December 12, 2008

The Archbishop as Cognitive Therapist

One of the issues that arose in the discussion on the previous post regards the extent to which Archbishop Rowan Williams is responsible for the Network's having worked itself into its present schismatic position.

When I did my clinical pastoral experience, I served as a chaplain in the psychiatric ward, and was given some instruction in the basics of cognitive therapy, which is a gentle way of guiding delusional people back to greater engagement with reality. Part of this therapeutic technique involves being very clear about reality, as opposed to the unfounded beliefs that a delusional person may hold.

Archbishop Williams, bless his heart, has apparently not learned this valuable skill. He does not seem to grasp that if he gives people who are behaving badly a single thread from which to hang they will weave it into whole cloth.

This is evident in the reports of the recent meeting between the GAFCON primates and the Archbishop. Apparently he told them that he would neither support nor oppose the development of a new province of the Anglican Communion in North America. This carefully neutral statement is being taken not for what it actually says, but as a kind of tacit support; along the lines of "if he is not explicitly against us then he is really for us."

I do not, of course, know what actually transpired in the course of the meeting. It may be that the Archbishop said more than has been reported; for example, that the creation of a new province along these lines would be a novelty in the history of the Anglican Communion. He might have gone further and said, "I will not recognize such a new province." Whether he accepts the authority that comes with being Archbishop of Canterbury or not, it is in his power to recognize a new province — or not. And perhaps this is exactly what he meant when he said he would neither support it nor oppose it -- that is, contrary to the optimistic reading read into his statements by the GAFCON primates, his statement constitutes an essential veto — since his approval is required and he has said he "will not support" the venture. Thus, "he who is not for us is against us" may be the factual implication, since his consent is required for recognition as being in communion with the Church of England; as I've noted, a presumed necessity for being part of the Anglican Communion.

I once said to a bishop friend (now serving in the celestial choir) that I thought every bishop, prior to consecration, should do an additional unit of clinical pastoral experience. He shuddered at the thought. I am now inclined to think that not only should bishops undertake such an experience, but that they should do it on the psych ward.

Tobias Haller BSG


Christopher said...

Cognitive therapy goes very hand-in-glove with practicing awareness of one's thoughts. I think that making such a requirement of bishops-elect makes a lot of sense and would serve the Body well.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Just who is it that one ought go to for clearlike suggestions for pastoral care, spiritual guidance and all around leadership at The Anglican Communion?

The Salt Lake Bishops/Elders Quorum of 70?

On the otherhand, perhaps the ABC visualizes himself reincarnated as Queen Elizabeth I and likes nature to take its course...sorta.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Mr. Conger is claiming an inside track on the meeting between the ABC and the GAFCONs.

The post also says the ABC brought up boundary crossing and that the primates specifically requested the meeting to discuss the "new Province".

He says the ABC is "arguing his office does not have the legal authority to make, or un-make, Anglicans" and that "legal advice given to the Archbishop of Canterbury held that his office had no role in the creation of provinces independent of the primates meeting and Anglican Consultative Council."

Erika Baker said...

While I agree that experience in a mental health environment would be helpful for any professional manager, priest and bishop, I do wonder about the general tone of this and the previous post plus comments.

Do they not rather depend on the assumption that ++Rowan judges the main characters in the play the same way we do, and that all it would take is a little more skill at handling them to achive a satisfactory outcome?

Some of the recent comments of his, for example that he would no longer be able to believe should Jesus' bones ever be found, or that he is no longer sure about the validity of his ealier writings on homosexuality, make me wonder whether he still is the very complex theologian I too have sitting on my shelves and had come to admire deeply.

What if what we consider to be mistakes - the elevation of Lambeth 1.10 and not inviting +Gene to Lambeth, were in fact no such things from his point of view?

Tobias Haller said...

Maybe I'm suffering from Rowanitis, but let me try to clarify:

Erika, I think Rowan is mistaken about Lambeth 1.10 and not inviting Gene, but I think he does not think he is mistaken. My point in this exercise is not to debate with Rowan, but to try to understand why he might come to positions I think are mistaken. I think this has to do with his overly high regard for "good order" and to some extent an inability to take responsibility to make decisions.

