Originally published January 17, 2012
A couple of months ago I made a terrible mistake. I signed up to receive messages from the House of Bishops/House of Deputies email list-serv. Officially, I’m a kibitzer which means I can read the messages but I’m not able to post them. I suppose if I really wanted to add something to the conversation, I could email someone I know who is a deputy and ask them to post it for me. People do that once in awhile. But that’s too much trouble really and besides anything interesting that might show up on the listserv is usually already on a blog somewhere and I can just go there and add my two cents if I’m really compelled to do so. But I think what really gets me is why the “leaders” of the Episcopal church have this odd kinda closed/kinda transparent communication medium? Why not just set up a Facebook group or a blog on the (newly updated) Episcopal church website?
So why was it a mistake, you might ask? Well, mostly because it’s comprised of the same kind of rapid reaction, entrenched positions that characterize the rest of what passes for communications on the internet these days. Frankly it’s not very heartening. I feel really bad saying that. Most of the people I’ve met who are deputies (and bishops) are really genuinely good people who care deeply about the Church and God’s mission. But I know it can be hard to transcend the cultural biases we are surrounded by. I’d really like to see General Convention deputies engaged in substantive, gospel rooted conversations, and I suppose somewhere that’s going on with some of them, but it for certain isn’t on the list serv. Actually, I’m not really sure our culture knows how to have a substantive dialogue or even a real debate anymore, but its sad to see the Church trapped in that same paradigm.
I read something recently about ways churches might try to appeal to today’s frenetic, always connected culture. One of the suggestions was to allow people to comment in between the readings during worship and then try to craft the sermon around what they say. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not so sure that spending even less time preparing for sermons and worship will really help. I’m part of a transitional generation. I’m pretty well plugged in, heck I helped create this modern world as an engineer at Intel, but I also remember a life with rotary phones when “long distance” was a big deal. When I spent a year in Australia when I was 17, I only had actual letters to connect me to home. I think in that whole year I had one phone call with my parents. Not to be a curmudgeon, but there was something invaluable about being apart and on my own that I’m sad to see lost.
So while, I’d like to open up the conversation that Church Leaders are having to more of the church members, I don’t want to see the Holy Spirit correlated to the latest Twitter Trend. Christ lives within his people, in the Church, maybe we can find the better balance between listening to our own voices and listening for THE voice.