A vow of stability?

Centrists / General Convention / Religion

Yesterday, The Rev. Eliot Moss posted a reflection to the house of Bishops and Deputies’ list called "Why DEPO is _spiritually_ un-Anglican."  He considers our roots in  Benedictine spirituality and asks if perhaps the traditional vow of stability might help us in making decisions about the church. 

As an oblate who shares Fr. Moss’s Benedictine lens , I wonder, too, whether we should give some thought to the other vows.  Obedience, for instance.  I trust that we all, on all sides of the questions, are trying to be obedient to God.  But St. Benedict makes it clear in his Rule that we should find ways to be obedient to each other, simply because we are Christians.  What would the church be like if I were obedient to your need for encouragement?  Or if you were obedient to my need to be heard and accepted?

What would the church be like if we took seriously the call to daily–even hourly–conversion of our lives to make them more closely mirror the Gospel?  If we were really committed to fidelity to the Christian life, even in the way we think and talk about each other?

We would still disagree, I am sure, but might we come to love each other more than we love ourselves?  Might we put others’ good before our own?  Might we use the ladder of humility to climb off our soapboxes?  I know it’s naive, but I think so, and I think it would change us and thus change the church.  I fail miserably many times a day, but God continues to be patient.  Perhaps we could be a bit more patient with each other?

I post the entire reflection with Eliot’s permission.

Laura, Obl.S.B.

Dear friends — It is often said, and I think it is true, that Anglican spirituality is founded on Benedict’s and his rule. Benedictine spirituality includes as a central principle that of _stability_. A member of the order was not to seek to go to another house because of difficulties at their current house. That is, they were to be stable, to stay in one place. The underlying issue has been put this way: If one cannot find God in one’s current, possibly difficult circumstance, fleeing to another place is not going to help one become closer to God. I think this principle applies well to the current case. There is a need to stick with those with whom we disagree, that their hearts may be changed, and that _ours_ might also be changed — to give God and the Holy Spirit that opportunity to work their transforming miracles.

I was once tempted to leave a parish because they were closed, dead, and unlistening. I could have gone a few miles down the road to another parish. (In that, I was more fortunate than many!) But I stuck with them, learned and grew a lot (it was part of my experience leading to ordination), and saw them eventually blossom, though not before a kind of crucifixion.

So I think Benedict was basically right, and those who want to leave because they do not want to be in contact with the rest of us are being un-Anglican and un-Christian. But, even though they grieve me by wanting not to be with me, I strive to love them anyway.

(Note: I think it is a mis-application of the principle of stability to encourage someone to stick with an abusive and destructive relationship, say a marriage marked by physical or emotional violence.)

Peace and blessings to you all — Eliot Moss, C6 GC 2006, Western Mass.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...