Understanding Anglicanism is a bit like assembling an IKEA bookcase

by

THE MAGAZINE

 

by Maria Evans

 

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.[1] 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.

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Paul Woodrum
Guest

Reacting to Roman Catholic sexual scandals, fearing expensive lawsuits and focusing on compassion for victims, Title IV stripped away practically all the protections for respondents that are at the heart of the American concept of justice beginning with protection against false accusation, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to know the specific charges, the right to confront one's accuser and the right to legal representation.

On the basis of an unproven allegation, a respondent can have their ministry restricted, be placed under a gag order and be provided with only an adviser without being told the nature of the charge nor the name of the person bringing it.
Hiring legal representation is the responsibility of the respondent who may find that, not only is their ministry restricted, but the their pay and even housing may be eliminated while the process plays out in secret.

While these restrictions can be applied to bending the rubrics of the Prayer Book, denying the Creeds or preaching heresy, in practice their application is generally limited to allegations of a superfluity of sexual, financial or schismatic naughtiness.

Considering the discussion of all these issues over the last three years, it is disappointing that the recent GC seems to have strengthened the prosecutorial aspects of Title IV while doing nothing to restore basic rights to respondents.

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kathleen codyrachel
Guest
kathleen codyrachel

A wonderful article - not only GC but sometimes parish churches go through a tweaking process - my church has gone through many changes in the last six years and we now have a terrific Lutheran pastor! We all love change & tweaking in someome else but life is change and that is a wonderful thing!
So happy to hear about the GC - some day I would love to be able to attend one -

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Ann Fontaine
Member
Ann Fontaine

Yes -- I was referring to what happened that I was part of building in my days at GC 1982-2009.

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Member

And this year we did move forward (albeit not as forward as some of us would have liked) on equality for our LGBTQ siblings.

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Chip Mills
Guest
Chip Mills

Thanks, Maria, for posting the list!!

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Michael Hartney
Guest
Michael Hartney

Among the several tweaks to Title IV done at this General Convention were some which from the "prosecution" side seem to make the system move faster. In my opinion, I think that the tweaks authorized at this General Convention generally favor Bishops and Chancellors and not Respondents. The principle that a Respondent is innocent until proven otherwise is sometimes hard to uphold.

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Maria L. Evans
Guest

Thank you all for your comments so far. Chip, here's my summer reading list:

Mark Chapman, Anglican Theology, London, New York: T & T Clark, 2012.

Richard Hooker, Of the lawes of ecclesiastical polity, Book V (multiple editions, some available

online).

Mark McIntosh, Divine Teaching, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

Ralph McMichael, ed., The Vocation of Anglican Theology, London, SCM Press, 2014.

Michael Ramsey, The Gospel and the Catholic Church (multiple editions; original in 1936)

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Paul Woodrum
Guest

Ann, what did GC do with Title IV? I've seen nothing about it on Episcopal Café. Is it too controversial for this forum?

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John Chilton
Editor
John Chilton

Not at all controversial for this forum. Here's what this GC did with Title IV (Discipline).
http://www.generalconvention.org/gc/2015-resolutions/A124/current_english_text

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Chip Mills
Guest
Chip Mills

Good article! Thanks! Could you please post or send the reading list you refer to in the article? Again, thanks!

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John Makowski
Guest
John Makowski

Maria,

Very good observation and analogy about the IKEA effect. I see a great priest in the making.

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Ann Fontaine
Member
Ann Fontaine

In my time at GC - we tightened up the loose nuts and things that had come undone with Title IV. We put in a new shelf of full rights and rites for gays and lesbians.

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John Chilton
Editor
John Chilton

The Ikea effect is a bias where we overvalue the things we have put together. It would help to explain why we resist changes to the structure of the church, or to the prayer book, or to traditions on who is eligible to the priesthood or the sacrament of marriage.

For more on the Ikea effect see,
http://www.npr.org/2013/02/06/171177695/why-you-love-that-ikea-table-even-if-its-crooked

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