nature dependent on neither an anthropocentric slant (i.e. justifying Nature’s value in relation to human life) nor an economic justification (i.e. nature is valuable in economic terms such as sustainability for life in the long run).

With respect to Moral Agency: ethicists seek to overcome problems of direct appeal to nature’s standing. An example comes from Steven Vogel. When the ethicist shows “the extent to which the world we inhabit is already humanized” she makes us “see the world we inhabit as something for which we are responsible, in both the causal and the moral sense of that word.” In turn we realize that we “produce the world through our practices and can change it only by changing those practices.” (cited on p.50) This collection of strategies begins by evaluating models of environmental Practice in their sociopolitical contexts. (p.51)

With respect to Ecological Subjectivity: the environment is considered as reciprocal subject (presumably in contrast to object of human activity). The diverse schools of thought within this strategy all know that “an environmental ethic must account for the ecological dimensions of human personhood. (p.57)

I confess that my lack of familiarity with this field of environmental ethics is making this heavy going for me and I have to work constantly to try and understand what is at stake in the various theories. Even when I think I understand the nuances of the various ethical approaches, I am still a long way from connecting these theories with my on existence except n a theoretical sense. Yes I am bound up with and shaped by my environment even as I in turn shape it by the way I live. Suggesting that I am, or ought to be, in ‘dialog’ with nature really doesn’t take me anywhere. I have no objection to the concept but am no closer to heartfelt caring in a way that makes this a priority for me or a compelling appeal. It all seems to be above my pay grade and I hope the people who have apparently managed to ensure that no new or significant accords will come from the Copenhagen meeting know what they are doing. Jenkins does help me grasp that ‘the debates’ about differing ethical premises can easily lead to inaction.

Can anyone help me with good questions after reading this chapter?

Church Typology

November 19, 2009

Over the years we have seen many schemes for organizing and thinking about differing kinds or types of churches. Anthony B. Robinson, author of Changing the Conversation: A Third Way for Congregations (Eerdmans, 2008) has published an article called “A New Apostolic Moment in Yale Divinity School’s Reflections (Fall 2009; p.8-10) in which he offers another typology.

He sees congregations falling broadly into three kinds. Civic Religion represents the kind of church people join as part of their civic and community life, a way to be engaged in the community, an expected norm of sorts. At All Saints’, in contrast to much of North America, we still enjoy a good measure of this kind of motivation for engaging the church. We see it made manifest when we tend to drift away from worship once our careers have reached their peak and our children are safely launched in life. We see it in a desire to hold on to an understanding of confirmation as he final act of baptism, something The Episcopal Church abandoned officially thirty years ago with the publication of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. We abandoned such thinking in favor of ideas such as the one we teach at All Saints’ that confirmation is the outward expression of an adult affirmation of lifelong commitment and the empowering of the Holy Spirit for specific ministry. The shorthand we use for this is ‘ordination to the laity’. While the church no longer thinks that confirmation is necessarily for everyone and is certainly not a kind of ‘get-them-done-so-they-can-get-on-with-life’ deal we still have plenty of people with the very reasonable (if often unexamined) desire to give their children what they had regardless of their level of participation in their own community of faith. We tend to handle this graciously, urging commitment and attendance but avoiding haranguing or chastising. Cultural change of this sort is well under way. It is inevitable and necessary given other changes in society but it is not brought about over night. What Robinson call ‘civic religion’ we have been talking about as the assumptions of Christendom, and age and reality that is still very much with us, but at the same time clearly passing away.

The “culturally accessible” church is most often associated with the movement that emerged in the 70s, flourished in the 80s and will be with us for a long time, namely the megachurch. The mentality of such congregations which might be characterized as ‘out with the old; in with the new’ has been around, certainly in North America since some of the earliest revivals and is arguably a basis for all Protestantism. At All Saints’ we have resisted this to the point of snobbery and our most recent congregational survey suggests that we will be unambiguously committed to our fairly formal and arcane worship for a long time to come even as we want to find ways to make it more welcoming and accessible to newcomers and visitors.

The third kind of church according to Robinson is best characterized as ‘communities of formation’ or communities of discipleship’. These may be congregations, new or old, large or small, conservative or liberal in theology, formal or informal in style. They tend to find themselves in some kind of tension with the society that surrounds them and see themselves as a kind of ‘apostolic outpost in the mission field’. They are neither characterized by comfortable familiarity (civic) or instant accessibility (culturally accessible) but by invitation and challenge, a generally higher expectation of commitment than some churches of the past, especially those who are emerging from Christendom kicking and screaming. In one way or another, this third type is the least easy to define and is clearly the direction that we will be taking as we follow our soon-t- be-ready-for-general-release ‘strategic plan for ministry’. As the direction is turned over to staff and ministry leaders to consider and bring into effect, we will begin to choose to emphasize those ministries that hold out the hope of our experiencing greater liberation in Christ marked by a greater capacity to roll with the warp and woof of life. (Traditionally these are expressed as the ‘fruits of the Spirit’.) We will be focused on engaging God and Neighbor as our city becomes increasingly multi-faith, multi-cultural and with it more divided and conflicted, in need of the kind of leaven we will be prepared to become. All this will be rooted in our worship, traditional or yet-to-be-developed, in which we remember and enact the foundational story of our Christian faith, orient ourselves to that which is of ‘ultimate worth’ (worth-ship), and are in turn shaped and challenged by God.

