Friday, September 1, 2006
I'm currently on vacation through Labor Day, and have been "busy" lying on the beach in Mexico and spending time with my family. It has been wonderfully relaxing. I'm reminded of the wisdom of Sabbath rest and the sabbatical cycle: having "down time" on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Most of us, including me, could be far more intentional about our Sabbath practice.
I've spent a LOT less time on the computer and a lot more time reading during the past two weeks, and that has had a salutory effect as well. My vacation reading list included a funny, thoughtful novel, That Old Ace in the Hole, by Annie Proulx (of Brokeback Mountain and The Shipping News fame). It paints a vivid picture of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, the sometimes humorous struggle to discern vocation, and the political and environmental controversy surrounding factory livestock farming.
Rereading a collection of Archbishop Rowan Williams' essays in On Christian Theology has also been very interesting, especially in light of the Archbishop's most recent media event. While his interview with the Nederlands Dagblad has garnered a great deal of commentary, I have the sense that a lot of heat, but little light, has been generated. A careful reading of Williams' dense (and often brilliant) theological prose provides a more dependable guide to his theological perspective and understanding of his office.
In short: Williams isn't the homophobe some have painted him on the basis of his recent statements, but he is clear that the current crisis in Anglicanism is due to a lack of agreement about what constitutes holiness. For Williams, holiness is the touchstone for the unity of Christian truth: the narrative unity of holy lives patterned after Christ is the manifestation of Christian truth. Thus, for him, securing unity about the nature of holiness is paramount. The risk, of course, is the sacrifice of honesty in the pursuit of a unity based on prejudice. Can gay and lesbian Christians be holy? That is the question before the Anglican Communion. I hope to write more about this later.
One assigned book that I've read was Bill Countryman's Living on the Borders of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All. This reflection on the nature of Christian vocation, lay and ordained, will be the focus of discussion at our diocesan clergy conference later this month. I highly recommend the book, especially for those serving on congregational vocation committees and diocesan committees on ministry. It is invaluable in sorting out the relationship between lay and ordained ministry and a helpful antidote to our tradition's clericalism. As it turns out, Countryman's comments on priesthood and purity, read against Williams' concerns about holiness, are mutually illuminating and corrective.
Peter Galbraith's The End of Iraq rounds out my reading with a timely look at the Bush Administration's disasterous occupation policy in Iraq. It is a scathing indictment of the arrogance and incompetence that have marked this failed attempt at nation building, resulting in a brutal civil war. Galbraith's argues that the only possibility for long-term stability is the partition of Iraq into autonomous Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite states, essentially undoing British colonial policy that imposed a unified state on what had been historically distinct communities.
I'd be interested in hearing what books you've been reading this summer. I hope you've taken some well-deserved sabbatical time too.