Friday, March 10, 2017
2017 Spring House of Bishops, Day 1
It's now six years since I chronicled my first HOB meeting on this very site. It was a mercilessly jam-packed schedule, and I did not have a good time. Over the years, the pace slackened quite a bit, with copious free time, particularly leading up to and into Sunday. There was an intentional retreat-like atmosphere built into the experience, with relatively modest amounts of "program."
Well, for various reasons, things have apparently come full-circle, as this meeting is crammed full, with Sunday being no exception. One of Presiding Bishop Curry's passions, and therefore one of his major leadership initiatives, is racial reconciliation. That's the theme of this meeting. We are in the hands of a team of consultants who are leading us through what is essentially a course of anti-racism training.
Full disclosure: I instinctively bristle at anything labeled "training," unless it's a particular physical or psycho-motor skill. Otherwise it smacks of "re-education" of a Bolshevik variety. I am, however, endeavoring to keep an open mind and engage the process in good faith. The work consists of listening to a presentation and then doing small group work at our tables around questions related to what we have just heard.
I can't say that I've yet heard anything that I wasn't already aware of. Much of the morning was spent trying to make the melting pot/salad bowl distinction, which has been around a very long time. During the afternoon, we were invited to consider questions of identity--including ethnic and cultural. I was aware, and shared with my table group, that I don't feel like I have an ethnic or cultural identity. There are several factors than can help describe me--I was born in Brazil, my mother is a southerner by birth, I was raised in the midwest, I'm an oldest child, I'm left-handed, etc.--but none of these define me. They are not who I am. They are not my identity.
I am copiously on record about my commitment to reconciliation--racial and otherwise--not being merely a part of the gospel, or an effect of the gospel, but the very gospel itself. This is what makes me such a passionate ecumenist, among other things. But gospel reconciliation is not a matter of learning to be more conscious of our biases and unearned privileges, real and important as those things may be. It is not about becoming more open to and accepting of other people's cultural identities, as important as it is to do that. It is about forming community with those who, in Christ, have taken on an identity beside which all others pale in significance. In Christ there is neither Bantu nor Yoruba, Swede nor German, Karen nor Hmong. Gospel reconciliation is predicated on receiving the grace to lay aside secondary identities to embrace the one that truly matters: Christian.
I look forward to seeing whether our "training" here will lead in such a direction.