Ecologies of Grace, Chapter 1

November 18, 2009

Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology by Willis Jenkins is a book which begins by recognizing the difficulty of making environmental imperatives “intelligible to Christian communities.” He writes “climate change places new dimensions of society in moral jeopardy” and asks “but how is that preachable on Sunday mornings?” (p.3) He intends to trace strategies of ethical response to environmental challenges and then explore theological resources that can help their cause.

In a brief survey of secular emphases beginning with Lynn White’s 1967 article on “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis” in which the church was indicted for unhelpful anthropocentrism he ends with sociologist Laurel Kearns three ethics or models among Christians in the US: eco-justice, stewardship and creation spirituality. This kind of triad (or trinity) will reappear often in this book in slightly shifting forms and shapes. (p.19) These forms broadly relate to three different theologies of grace: sanctification, redemption and creation. In turn we might recognize the various emphases of Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Jenkins ends his introductory chapter with a personal story about his grandparents farm being annexed to allow the expansion of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. As someone who is not altogether familiar with the ethical discussion and debate that is the basis for much of this work, I find having a specific ‘case’ or ‘situation’ in mind helps me to evaluate what I am reading.

So questions for discussion include: a) can you think of personal stories that raise questions of environmental ethics? b) Do you share my suspicion that theologies of salvation might make it easier for many of us to engage the conversation at an existential level? Why or why not?

Annual Council

November 9, 2009

Our Presiding Bishop visited the Diocese of Atlanta for our Annual Council. She answered questions, met with a number of groups and ministries, as well as preaching at the Council Eucharist. She stayed on her message of ‘mission, mission, mission.’ Among the more interesting his she said in answer to a question was that neither she nor the Archbishop of Canterbury had made a statement about the proposed anti-homosexual hate legislation in Uganda at the request of those most affected. They consider that such ecclesial pressure would weaken their cause. A brief excursion into the blogosphere and we find that many people are angered, disgusted and confused as to why there has been no statement. It is not clear to me why the word is no out.

This is what I reported to the vestry about Council:

The presiding Bishop visited the Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta. Among the many things that she said (which I reported at a ‘rector’s forum’ on November 8) was the reality that attendance in worship is down throughout the nation while other indicators of engagement (baptisms, confirmations, membership and financial giving) is up. It seems that we are not alone. Nonetheless I note that vibrant parishes offer a variety of times and styles of worship and wonder what we are doing if worship is not at the center of what we do. We were ably represented by the clergy, Diane Barber, Bruce Garner, Richard Hall, Florence Holmes and Robert Wadell, who enjoyed a number of reports indicating that we are a healthy and leading diocese in the church as well as Cathedral worship at which the PB preached. The various major addresses of council are available here

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Environmental Stewardship

November 5, 2009

With the big meeting in Copenhagen coming up, environmental concerns are moving to the front and center for many eco warriors. I have been struck by a Newsweek editorial by Jon Meacham (November 9, 2009 p.5) in which he shares his more-or-less commitment to recycling but says “It is just that my lightbulbs and Diet Coke cans are not going to make up for the CO2 pouring forth from china’s coal-fired plants.” This echoes my recent post on Ecologies of Grace and fuels (sic) my sense of urgency that I find some kind of existential (or maybe simply emotional) connection to the importance of this work. I understand the ethical importance of caring for the environment and support work in that direction. I hope that those who meet in Copenhagen know whereof they speak and will act accordingly in some way that makes for justice for all.

Meacham believes that “Mammon trumps God” and “Human beings change their behavior only when danger is imminent or when money is at stake”. He hopes that “commerce with a conscience” is going to be the result of concerted government action. We see with the healthcare debate the difficulty of acting for the interest of all over the particular interests of an individual or economic interest group. Can governments express national interest in a way that becomes the equivalent of enlightened self-interest for all people? And can they do it bearing in mind the interconnectedness that means that poor countries still need the ability to grow their economies even while caring for the planet costs money?

