Friday, October 29, 2010

Preparing for an Election

Now and again I am reminded of classics of literature, classics that I’m afraid too few folks know these days.  They bring us phrases and images that we have used to illuminate our speaking and writing; but without knowing the sources folks don’t really understand the images.  The Bible comes to mind, as do the works of Shakespeare. 

However, this evening I’m thinking of the fables of Aesop.  How many know they are the source of the phrase “don’t be a dog in the manger?”  That’s not related to the manger we know best – the one Jesus was born in – but to a story about a dog in comfort who prevented an ox’s dinner.  How many know the fables are the source of the phrase “sour grapes?”

Tonight, though, I’m thinking of the frogs who wanted a king.  You can read that fable here.  Go ahead – it will only take a minute or two.

Now that you’ve read it, you’ll understand the question of whether one would prefer King Log or King Stork.  Sure, King Log seems ineffective, even inert; but he won’t consume you like King Stork.  King Stork has an energetic, even aggressive program; but King Log will leave your life pretty much as he found it.

In these political times some might assume the civil government brought this to mind.  However, I’m thinking about something smaller and more singular.  Very soon now I will participate in the election of the next bishop of my diocese – the election of my bishop!  It’s not the same.  Oh, we vote, and there have been efforts to inform the voters – in this case, the diocesan convention – as well as those the voters will represent in one sense or another.  But, it’s not the same.  There aren’t campaigns, or at least nothing on the same sort of scale.  (I suppose there may have been some “campaigning,” but I’m not in the right circles to know.)  There haven’t been “campaign promises” (or, again, I’m not in the right circles).

But the most important way in which it’s different is that we’re praying to be guided by the Spirit.  We decide by voting, but we are praying that our voting will conform to God’s intent, and that instead of us deciding who our next bishop will be, the Spirit is using us to express God’s decision.

But, as I often say with patients, it would be much easier if God were better at conversation.  I have heard a voice that I thought was God, and circumstances seemed to confirm it; but I haven’t heard a voice about this Episcopal election.  Even if I had, I couldn’t be sure anyone else had heard that voice. 

So, each of us going to have to think about several questions: what do I want in a bishop?  What are the gifts and skills I think a bishop should have for the good of the diocese?  I’m not going to answer that definitively on this blog, much less in this blog post.  At the moment I’m just conscious of being betwixt and between.

How do I balance my own wishes and the good of the diocese – to the extent I’m able to separate the two?  How do I apply in the best Anglican tradition Scripture, Tradition, and Reason?  How do I decide among the candidates?  Each brings gifts and limitations, and none would be perfect; for, don’t we observe at each such election that Jesus couldn’t get elected as a bishop?  So, how do I choose among them, trying to figure out whose specific balance of gifts and limitations best fit whatever needs I focus on? 

And so, I find myself wondering whether I would be better off with King Log or King Stork.  And of course it isn’t really that straightforward, because none of the candidates is as passive as King Log, nor as destructive as King Stork (or at least we pray not).  How do I decide?  How?  How?

So, remember us in your prayers.  I’m trying to hear God, and I believe the other clergy and lay delegates are as well.  Remember us, and pray that we might hear clearly for our souls’ health, the health of the diocese, and the health of the Episcopal Church.

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