An example of this is in his refusal, cited by Dahveed, to assert his power to say, "You will not be in communion with the Church of England." Even then, reading carefully, his statement may represent a chicken and egg dilemma -- again he may be being extremely subtle: his authority is not over whether something is a province or not; that is in the hands of the ACC. His authority is over whether something is in communion with the C of E or not -- and that can include non-Anglican bodies (like Porvoo, etc.). So he is being extremely precise -- again, "following the rules" instead of being more up-front and decisive. I'm not saying he is right in this -- I'm just trying to understand.

Same with the statements about rethinking his earlier views on sexuality. I think what he actually said (I'm working from my laptop as my main computer is in the midst of some sort of massive update download or other --- sheesh) is that his earlier views have to be set aside in light of his present position as ABofC, and that that position has forced him to rethink -- not the ideas themselves -- but their implications for the wider church. Again, his subtlety gets lost in transition to news releases. And I may be misremembering; but generally RW does not speak in sound bytes, but in paragraphs.

So, have I at least succeeded in making my position clearer?

Erika Baker said...

I'm sorry, it was my post that was unclear.
What I meant is that we assume that Rowan has made his decisions because of a high regard for good order, but we are fairly sure that he has not made them because he actually agrees with those who hold a very different view from us.

We're really saying that if it wasn't about following rules but the inclination of his own heart, he would of course be on our side.

I'm no longer so sure.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Erika. That isn't quite how I understood what you wrote earlier. I get it now.

I'm not sure, but I still incline to think this is about RW's "hierarchy of values." In that hierarchy, "good order" comes at the top. Thus, he was willing, so long as the Lambeth rulings in effect (i.e., 1988 and prior) were open to permitting gays in ministry, for example; and as a Bishop in Wales he wasn't hampered by the English rule against same, ergo he felt free to ordain gay men to the priesthood. Upon becoming ABofC, he is now under English canon law, as well as stuck with Lambeth 1.10, which, given his "good order" conceptuality, takes on more weight than it would for me if I were in his place. (Not that I favor disorder, but as a person who not only is fond of Benedictinism but who actually lives under vows, and hence has become very clear about what is required by obedience and what isn't!)

So in a way he is following the inclination of his heart -- a more important inclination, which is placing other personal beliefs at a lower order of value. Again, let me be clear that I think he is wrong to do it; but to me it explains why he does. I don't buy the view of those who have privately assured me he has "changed his view on homosexuality" -- I think he has realized that the issue is more volatile for his beloved Anglican Communion than he ever imagined; and he values the Communion more than affirming the lives of faithful gays and lesbians. He probably always did -- it just never became an issue for him until he came to Augustine's chair.

Erika Baker said...

I forgot to add to my previous comment that another indication against ++Rowan being quite so respectful of order as you portray is his astonishing refusal (it cannot be an intellectual failing!) to understand the polity of TEC, which had several times resulted in asking of American bishops what they simply cannot do.

Add to that that he was always willing to meet those on the extreme right, yet avoided those at the liberal spectrum as far as possible and beyond the requirements of politeness, and it does appear to me that there is a deliberate emphasis towards the conservative.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Maybe I'm suffering from Rowanitis....

Well, I should hope not, Tobias!

What it comes down to is that whatever Rowan means or whatever is in his heart, the paragraphs in which he speaks are often obtuse. It's very wrong that we should so often have to attempt to tease out the meaning of the paragraphs. We don't have you around to reveal the meaning of his words his words to us all the time, Tobias. He should speak plainly.

Erika Baker said...

it looks like there is one of my comments missing. Will I be able to piece it together again?

To your last reply I said I would agree with you if the issue was homosexuality alone.

But it goes deeper than that. Every time the liberals have relaxed about a conservative move because it so clearly did not fall within the accepted hierarchy and structure of power within the AC, Rowan has confounded them. The Primate meeting in Tanzania and the powers it assumed were one of those astonishing innovations - without a liberal Bishop even being invited. As was the proposed covenant, participation in which suddenly seemed to be a sign of Anglican orthodoxy.

I may be completely wrong here - I hope I am! But it does strike me that traditional order, hierarchy and obedience are not what motivates our Archbishop.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, I agree that Rowan is resistant to understanding TEC polity -- but this is in part, I think, due again to its departure from that Benedictine model of top down governance informed from below. A good Abbot will listen to all, especially the young, but will finally be the one to render the major decisions. I think it is very hard for Rowan to understand, bright as he is, that there are things the PB cannot do by him or herself. Were I in his presence, I'd say to him, "Rowan, it's just like you saying you can't create the new Province. Our PB is just like that -- he or she cannot simply veto the election of a bishop, or his or her consecration." I would hope the light bulb might then go on.

