Saturday, June 28, 2008

Episcopi Vigilantes

I had intended to post in a general way about the recent Global Anglican Future Conference / Pilgrimage in Jordan / Jerusalem.

Naturally, I was going to mock their chosen name. What kind of a group deliberately chooses an acronym (GAFCON) so manifestly satirizable? A GAFFEPRONE group, obviously.

I intended to be a bit snarky about their shabby treatment of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, whom they made into their unwilling host without so much as a by your leave.

I intended to observe on their patent dishonesty in promising the said Bishop that they would hold their meetings in Jordan and that the Jerusalem portion would be a pilgrimage.

I wanted to make appropriate horrified h'rumphs about the fact that many of their leading figures cannot even manage to say that beating the living crap out of homosexuals is perhaps not in keeping with the Gospel.

I intended to have much fun at their expense over their ridiculous "banned" list - and over the fact that it took them three days to come up with the cover story that it was really just an overenthusiastic and misguided volunteer. (I might have believed that if it had come promptly. But three days? C'mon.)

But now, they have produced their manifesto. Despite the claim that they are not splitting, it really is nothing less than a declaration of war on any and all Anglicans who choose not to conform to their views and submit to their authority. It is a veritable coup d'eglise.

Yes, it is larded with bumph about staying in the Anglican Communion, but the media have outed it for what it is - a scheme for schism. Some of the best coverage is from the Guardian, here, here and here.

It has already been panned by an assortment of liberals - quel suprise.

The most withering comment has been from progressive Episcopal commentator Jim Naughton, who said:

Step back from the details of this particular document for a moment, and consider the nature of GAFCON. It has brought together bishops from some of the poorest countries on Earth to deliver the residents of some of the richest suburbs in America from living in a Church to which they cannot dictate terms. Zimbabwe is on fire. Darfur is bleeding. Ethnic strife and pandemic disease rage across the African continent while these bishops devote themselves to rescuing the Episcopalians of Orange County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia from persecution that does not exist. And how will they achieve this? By calling the world to faith in the Gospel as it was delivered to them by representatives of an empire that conquered their homelands, stole their resources and denied their ancestors even the most basic human rights.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or weep.

This criticism from the American Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is vigorous if predictable. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington. John Chane, points to the "slanderous boilerplate" which misrespresents the reality of the North American provinces.

But it has likewise been panned by a number of conservatives - thoughtful and intelligent conservative commentators like Tony Clavier and Dan Martins. Fresh from his triumphal appearance on the Colbert Report and doubtless enjoying the Colbert Bump, Bishop of Durham Tom Wright sugarcoats a blow to the solar plexus.

Most important, however, is the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has finally had enough. He criticizes both the caricatures these pretendy "conservatives" employ to slander North American Anglicanism. And he makes it very clear that there is no room in authentic Anglicanism for a posse of self-appointed vigilantes to dispense their own form of frontier rough justice.

That particular criticism is directed at the most breathtakingly arrogant piece of all - the declared intention to establish a Council of Primates to police the Communion. This self-selecting inquisition - the six most dyspeptic prelates - would then determine which provinces were to be recognized and which were to be cast away.

There is a technical ecclesiastical term, episcopi vagantes. It refers to "independent" bishops of possibly valid apostolic succession but who operate outside of any recognizable structures.

This new Council of Primates (self-designated Good COPS) might best be described as Episcopi Vigilantes. What they propose is that the Anglican Communion be governed by vigilantes, by self-appointed posses, by doctrinal lynch mobs.

The good news is that these latter day inquisitors don't have anywhere near as much support as they think they do. By their over the top bullying, they have managed to alienate a goodly number of their potential sympathizers. Liberal, moderate and conservative Bishops and Primates have no interest in having pseudo-Anglican Wahaabists or Taliban imposing their own narrow definitions.

We don't need this:

from these (mind the salty language):

Monday, June 23, 2008

What is Missional?

Fr. Joe at felix hominum has linked to some other bloggers who have proposed a Missional Synchroblog for today, June 23, 2004.

I have reflected on aspects of this topic previously, including my well received beer posting last week.

The great challenge for the Church today is to come to grips with the death of Christendom. The Church no longer holds the priviledged position it once did in society. It is no longer assumed that all - or even most - are formally affiliated with any formal religious structure. While church attendance was once the norm, it is now the exception.

In those days, the idea of mission for the average Christian in the developed world wasn't about much more than opening the doors. Build your church. Open the doors. People will come.

Maybe that worked then. I don't know. I'm too young to remember those days.

And I'm 48. Hardly a young man.

This relates to another dysfunctional tendency - one which may be a problem particular to North American Anglicans.

Are we here to preach the good news to all nations? Or are we a chaplaincy to the English ethnics and the odd English ex-pat?

Seems to me that both of these dysfunctions turn our vision inward on ourselves.

Were we to be faithful to Jesus, we would change our focus.

To be missional, it seems to me, is to turn our vision outward, to acknowledge the end of Christendom, to see that there are people far and near who do not know the Jesus we meet each Sunday in the breaking of bread.

It isn't about keeping the doors open. It isn't about more bums in seats of a Sunday. (Though both those things might be by-products.) And it certainly isn't about - or at least not limited to - "people like us."

It is about taking Jesus out of the big besteepled box we put him in.

It is about taking Jesus to the street.

It is about taking Jesus to the people, to all people, wherever they are.

