The presentation that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is making at provincial synods is now online. Here is an excerpt, what do you think about it?
If we are people who value that Anglican sense of ordered freedom, then we need to learn to live in the creative tension between complete order and complete freedom, both of which are ultimately deadly – order because it’s not open to change, and complete freedom because it has a hard time with enduring relationship. Abundant life and creativity come in the dance between what is finished and utter chaos. That lively tension applies to all parts of our lives, including how we make decisions.
Our churchwide governance work is largely based on parliamentary democratic methods. We have evolved a system that gives great attention to the details of process and structure in how decisions are made. We have a representation system that has at least something to do with interest group politics. We have made legislative decisions over the last few decades that have done great good in opening us up to the movement of the spirit. We have also done damage in voting, by creating winners and losers about several hundred issues at every General Convention.
There are other democratic ways of decision-making that are more deliberative, that depend on conversation and consensus more than on up-down, yes-no voting. We’ve begun to learn something about indaba in recent years, and to learn more communal modes of discernment. Our tradition is actually more deeply based in discernment, reflection, and prayer in community than it is in voting. Even those 11 disciples who had to replace Judas didn’t vote – they cast lots, and they took the one who was chosen, seemingly by random methods. They trusted in the leading of the Spirit. I’m not suggesting that we start throwing dice, but I do want to suggest that we have the ability to listen far more widely to the spirit at work in the lives of Episcopalians and of local faith communities than we did in the days when white, landowning men rode horses for days to gather in a small room and vote. Can you dream of a church that is able to listen to 2 million of us reflecting, discerning, and finding a way forward, in God’s time, without an arbitrary deadline? Can we dream of a Church that is engaged in creative and distinctive ways with the variety of cultural communities around us? Can we build a system that is responsive to emerging possibilities, following the leading of the Spirit?