Tuesday 12 May 2009

Presidential Address (ACC)

On the eve of the closing of the ACC 14 in Kingston, Jamaica, the Archbishop Roald See O'Vee delivered his Presidential Address. The Council has a Chair to sit on and the Archbishop sits on the Council Chair Bishop Patercake-Baker. The address, Lambeth Palace, London, came after the evening worship, and was followed by a thanks to Bishop Patercake-Baker who retires as the Chair at the end of the meeting to ebcome a Table, and Bishop Scot Wales who was recently consecrated as the Bishop of North Wales (and gave advice to Canon Philip Crumb Monarch Bootslick as to what to expect when he gets 'done' later on) is also leaving to do some shopping.

So, in the words of Status Quo, it's 'Oh here we are and here we are and here we go, all aboard and were hittin' the road', and what have we achieved, other than a bloody mess and confusion? In 1997 Arundhati Roy published his novel The God of Small Things. It's about twins who were victims of circumstance, and has that not been our experience here in Jamaica? In the novel, small things have big effects. Yes, indeed, in critical times, small things achieved can magnify, and so a big mess here must be absolutely ginormous.

The first thing we did was we got up every morning. I want to dwell on this a little. If we think about the growing millions of unemployed, getting up every morning is quite a task. Unemployed people tend to drift on into the night, and their hours become skewed, with a sense of feeling sleepy and lethargic all day. Sorry, are you losing interest? feeling tired, clergyman? So I think it is important that here in laid back Jamaica we did volunteer to rise every morning, and I know some of you got up particularly early to meet in your friendship groups and do some plotting. As you can see, I prepared this speech well in advance! And we prayed every morning, and that's what you'd expect, really, given who we are. It's like being with the vicar and saying, 'Are you going to say grace?' before a meal, and he goes, 'Naw!' We did read scripture too, which means that we've been good boys and occasionally girls. And we did some other things too.

And these other things were about theology, the Bible, the Church. Sorry - what do you mean 'What do you expect?'? I've been asked to give a speech, like the President gives a speech so you may as well listen to me. OK, it may not be academic but I've been doing other things. Right. Evangelising - we did some of that, like that Ugandaman bloke who's been missing. He obviously couldn't give us the time of day. I am getting on with it. Just be patient for a change.

Right so I'll mention the Covenant then. There you are. We agreed on that and on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group. Sorry? Well you'd only get to the airport early if you left now. What d'you mean you hardly agreed to anything? There were votes weren't there? All right, I'll grasp the nettle.

Suppose someone is apparently terminally ill in bed, but she gets up with a hop, skip and a jump. Don't you think you'd start to question whether she was terminally ill or not? I know I would. Well, all right, she might just collapse immediately afterwards there and then, but the evidence so far is she has the colour back in her cheeks. What? I wrote this last night. I was feeling tired, yes. Look, do we really think that delivering Section 4, as it was, is the be all and end all? I'd say the fact that we got up in the morning and said our prayers is an achievement, and I want to emphasise this, because there is precious little else to emphasise. The Bible like Arundhati Roy has a great deal to say about small things and, having little else to emphasise, by the grace of God or something like that - and we have never actually seen God at the end of the yellow brick road.

Well, as that comedian used to say, "And I love you all!" and I do want to express my gratitude. Roses grow on you. No I won't get off - this is my speech. We have the grace, the charity, the liberty to pray and plan together. Ok I could have edited it better, but bear with me will you. Let me get my crystal ball out. What? I thought I'd zipped my flies up. Oh dear - ah, the advantages of a cassock!

So look into my ball and see the future! Let's be honest: you didn't give an inch and I didn't give an inch, so that ball is looking just what it looked like a little while back. So let's thank God with all our hearts for what has been given to us, by God, in our prayer, through our fellowship here, in which no one gave an inch in an intense stand-off. Adam Ant. Adam Adamant. I'm not being sanctimonious with all this God and prayer stuff: I don't even know the meaning of the word. No, I intend to finish this speech - I won't get off.

Think of Waiting for Godot as they think about the Holy Land: such a green and pleasant place it is becoming. Sparkling waters in the irrigation, and established green agriculture, but we can't discuss or make decisions when tanks are on the lawn. We can't discuss when there are facts on the ground. Like we’ve conceded something and you haven’t moved. But, you know, at least with all our prayers and fellowship, it's not quite as poisonous here as in the Holy Land. We are all in our little parties, aren't we, mixing poison, and claiming victimisation as we remember the victims of injustice, which is a wholly good thing to do I suppose if what we did meant anything.

