Friday, May 05, 2006

The wind blows where it chooses. . .

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8

There's been a little bit of dispute around the Diocese whether electing a bishop is a political or a spiritual process.

Jim Wallis writes in God's Politics that our representatives in Congress walk around Washington "with their fingers held high in the air. . .to see which way the wind is blowing." (p. 21).

This doesn't seem quite what Jesus meant in this quite famous passage from the Gospel of John, but perhaps the author of the Gospel and even Jim Wallis would chuckle at how, like our Congressional representatives, many of us in the Diocese of California have been walking around with our fingers in the air the past couple of weeks, too -- to see which way the wind has been blowing -- to see how the Spirit is leading us to elect the next bishop of California.

I'm as guilty as anyone. I've spent more than a few hours the past couple of days sending e-mails back and forth and holding conference, by phone and in person, with laity and clergy. . .prognosticating. I have very clear ideas about how things might unfold tomorrow. But too clear, I think, in light of John's Gospel.

Yet, as Episcopalians we pride ourselves on bringing our polity (yes, it is a word so closely related to politics) into the midst of our spiritual lives. . .into the midst of our liturgy. We may decide, as some of us do, to check secular politics at the church door (many of us most certainly do not), but then we get our kicks out of church politics. Just look again at the pecking order next time a procession comes up the aisle, and you'll see what I mean!

Enough self-ribbing. I love the Episcopal Church. Else I would not have been ordained in it. And, yes, I think I do love a bit of politics.

But I shouldn't too much. Still, I wonder if politics, too, cannot be the playground of the Spirit -- surely nothing is beyond God's reach, no matter how sullied by our cynicism or experience of scandal.

And, I'm happy to reflect that this particular chapter in church politics has been remarkably refreshing, real, and. . .well. . .Spirit-filled. I think the Search Committee did a terrific and prayerful job. 2,000 people showed up to meet the nominees for the Eighth Bishop of California last week. People were curious and engaged. There were many questions asked that had profound importance and insight. And unlike its secular cousins, this campaign seemed mostly and appropriately devoid of mudslinging. We have grounds to be proud not only of our colleagues in ministry (lay and ordained), but of the nominees, who all took their roles in this discernment both seriously and with an appreciable sense of humor.

At the end, our "political" process has been a stage. . .a stage we set across which we have been asking the Spirit of God to blow. And Spirit has come, with all of its unique and marvelous capacity for the unexpected. Expectations gave way to surprise for many of us at the walkabouts. We learned things we didn't expect. We were drawn to nominees we didn't anticipate. What was on paper leapt into the flesh. . .we met living, breathing men and women who love God and the ministry of God's people. We met people who pray. . .and pray hard. I was inspired.

And now we set the stage one last time for the wind of the Spirit to blow. And, if I really embrace the humility of the election, I ought to remember Christ's admonition that I know not where it comes from or where it goes. From the first ballot to the last, we share an adventure beginning tomorrow morning. An adventure we call discernment as the clergy and lay delegates gather to find the common ground we hold in the Spirit as we seek the next Bishop of California. . .

Is that politics? Or is that God's Spirit? Or is it both?

Now, which is the real Anglican answer?

God's peace,


1 comment:

janinsanfran said...

Of course it is a political process -- politics is how the Spirit makes Herself manifest in the our suffering world.

Of course I say that comfortably, because I am confident we saw a good outcome.

Now we go forward in faith to do the work that has been given us to do...