synod and the elephant

I have returned from five days of synod meeting. Five days ranging in debate and dialogue and conversation about the proposed Preamble of the UnitingChurch constitution, through three sessions on the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, dealing with some deep hurts, any number of committee reports, financial matters and justice resolutions.

The Preamble prompted the airing of some theological cautions in the synod, but the gathering was overwhelmingly accepting of the Preamble and the theology expressed there. At the last session the synod also agreed to invite the Assembly working group on Doctrine to have a converation with the Congress, to unfold the theologial implications of the preamble.

I expected more discussion about the paragraphs that tell of colonisation and disposession, but I don’t recall anyone raising these isues. Perhaps the Prime Minister’s apology, the ‘Stolen Generations’ and other truth telling has altered the debate.

What was the elephant in the synod room?
I have no bone to chew about the style of discusson: the consensus cards and the Moderator’s chairing which was done in agentle and sensitive way and, so, served us well. However, I had the false impresion that we are sailing in placid waters. Perhaps we are like the Titanic sailing on apparetnly peaceful waters, just before the iceberg makes its presence felt.

The elephant is this: we are receving reports and rpoposals from workigng group and committees, discusing, tehn sending the committees back to work – as well as shovelling a load of words onto congregations – who will hardly take any notice, overwhelmed as theya re with enough life-challenges. The work of the committees is carefully presented, based on (usually) thorough work. But, there is a massive shift underwhay. We are ‘Resident Aliens (Haurewas & Willimon) in a way the Americans could not imagine. We are a people’on the way’ but unclear what that means. We are ‘in exile‘ (Daniel Smith-Christopher) but mostly in denial.

i wonder what might have happened had we listened to the Bible studies as introduced by Sean Winter and then spent the rest of the morning each day wrestling with what is there. We would have had to deal with Jesus’ role in confronting the demons, especailly in the sysngogue. we would have been prompted to ask about resurrection (1:31 – ‘raised up’ – GREEK: egeiro) in the first chapter, in contrast to the last chapter (16).We would have had to sit with Jesus who touches the unclean leper and himself becomes unclean – excluded from the towns. It would not have promoted another program (thank God!), nor another slogan (I hope), but woudl have put Jesus, the Chosen Son of God, crucified, before us – new wine not to be put into old skins. And at the same time we might have listened to Congress members whose culture values deep wisdom and ritual from the past, and also experience being ‘outside’.

Where might the elephant have lead us?

28th AaMy 2010

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