by Maria Evans
The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. The name derives from the Swedish manufacturer and furniture retailer IKEA, which sells many furniture products that require assembly.–Wikipedia
Well, the smoke has all cleared and the dust is starting to settle after this very exciting General Convention, and we’re back to getting in the grooves of our ordinary Episcopalian lives. For me, that meant getting back to reading an Anglican theology reading list that was assigned to me by my Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains.
Frankly, Anglican theology is difficult to grasp for non-Anglicans. Last semester, when I took Church History II through the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley as part of my online studies at CDSP, I had to take it with the Lutherans, and found myself really annoyed at the author of our textbook for how he described the English Reformation. It was almost as if he dismissed the whole thing as political, and not theological at all.
Yet, what I’ve come to discover in my reading is that the world and its politics is embedded in our theology from day one, and it is that tension between the realm of God and the realm of kings that created our theology, which is more expressed in practice than in a statement of belief. It was clear none of our forebears were going to believe exactly the same thing, so the clear message was that the most fundamental belief was to walk together through our worship practices, and have our personal and corporate belief emerge from it.
Really, our theology is a bit like IKEA furniture, and nowhere is the IKEA-ness expressed best in the American church through General Convention. If you’ve ever put together anything from IKEA, you know that the instructions are short on words, big on pictures, and the expectation is that with these instructions, any of us can “go thou and do likewise.” You and I can make our own IKEA bookshelf; I might have different parts left over than you (or maybe you have none left over; that never seems to be the case for me), yet at the end we would both proudly point to the bookshelf we put together and claim it as our own.
General Convention is one of those niches in the church where we are reminded our theology never gets far from the political world. GC works the way it does and was set up the way it is because many of the founders of the Episcopal Church and the framers of our Constitution and Canons were also the framers of the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the thirteen original states. We were no longer colonial arms of the the Church of England, and if you know the story of Samuel Seabury, the first American bishop, you realize the mother church basically wanted us to die on the vine. (But that didn’t happen, heh heh.) The framers of the Episcopal Church kept the political tensions of the day right next to the power of the Holy Spirit, and we’ve lived in that tension ever since.
Each General Convention is an adventure of putting together another bit of DIY furniture that makes up the home we call the Episcopal Church. Sometimes we retire a well worn piece. Sometimes we put a piece in there on what seems like a whim. Sometimes, over the space of several GC’s, a pattern emerges for the decor of a room. Yet all along, we willingly do it in this tension laden balance where the Holy Spirit and Scripture meet face to face with human reason, and in the end, we can all point to the bookshelf and say, “With God’s help, I helped make this.”
What’s the bit of furniture you helped assemble in our Episcopal Church home, that you can point to and say, “With God’s help, I helped too!”
Maria L. Evans is a surgical pathologist in Kirksville, Missouri, a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church, and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds a moment to write on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.