October 12, 2009

Thought for 10.12.09

Leaders are not always in the position to govern, and governors don't always lead.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, reflecting both on the phenomenon of bishops becoming prophetic in retirement, and the fact that the laity, the Holy People of God, sometimes (perhaps often) lead the church more effectively than the hierarchy


Erika Baker said...

Prophetic witness cost Jesus his life. What makes bishops think it could or should be a safe thing to do?

I'd like to say,though, that Bishop Selby has long been a patron of Changing Attitude. He has not only just become prophetic in the last 2 weeks.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Erika, although this thought was sparked by Bishop Selby, I was thinking more generally, although also more specifically of Rowan and Barack! There is a saying in Nietzsche: „Es zahlt sich theuer, zur Macht zu kommen: die Macht verdummt" -- 'it costs a great deal to come to power, for power stupefies.'

How is it that so many eloquent folk become mute when elected or appointed to positions where they might make use of that very gift. This is, I might add, one of Peter Selby's points concerning Rowan! Certainly we've seen a similar change in Obama. Perhaps it is just that the mantle of authority makes one aware of the responsibility to care for the whole system?

Erika Baker said...

And yet it does not appear to be automatic - some great people have retained their clarity of vision in power and have not become mere politicians, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are only the first that spring to mind.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

True, Erika, but sadly these exceptional folks appear to be the exceptions. My sense is that in the tally of leadership, the bulk are mediocre "bell", and at either end are the self-interested tyrants opposite the prophetic advocates. There are even rare cases of the office transforming a former mediocrity into something greater -- I think of John XXIII (not really a mediocrity, but considered a "safe bet" and relatively "harmless"). Sometime the challenge of leadership causes a growth spurt.

I continue to hope that Obama will live up to the possibilities we saw. I dare say there is even hope for Rowan Williams. "Change" is a good motto, as long as the change is in a positive direction!

June Butler said...

Tobias, the other evening I did not remember to ask you one question that I'm curious about. Do you think that Rowan believes that the laity should have a voice at all?

I told someone that I was sorry I forgot to ask you the question, and that person, rather as a joke, suggested that Rowan would say that the laity could speak, but that he didn't have to listen to them. What is your reading?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

A good question, Mimi. My impression, and in light of the "thought," is that Rowan tends towards a model in which the Bishop governs rather than leading -- the Bishop's task is largely one of restraint -- holding to the teaching, the unity, and so on. So he is content to listen to the laity as they provoke for change, but his response would tend to the model we've heard: restraint, care, go-slow, and so on -- until the consensus builds to a level where everyone is on board. In other words, I don't think Rowan has a high view of the laity sharing in the governance of the church, though they are, of course, entitled to their opinions. And I don't think he thinks that would be seen as dismissive; in other words, I think he really believes in the episcopate as largely a brake rather than an engine. This comes out in his continued appeal to the House of Bishops -- who can act as a brake on GC. Though so too can the Deputies! And that, I think, is the part of our polity that he really doesn't grasp at the deepest level of understanding -- because in the long run he doesn't want to. He thinks the Bishops should be in charge, largely for the purpose of continuity and collegiality as the highest values. If he were from Texas, I'm sure he'd say of the laity, "Well, bless their hearts..." Anyway, that's my reading, and I don't think I'm being unfair, though, of course, I could be wrong!

June Butler said...

Well, bless his (Rowan's) heart.

Thanks, Tobias. My joking friend is originally from Texas and was not far off the mark. That friend was Counterlight, by the way.

I gave your regards to the folks at St. Luke's in the Field.