Daily Archives: October 25, 2011

CWOB and the Diocese of Connecticut

This resolution passed at the convention of the Diocese of Connecticut:

Resolution #10: year-long Dialogue on Communion of the Unbaptized PASSED AS AMENDED

This resolution was much debated as well. It started with an amendment to change “open communion” to “communion of the unbaptized” for clarification. which passed.

Final language: RESOLVED:  That the 227th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut declares a year for theological and catechetical reflection, dialogue, discussion, conversation and listening among parishes of this diocese on “Communion of the Unbaptized” [welcoming all, baptized or not, to Holy Communion]; and be it further,
RESOLVED:  That the laity make their voices heard to the bishop and clergy as they explore this sacrament.

Couple of things here…

First, I’m wary of the words “dialogue” and “conversation” in the Episcopal Church. This generally seems to be shorthand for: “We know better than you on this topic and we’re going to have a ‘dialogue’ until you see the error of your ways and agree with me at which point our dialogue will be done.” I will be very interested to see what form this “dialogue” takes. What sort of theological and catechetical material will be used to guide the reflection?

Who really will get to have a voice at the table?

…And that brings me to my second thing…

What the heck does that last line mean? Let’s take another look at it: “That the laity make their voices heard to the bishop and clergy as they explore this sacrament.” What is the rhetorical purpose and the political valence of this sentence?

Two options immediately present themselves.

The first is a simple and straight-forward wish that all orders of ministry will have an opportunity to have a say in the matter. Well, yeah—isn’t this kind of the point of our whole process? Isn’t this how our polity is different from the COE and other Anglican churches? Perhaps I’ve been in church circles too long but this seems a little too much like wide-eyed naivete; I’m feeling something a little disingenuous here…

The second is a sneaking suspicion that the appeal to “the laity” is an attempt to stack the deck. I truly believe that the current argument around CWOB is neither a theological nor a sacramental argument. Instead, it’s an issue of identity that rests primarily upon an emotional appeal. That is, I think it’s less about theology and a lot more about how we perceive ourselves and shape the face we offer to the world; CWOB advocates intend it as a message that we are open, inclusive, and welcoming. I have no problem with framing ourselves this way–but CWOB is not the way to do it!!

Are the folks behind this line thinking that the laity will be swayed more by this sort of an emotional appeal than a theological one?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see more resolutions like this popping up a conventions going forward . This will be a very important resolution and “dialogue” to follow over the coming year.

Media and Meaning

Over at Seven Whole Days, Scott Gunn has posted a very interesting reflection on the church in the age of social media.

There’s no question that social media has already had an enormous impact on the shape of the global religious landscape and will continue to do so. In fact, I’d attribute most of the church splits and schisms over the last decade as being driven either in part or completely by social movements fostered and enable by new media. As far as I’m concerned, the Episcopal split and the formation of the ACNA would not have happened if blogs and blog networks had not been able to focus opposition to 815 and gain/create a critical mass willing to leave.

On the other hand, I know I personally have met and been nurtured by a wonderful group of people—some I knew or have come to know offline, others not—through social media interactions, most notably  this blog.

I just want to make two quick points.

First, from a systems-perspective, the problem of our age is not access to data. We have too much of it. We’re completely awash in information. Some of it is useful and important—some of it less so.The problem of our age is the analysis and organization of data into useful—and comprehensible—chunks.This is one of the broad functions of social media. No-one can sift through all of the news/information/books/essays/thoughts/etc. out there. It’s simply not possible. What social media does is, essentially, to serve as a crowd-sourced filtration and data organization device. Our friends and acquaintances access some bits and post or pass on what seems most meaningful to them. Social circles feed and amplify certain themes, stories, and concepts. We’ve got to use this tool but at the same time be very aware of the shadow-side of this strength: it’s really easy to get caught up in your own echo-chamber where all you hear are the kinds of stories, news,and statistics that reinforce what you already think and believe. As more and more of us rely more and more on the internet for our news and locus of critical reflection, we must also be intentional about cultivating friends and acquaintance who can challenge us enough to keep us from being locked into a simple and simplistic way of thinking and processing.

Second, when social media gets discussed, it usually means Facebook and Twitter. I think it’s fair to say that there has been a certain decrease in blog activity over the last several years—especially since the rise of Facebook. But I must strenuously protest: blogs have their place!! There are two things that blogs do better than Facebook. The first is the retention of a surface anonymity. Anonymity online is a source of liberation. It enables us to say and do things we can’t with a name attached. Yeah, I know—that can be a Bad Thing, and trolls will always be with us… Nevertheless, sometimes people need anonymity to provide a critical space for their own growth and reflection. Some of my favorite bloggers either are or were anonymous. I was semi-anonymous for a while myself. I don’t think it’s always a problem, and find it healthy for those just growing their wings.

The second thing that blogs can do that Facebook can’t is to provide a forum for the thoughtful essay. The essay genre is perfect for blogs. Facebook, not so much. If we are going to engage in thoughtful, compelling reflection, we need more space to develop a substantive body of thought than Facebook and Twitter provide. The best route is, of course, integration: using Facebook and Twitter to circulate pull-quotes that lead readers into the blog. (Not I do this myself, of course, but I still think it’s the best way to go…) In the article referenced above, Scott+ linked to a Reflections edition focused entirely on New Media. As I scanned the table of contents, I didn’t recognize the name of one person as a long-standing blogger of note. To me, that’s a serious oversight. You have people writing on the new media—but you leave out one of the central platforms? Hello?