But look at the Holy Land and its rivalries. What? I thought of this last night. I told you I was sleepy. It's knackering coming out to Jamaica, you know. If a Palestinian and his account of the conflict can meet an Israeli with his account of the conflict then, boy, we should be able to meet one another. Yes, this is desperate stuff. They have snipers, and so do Anglicans, especially those live bloggers reporting into a system of instant criticism especially of me. Of course I feel it, I'm only the Archbishop incarnate.

Who are the real victims of this dispute? Well Christian credibility is shattered by the sense of rejection and scapegoating which a great many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ experience. And I would include, if you'll listen, people who suffer when a photograph is taken of them. What? Yes I'm listening... You thought your soul was being extracted by someone representing the devil with an instrument of evil? Isn't that a little pagan and superstitious, bishop? No wonder we can't keep this Church together. What? I know it is not a Church. Woman. Yes, OK, Communion. What? No, it's not much of a Communion either. That's true; well, that's the point. I'm coming to that - that there are others who cannot confidently commend the Christianity they long to share with their neighbours because they feel that fellow Christians have somehow undermined their witness. It's a bit of a bugger, this, isn't it? But we could at least recognise the cost each side bears, even if I know it doesn't solve the problem but it's a start of sorts I suppose - could be. 'Save all your kisses for me', da da da da-da da daa!

The Middle East and ceasefires: Hah! Moratoria! Stop the shooting! Bang bang pop pop, the old water pistols at dawn. Yes I am a little insane. I'm probably going doolalley, being at meetings like this. This Covenant has become A Bouquet of Barbed Wire. Anyone remember that? It had Frank Finlay in it and a lot of naughty bits. CJ wasn't in it, but he - sorry that's in Reggie Perrin, I meant JC - was supposed to be in Friday's deliberations when we went bang bang pop pop together, with the grace of God and our fellowship. So anyway it's 'Back to work with Labour', to take the Covenant back to the provinces, saying 'Hello Province, got a new motor?' and stuff like that, really, to see what they want to do, and say well section 4 is like a caravan we unhitched at the last lay-by but, after it's been a bit bashed up a bit it'll come along later. "Hello Reggie, hello CJ; goodbye Reggie, goodbye CJ." Dum dum de dum. Oh the listening process. Now Mountaineer Anus - that's what it says here - he says he's hard of hearing and the shy people of Egypt don't tell him when they actually, you know, bat for the other side. What? Well, find some other people to listen to then! But look, that listening process goes on forever. No I'm not getting off.

There's the doorstep challenge. Do you know that? She says, "Does your Covenant wash whiter than this Covenant? I'll swap you my Covenant for your Covenant, and if yours washes whiter you can have your money back." So we have to keep, like, washing. You know that joke with the one doing the washing up? 'Mummy, why are your hands so soft?' and she replies, "Because I'm 12." Well, it is a serious issue, I grant you; more serious than this waste of a third of a million quid. So please pray for the Covenant, as I'm sure churches up and down England won't. Yeah, I come from England - well, Wales actually. Cymru am byth, that's what I say, isn't it. We've discussed a timetable for the Covenant - bung it on the first train and watch it disappear!

This is what I can't understand. Star Trek, right, has a Federation, but that federation is like military rule. It's all so benign - but how odd. So I'm a Babylon 5 person myself, much darker, and of course the Jews were exiled to Babylon with much pregnant meaning as well as pregnancies that kept them going for generations. Well, obviously. Wow! And some of you talk about federation. Isn't it confederation? Though there are enough cons around here and not enough pros. Yes there are in Jamaica, but we don't want that. Well it's possible that some provinces don't want to sign up for the Covenant, but I don't want that, but it is possible; but if some glue to each other and some don't, how can we keep the institutions and other jobs going? 'How can we keep from signing?' Well we can keep them going even if only so many sign up. Like you can still do Bob a Job Week. You can still say, "How's yer mum?" and stuff like that. Anyone seen Pastor Yemi on the telly?

Now I'm feeling a little queasy so I'll go on a bit longer. What makes it all impossible is a ceaseless rhetoric of fear like careless talk costs lives, and we don't want that. And here's a funny thing: we are far more polite to outsiders than we are to fellow Anglicans these days! I mean, I kept hearing people say about me, "You bastard; you devious shifty King Canute, you so and so, you double crossing manipulative manifestation of evil." It's compliments like those that help me get up in the morning. Yes, I said it was a small achievement, getting up. Do you know that Phil Crumb made a joke about me having a shave on the first of April? Imagine that: I'd be late down for my chucky egg if I did that.