I disagree about his meeting with people, though. The reason you hear about him meeting with the conservatives is that they always trumpet it in the press. In fact, Rowan met with +Gene, with +KJS, and remember he did that whole retreat with gay clergy? It's just that our side doesn't know how to make use of the press, and spin this to "approval." So I think the perceived "emphasis" is a result primarily of the spin.

GM, no argument from me. I do think a big part of the problem is wanting to hear RW say things he hasn't said. But he also could take a lesson in plain speaking. I'm thinking right now of Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson -- both bright guys, but Truman could shoot from the hip, and Stevenson was too "thoughtful." Or, closer to our time, compare Palin to Kucinich -- he could run circles around her, but people fell in love with her plain talk. Not that I want RW to dress a moose -- but it would be so refreshing to hear him speak in simple declarative sentences, and to take greater responsibility for his own powers, and use them.

I wrote to him a couple of years ago and analogized the situation with that of Esther. He may have come to this time precisely to help move the church forward. If all the ABoC is is a kind of tabulator of opinion, we could well do without one. Leaders are called to lead. Dagnabbit.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, my previous comment is in response to yours prior to the most recent. I don't know what happened with the lost message... I've not seen any others; tho sometimes they do vanish into the cyber void.

Bit in response to the second message, I don't agree about hierarchy and power issue except to the extent that Rowan seems to think the Primates do have a leadership responsibility beyond what he himself seems to be willing to take. Strange, isn't it. But at the Tanzania, +KJS and other "liberal" Primates were definitely present -- though at the time they and the moderates were bullied by Akinola -- whose bluff should have been called then and there, and we would be much better off today. But that wasn't just Rowan's fault. I blame +KJS too, for signing on to the document. It takes nerves of steel to say to a bully, I will not compromise; and sadly, many liberals and moderates will cave. I think they know better now.

Or are you talking about a different Primates meeting? The GAFCON group have, I think, fairly well positioned themselves in Nowhere Land, and no longer have Rowan's support. He has made that abundantly clear, when some of them chose not to come to Lambeth. Sure, he met with them last week, but told them essentially not to look to him for support or approval -- or disapproval. They are "walking apart."

Sad thing is he could have done that four years ago. It was clear to me at that time that this is where they were heading... Oh well.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Dagnabbit is right! And dressing a moose might be just the ticket for the ABC.

Gawain said...

He could benefit, also, from some Tavistock training, at least.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Two things. Let us not forget that Tanzania was +KJS's first Primates Meeting. She was there for her first meeting and right off the bat certain holier-than-thous refuse her fellowship. As much as she says that she has faced down sea captains, it would still be an intimidating first experience when she actually knew only a few folks in the room, perhaps only +Canada, +Mexico and the +ABC. A few others were there for their first time also.

She said she did not sign-on to the Communique. She specifically said that she told them that she would take it to the HoB. She is either misrepresenting the facts or telling the truth. I believe her.

Tobias Haller said...

Dahveed, I think you are correct about the extent to which +KJS was blindsided in Tanzania -- I don'[t think she was prepared for the level of animosity she would face -- and the visceral level of it.

As to what she signed, I think she was careful to say she signed the Communique simply as an acknowledgment that it represented an accurate record of what took place, and that this did not indicate her personal agreement with it, nor a represenatation of the church's position. I think that was accepted and under that understanding she signed. That is my recollection of the report -- in light of what you said, I think she was emotionally worn down and pressured into this; though she was clear that signing did not indicate agreement with anything. If I'm mistaken I would welcome a report to the contrary.

My great objection to all of these meetings, BTW, is that those attending seem to think they need to adopt a statement at the end of it, and have everyone sign on.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Regarding +KJS, I refer you to this post from BabyBlue. You can plainly detect the animosity that +Gomez feels toward her in his Q&A with the clergy of Central Florida. Telltale is the video at the bottom of the post of her video deposition in the VA lawsuit, specifically her emphatic No at the end.

The Gaffers are prone to these stupid statements at the end of their meetings. So much so, that they are now mightily expected and paranoia sets in if they hold a meeting and do not issue a statement. Plus, they are prone to sign on folks names without consent, and have backtracked by removing signitaries on occasions!