Saturday, March 14, 2009

Opening Day

Our regular sessions began this afternoon with a Eucharist in the Kanuga Chapel. Attached is a picture of Presiding Bishop Katherine preaching the opening sermon (with the Bishop of Nebraska's head in the foreground).

Then we gathered in the main meeting room for two presentations and discussion. The first speaker was Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort. His thesis is that Americans are more and more segregating themselves into like minded communities, where politics and life-style is shared. He does not see this as a healthy thing because it results in greater polarization. In order for people to understand one another, they have to be with one another, which only happens for most people at work, if at all. This has important implications for the church. The mega-church movement was largely fueled by an insight in the 1960's which said, define the parishioner you are after, and then create an environment that will attract people like him. This is one reason that the Episcopal church which promotes diversity does not do so well in a culture which promotes homogeneity.

The second speaker was the great Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggeman. His insights into Scripture are too technical to go into here (I hope to share them with the clergy at upcoming gatherings), but his argument was the the OT contains two "trajectories". One, found in the first part of the Torah--the priestly tradition--emphasis purity and absolute truth with no accommodation to society. The other, Deuteronomic strand, stresses adapting the truth of the tradition to changing circumstances. Both are biblical and need to be held in tension--absolutism vs. accommadation. He feels both liberals and conservatives have been following the first tradition (It's my way or the byway), and we need more of the second (let's go back to the source and see what we can work out). Without that corrective, we are can never find a way forward. In one of his more memorable phrases--"Final interpretations lead to final solutions." The total rejection of the other side.

So we have had lots to think about even in these first short hours.

Today (Saturday). We had an excellent presentation on the economy and its implications for church giving--and I will write about that tomorrow!


kitty said...

Bishop, was Brueggemann's talk referring to a specific book of his or something new? The subject sounds fascinating and I'd like to read more.

Bishop Kirk Smith said...

I think something new, although he referred to several of his books.