Finally, then, what have we learned? "Precious little," I hear you say. Yes, well that's right because we've learnt that we are not very good at resolution passing. No, really, I'm not the most devious expert at resolution passing who knows exactly what I was doing. That's just a slur, suggesting that I am competent. I'm not competent. What I want is my mummy. No, like at Lambeth 2008, relations have to be deep enough, and then we can scratch each other's eyes out but lovingly. No, I do want my mummy. We value ourselves, like two and six in old money. Twelve and a half pee, but we don't have half pees now. I know I don't. So, yes, having a pee, makes us intermittently holy and intermittently a mess. And God be thanked for that! But, you know, the real Church doesn’t always look like the ACC at work, any more than it looks like Roald See O'Vee stood here feeling a little odd I hasten to add. The real Church is on the ground - a very potent metaphor too as structures – physical structures – come and go. Earthquakes and hurricanes, bang bang pop pop, and church towers topple over. Ooo, and over it goes. Crash. And yet, look inside, and there's the people. Do you remember that? So the Church continues.

Yes, I know, it's interesting now isn't it: not long ago I was boring you. You don't know what I'm saying now, do you, and neither do I. Where is my mummy? Yes, look inside and what a reminder in everyone's hands that Anglicanism does indeed have a deep investment in the particularities of places and cultures: no, no one is crying, fearful, but that, that, er, recognition that the Gospel truly is a word that can be translated into any language. No I haven't a clue either. And perhaps, for understandable reasons, or not, we’ve become so 'accustomed to her face'. 'I've grown accustomed to her face.' Dum de dum. Yes, old Jenny Washer Seashore there. She's the boss, don't you be told otherwise. Dum dum dum. Auto, aut, auto money, money auto of provinces, talk about and going on an excursion, incursion, and what was positive, provincial and somewhere outside London, I think are the provinces and tax autonomy - taxes, oh taxis probably, er, and the gift you have to share and balance that out with the taxi fare. What?

Can I just say, can I just say, a one big thank you to our Jam hosts. Fantastic strawberry, raspberry, 'On Blueberry Hill'. Jam. Jamaica. No she volunteered. Oh that was a good joke when I heard it first time. And trust! Trust was here, you see, like in the Gospel of Mark, mark my words. Did he say that? Did he? I used to know him, Mark Miwords. Do you want a fight? I've wanted a fight with you for a long time. I know. You're interested now in what I have to say, and I am feeling a little unwell. Who gets the point, see: well its that Siren, Syro de Bergerac (I loved that series), Syro funny, Syrophoenician blinds woman, blind Jack Bartholomeus, yeah, and the passion story with an extended preface - hey, you say "using extended preface" and you get people looking all over the book 'cause they think they've lost the page. The Gospel of Mark is bad news for Christian elites, for some reason or other, or perhaps not. There was this nun, right, Claire Balding, who said, "Show me your teeth," and punched the lot in. What kind of nun was that? She said you are one miserable failure and the options were only that or a glorious failure. Miserable woman she was. Mummy was nicer. Miserable or glorious: you decide! What a quiz game that would be. Aye the Gospel of Mark and glorious failure. Brilliant game show.

And can I suggest a few Marks for you lot and me too? Not exactly a rabbit out of a hat. Glorious failures, eh? That'll make you popular, telling them back there that you are a glorious failure, especially as they'll have got it off Tinternet first. Has anyone been there? Tinternet is a wonderful abbey, set in a valley and hills all around. You can't get a mobile phone signal, or not when I tried. You can't let the glory through, without a signal. Choo choo. So I say to God: "Shit, what is this, how can we do it?" and let your love flow like a mountain stream. 'There's a reason, why I'm feeling so high.' Yeah, Upstairs Downstairs. Yeah. 'Let your love flow like the smallest of dreams.' Very small things, big things. And what, what I also want to say is that I haven't a clue really. I think when I was a young boy I wanted to be an Anglo-Catholic and asked me dad about that. And I said, 'Daddy, how can I be one of those when I grow up?' And I suppose, really, I am. I am sayings, in John. Yes. Yes. Am. Jam. 'I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill'. Bluetooth, very clever that. 'The moon stood still', 'the wind in the willow played'. I think I will sit down, thanks. No, not my best speech; a bit weary I think after everything. Humm.


Richard in Chicago said...

Perhaps there should be a ban on naming invertebrates as Archbishops of Canterbury.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Steady on! I'm trying to say the real guy has come under incredible pressure of criticism close and far. If I was him I'd have lost it by now, talking nonsense and would have moved to a position of couldn't care less. His policy has been a disaster, because he could never meet the expectations that this process started to generate. He played with the theological right wing, raising their expectations, and then wandered off, having already done this with the liberal wing when starting to give the others encouragement. The policy, the Covenant itself, is vacated.

The Rev. Dr. Christian Troll said...

Well said: I bow my head in the presence of greatness.