Richard Hooker

November 3, 2009

Richard Hooker, whom we remember today, is credited with articulating the theology of the Anglican three-legged authoritative stool of first Scripture, then Tradition and Reason. As such he gave voice to the breadth of the Elizabethan Settlement making for a church that was both Catholic and Reformed, avoiding the excesses, as he saw it of both puritan Calvinism and popish Romanism. The day puts me in mind of a conversation I had with contextual education students at the Candler School of Theology about the strengths and weaknesses of various images or metaphors for the church (‘servant of God’, ‘body of Christ’ etc.). I have long liked the image of the ‘leaky chalice’, -- a container of sorts from which grace is somehow nevertheless dispensed if not always from the intended aperture. The point being that however essential that there be some sort of container or institutional form that is the vehicle by which the people of God pass on the story of the faith, the precise shape of that form is not of ultimate importance. It can, does, and should change over time. An argument over the faith and integrity of the church can all too easily disguise an argument over the power of the clergy, for example. This is why I read, admire and continue to find value in Richard Hooker without worrying too much about the future shape of the Anglican Communion. I do not anticipate it disappearing even though I believe that its essential integrity is in being an expression of catholicity that is first and foremost relational rather than strictly doctrinal or centered on some other authority such as that of a bishop or particular preacher.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ecologies of Grace

November 2, 2009

Ecologies of Grace is the title of a book by Willis Jenkins, (Oxford, 2008), an Episcopalian and the Margaret Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at Yale Divinity School. He teaches environmental theology and ethics. I have been reading and thinking about environmental matters since St. Paul’s, Alexandria, provided significant leadership for the Diocese of Virginia and beyond under the leadership of the late Charles Allen Jr. I know that concern for the environment is important as a matter of stewardship. I have read many works extolling that point of view and many others taking the path that is known as ‘eco-justice’. I am sold as a matter of ethics, oughts and shoulds. I happily and enthusiastically recycle anything that can be recycled, usually remember to turn the tap off while I am brushing my teeth or shaving and make sure that places I work are not using large amounts of Styrofoam. But I have yet to succeed in connecting environmental concern with immediate existential concern. I hope the Kyoto Accord combat global warming (which I believe to be a real issue) and look forward to the day when we can develop the All Saints’ campus in an exemplary way that takes LEED standards as a minimum.

I’m reminded of so much of the work around issues of sexuality which seemed to be using scripture or tradition to make ethical arguments or calls to work of justice and so on. It was not until I read James Alison (our Holy Week preacher of a few years ago) that I read someone who incorporated his discussion of sexuality and reflection on his won experience into fundamental soteriology and so grew to connect ‘the issue’ with everything that really matters to all of us for life. The introductory chapter to Willis Jenkins’ book suggests that he might be able to accomplish something similar. He promises to look a three broad strategies within Christina environmental ethics in addition to some secular approaches. The Christian ones are “ecojustice theologies’, ‘stewardship theologies’ and ‘ecological spiritualities’. This last one, he says, “appropriate(s) themes of deification, by which personal creativity brings all creation into the gift of union with God.” (p. 19) I’m looking forward to finding out what that means and have some hope that this book might be ‘different’.

I plan to comment here as I go in the hopes that some of you might like to read along with me engaging some conversation through the comment section. You can order the book here if you are interested.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lutheran Colleagues

October 27, 2009

I have been with my pastor theologian continuing education and colleague group this year. We have been finishing our work on ‘allegiance and apologetic’ working especially with Daniel and Augustine’s Confessions. More on that later and elsewhere. Three of the group are ELCA Lutherans. (Our friend from the Missouri Synod has H1N1 and could not be with us). They serve in quite different settings from each other and enjoy quite distinctive theological emphases, but they are each dealing with the repercussions in their congregations of decisions of their General Assembly this summer which authorized the possibility of ordaining partnered lesbian and gay people and made a statement that declines to condemn homosexuality as inherently sinful. People in their congregations are showing the whole range of responses that we have experienced over the years at All Saints’, including seeing valued friends taking this as the immediate cause of their leaving the church or striving to get their congregations to separate from the ELCA en masse.

I find myself having a spectrum of reactions: sorrow that they have to go through this; sorrow that there are still so many people who cannot imagine God’s love and grace being at work in these decisions of their wider community of faith; massive relief and gratitude that we are largely through the turmoil of this significant shift in anthropological understanding; tired of discussing homosexuality apart from the reality of the lives of the people that I am given to love and serve and with whom I gather around the Table.

We have talked a lot about the insights of the family system theory of Murray Bowen and the reality that the systems in which we live do and will resist, sabotage, undermine change and otherwise seek stasis. I shared Giles Fraser’s memorable sermon at All Saints’ in which he asked us to change seats and then reflected on our resistance to change, and especially change announced and brought about by God through John the Baptist. We joined in hoping that we could recognize and acknowledge the reality that there is a significant change taking place as we move to a new understanding of homosexual people and that change includes a tipping of the balance of power on these issues in church and state. WE have also hoped that as we are all subject to God’s transforming grace we can help one another in our various disappointments to recover the role of the ‘loyal opposition’ where that is appropriate (rather than leaving in a huff for a place where we can have our preconceptions and beliefs affirmed rather than challenged.) As we have talked about the Communion of Saints’ and the unspeakable love of God expressed as the resurrection of the body after death, we have remembered that whatever happens we will keep working this out in the love of God.