Friday, August 1, 2008

Sadness and Frustration with the Inclusive Church Network

Its been a few days since I've written, and this is not the post I was hoping to write [I've since made edits since talking to members of the Inclusive Church Network] .

Sometimes, I think they just don't get it... the rest of the time I know it.

Today's issue of the Lambeth Witness managed to ruin much the credibility the Inclusive Church Network has managed to build, and saddened and angered many of us.

People need to understand, Lambeth is a PROFESSIONAL conference... it is not a general meeting of Christians. IF this were a conference for Math Teachers, English Teachers would not be able to attend, and everyone would understand that. [edit: I've had some people comment that this is different because it is a church funded event... most of these people are priests... three words for you: Diocesan Clergy Conference... you may not see that at exclusionary but some of the lay people in your parish do] This isn't your (our) conference. This is a conference for bishops and spouses, therefore, often, press, volunteers, etc are not allowed to attend. It isn't about press, its about improving episcopal ministry.

Press, get over it, this isn't your conference.

More to the point, if you could get in, so could those who have greatly different opinions than yours, and they would distort it (regardless of which side you are on).

In today's Lambeth Witness the Very Revd Rowan Smith, Dean of Cape Town Cathedral in South Africa wrote an article which equated the colour-coded lanyard system we use here (described in an earlier post) at Lambeth to apartheid.

Um, come again?

Apartheid was used to keep people down, this system is used to ensure that those who are not Bishops aren't let into sessions which are for bishops... people need the ability to speak openly without the fear of being quoted or photos being taken.

That statement was way out of line and unfair to the conference organizers.

His article was filled with errors and inconsistencies that led most to believe that he made up his example. He said someone tried to enter the Big Top for mass, but was turned away by a "Steward" with a "yellow lanyard." Stewards wear GREEN lanyards. Canterbury volunteers wear YELLOW lanyards BUT Canterbury volunteers AREN'T allowed at the Big Top.
[edit: I was recently informed that this was for the later Eucharist which allows all participants to attend, not held in the Big Top. There likely was a volunteer at the door, but volunteers are not stewards. They are not briefed every day and likely didn't understand the instructions regarding colours of lanyards, or simply misinterpreted the instructions, however, most attendees do know the differece between stewards and volunteers (yellow sashes vs orange jackets.]

The tactics used by some of the member groups of the Inclusive Church network have already been off-putting to many attendees. The Lambeth Witness is the only paper publication at Lambeth, so the Inclusive Church Network is already a privileged position in this regard.

I feel that people are so used to be excluded unfairly that they don't notice when they are being excluded fairly.

These are all things that I have heard from other attendees. At first I thought that no one else would notice, but these errors were the talk of the dining hall (I said nothing). Most of what I have written was taken from what I over heard.

The people who have been working on the Lambeth Witness have put an INCREDIBLE amount of work into it. They've done a fabulous job at getting out their message. But what takes years to build can take seconds to ruin.

I get so annoyed when groups that are trying to do good things rip themselves down.

I'm not saying I agree with all of the decisions Lambeth has made... or that history doesn't show that bishops need to be monitored, just that organisations need to think about how what they published will be recieved by those who read it... the same way that what the bishops say will be recieved by those who hear it.


MadPriest said...

Fair comment.

But I would point out that at maths teacher conferences they don't make decisions that are going to physically effect English teachers for the rest of their lives. As this is the most closed Lambeth for many years (far more so than 1998), us "English teachers" need somebody to tell us what the maths teachers are up to and, to be honest, I think the newspapers are as accurate and inaccurate in their reporting as the bishops are being in the few spun statements they are putting out.

Keep up the good work. Love to Luiz.


Allie ... Do me a favor and re-read Dean Smith's article. Note that he [a] affirms that this is a conference for bishops and that [b]the stewards are doing a yeoman's/woman's job of the task they have been set.

What he is challenging ... and rightly ... is the systemic mindset that segregates conference particpants (and yes, media, exhibtors and staff ARE particpants!) when it comes to worship.

It is exactly the Inclusive Church Network's vocation to point out those inequities and to challenge the church to grow into all that it can be.

It is not always a comfortable place to stand. And the words are not always happily received by those safe within the walls of institutional privilege. But it is that kind of truth that will set the church free. And I am proud to be part of an organization committed to telling it.

All best blessings,

Caroline Hall said...

Hi Allie - Rowan wasn't talking about trying to get into mass in the Blue Tent. He was talking about the morning service at the Franciscan Study Center. This was meant to be open to everyone working in the Marketplace but there was a problem when the conference organisers ran out of white lanyards. Sorry we didn't make that clear.
Caro Hall (Inclusive Church Network)

Allie said...

I understand what you are saying he was saying, but that isn't what most of the readership heard

Chris said...

Allie, thanks for the link to the original. I read it, and it seems to me that you, as an insider in the world of stewarding, know all about your particular patch to a degree of detail most people other than the organisers wouldn't be unduly concerned about. To a complete outside, interested in justice and simple human compassion, it doesn't seem too important in the general scheme of things. I heard frustration at unthinking officialdom when I read the piece.


Allie ... inviting you to consider that inviting your readers to read what he meant rather than throwing kerosene on what they think he said would bring us a little closer together rather than polarize, shame, blame and attack.

Allie said...

I've worked to explain to the other stewards what he meant. I haven't had a chance to talk to many bishops since breakfast.

The response I universally received was "it should have been written clearly the first time).

No one cared to listen.
I suppose we can continue tonight

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Re: Rowan Smith: AKA "The dean".

One comment: Male privilege is male privilege, whether exercised in Lambeth or South Africa or South Carolina