It is about finding Jesus there in the face of the poor.

It is about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick and the prisoner.

This is post-Christendom - and that is a challenge to the Church.

But it is a blessing to the Church as well. We are liberated from the bondage of establishment and respectability.

Let us sieze this blessing!

Let us seek out Jesus!

Let us proclaim the Good News of Jesus!

Let us preach good news to the poor!

Let us proclaim freedom for the prisoners!

Let us declare recovery of sight for the blind!

Let us release the oppressed!

Let us proclaim the year of the Lord's favour!

But mostly, let's bloody get over ourselves. It ain't about us. It's about him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nothing Recedes Like Success

(Warning - does contain church stuff - it will just take you a while to get there.)

I attended the Canadian Public Relations Society annual conference earlier this week. Like every conference, I got to see so many of those wonderful friends I usually only see once a year. I got to make at least one obscure procedural point at the Society's annual general meeting. I got to have a real Halifax Donair at Pizza Corner. And I got to dance - until I threw out my knee anyway.

Oh. And there was some professional development as well.

The Tuesday breakfast speaker was Andrea Mandel-Campbell, author of Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molson.

It was a good presentation (apart from her manifest struggle to pronounce "Saskatchewan"). Her book - and her presentation - used the venerable old Montreal brewery as a parable for Canada's failure to live up to its international potential as an economic mover and shaker.

Molson was one of Canada's oldest companies, established in 1786. It was one of the oldest commercial breweries in the world - older than Heineken, for example. It made good beer. It was located in Canada, with unfettered access to an almost limited supply of the two most important ingredients in beer - water and barley. It functioned in an equitable duopoly with the similarly venerable Labatt's brewery. The two companies controlled the commercial beer market throughout Canada for most of the twentieth century. And in the province of Ontario - the most profitable beer market in the world - the two "competitors" even controlled the distribution through The Beer Store.

Molson's was successful. For years, Molson's was successful. So was Labatt's. West of Toronto's Yonge Street, most Canadian beer drinkers drank either Molson Canadian or Labatt's Blue. East of Yonge Street, it was Molson Export or Labatt's 50.

Neither company invested much in branding. Sure there were different product lines (Canadian, Export and Pilsner or Blue, 50 and Schooner). But all the beer from either brewery came in the same stubby brown bottle, packed with 11 or 23 identical beers in boxes which were, apart from the labels, pretty much identical.

Good beer. Successful companies. Good market positioning. Good production positioning.

As opposed to Corona.

I stopped drinking before I ever had a Corona. Apparently Corona isn't great beer. You have to put a lime in it to make it drinkable. It isn't even the best beer in Mexico, I'm told. Corona's just the crap they sell to college kids and tourists.

But Corona is one of the world's best selling brands of beer.

Corona is one of the world's best selling brands of beer despite having none of the advantages that Molson had.

You can even buy Corona in Canada. Even in Ontario. Even in The Beer Store. Of course, the Corona you buy in Canada is made by . . . Molson.

Corona is more than beer. It's a brand.

But have you ever tried to buy a Molson Canadian in Mexico? In California? In Belgium? Go ahead. I dare you. Try it.

So, why is it that Corona - the middlin' beer from a country with limited access to water and barley, and without an in-built market monopoly / duopoly - is among the world's best selling brands of beer?

And why is it that Canadian - the good beer with unlimited access to water and barley, with an in-built duopoly, with access to the most profitable beer market in the world, with control over distribution in that market, with the intangible asset of one of the longest established brands - is generally unavailable outside of Canada. And why is it that both Molson and Labatt's have ceased to exist as Canadian owned Canadian breweries? Both are now part of international conglomerates with limited Canadian equity. And once the Molson Coors amalgamation with SABMiller is complete, it is expected that the Molson name will disappear outside of Canada - like the Labatt name has already done.

(It is ironic that the famous I Am Canadian commercial actually came out after Molson had ceased to be Canadian.)

Mandel-Campbell essentially argues that the two companies are the victim of their own success. As big fish in a small pond, they made no effort to compete, except with each other. And as we've seen, there was precious little competition between them. The market duopoly was simply too comfortable.

When Heineken and Corona and Bass and Miller began to position themselves as premium products, Molson and Labatt saw no reason to respond. Everything was fine in the Canadian beer duopoly. The money was rolling in, and both companies were fat, dumb and happy.

And completely unprepared when it turned out that Canadians were interested in premium products and value-added branding.

So, what does this have to do with things ecclesiastical?

Think of Molson as the Anglican Church of Canada, or the Episcopal Church in the US, or the Church of England, or most any other "first world" Anglican body, or most any other "mainline" denomination.

We went along quite comfortably for several hundred years. All was well. We opened the doors and the people came through them. We were fat, dumb and happy. We saw no need to change.

So we were completely unprepared when the world changed around us. When new Christian churches began to challenge us for market share. When other religions began to challenge us for market share. And when the market began to shrink because fewer and fewer people saw any reason to belong to or to participate in organized religion at all.

The ecclesiastical model we had worked just fine in Christendom.

But we're not in Christendom any more.

It isn't enough, any more, to think that our sole mission is to keep the doors open for when someone turns up.

Our mission is the one Jesus gave us, to proclaim his name to all people.

So, let's be about it then.

And here is a Little Bit of Fry and Laurie to round out our business analysis of Anglican market share.