November 16, 2010

Powerless Leadership

The promoters of the Anglican Covenant simultaneously assure us it is not introducing any radical change to our life together, and that it is vital to our continued life together that we have it. As Ma Chere Mimi has observed, it is harmless and toothless, but we must have it!

Thus, like no-cal soda, it makes of virtue of what it lacks. It may quench your thirst but it will not nourish your body. It is powerless.

This particular claim of powerlessness reminds me of Rowan's Plaint:

I have no power; I am here only to see that the mind of the Communion is followed; I can't do anything. Oh, except remove representatives to committees I appoint, juggle the invitation list to Lambeth, press for voluntary renunciation of voting rights at the ACC, make a few phone calls to a few Presiding Bishops ("twisting arms" is far too brutish to describe my efforts at, ah... outreach), change the seating and conversation arrangements at the Primates' "Meeting" or perhaps even cancel it altogether, and... did I forget anything? No, I think that's all four Instruments, plus a few ringers. But no power; no, none at all. At least that's how I see it.

In the same way, the Covenant does nothing to the Anglican Communion, except to make changes in the relationships between the members. But since that is what communion is — not a substance or an institution but a form of relationship — the capacity to have consequential impact on the relations of the members of the Communion, through the Instruments thereof, cuts to the heart of the only relevant power on offer. And the fact that it does so by threats of what amounts to withdrawal of affection just makes the whole thing that much more toxic and morally suspect.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
who, if it seems he's going on a bit about this Covenant, is only doing so because of the impending vote in the General Synod.

4 comments:

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Tobias: It is one thing to voluntarily give up one's power in the interest of being a "servant leader" (or perhaps of being like Jesus). It is entirely different thing to claim you have no power when you, in fact, do. It reminds me of clergy I've heard that claim they have no power--and yet they are in the center of the sacramental and spiritual life of their congregation! How could they _not_ have power? The question is, how will you use that power, or do you give it up (another way of using it) for something or someone?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

My concern exactly, Tom. One of the keynotes of clergy misconduct and parish dysfunction is the denial of the real power dynamic at work. I recall a book I read years ago, The Toxic Church; hence my use of that term in closing.

I continue to hope sanity will reign.

MarkBrunson said...

Rowan's continual protests that he is merely representing the mind of the communion put me in mind of men with headphones in a bulletproof booth in Nuremberg. "I was only following orders! I could do nothing!"

Fred Schwartz said...

Tobias,
The words used here are almost identical to the words used by Mr. Schfield when he tried to take the diocese of San Joaquin to the So. Cone. I am continually amazed at the inanity of it all.