Over on Stand Firm, they’ve been posting a series of articles entitled “Stateregy 101”. As part of the series they’ve spent some time defining terms and describing the various players in the present ecleisiastical drama.
“In his trilogy The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien creates a whole new species to describe “moderates”. His species are called “Ents” — ancient and enormous, slow-moving trees, whose motto is “let us not be hasty” and whose language requires many, many lines simply to name their own names; each Ent name, you see, is a lengthy historic story. You may recall from the trilogy that the elves, men, dwarves, and hobbits are engaged in a great struggle against a dark and malevolent “Dark Lord” named Sauron. Battle upon battle has been fought, many have died, some are corrupted, and Sauron’s strength continues to grow. But the Ents are not yet involved. Tolkien’s description of the Ents is, quite simply, priceless, and goes on for an entire chapter.”
My first reaction was one of laughter – it’s a great point that they make. My second thought was of agreement, though perhaps for different reasons than Sarah, the author of the piece, might intend.
When I was driving back home from Columbus I had a long stretch of quiet to think. I thought a lot about what had happened the two previous days in the closing moments of General Convention and what the implications might be. I stand by my words that I “heard” the voice of the middle in a way that I haven’t before in the Episcopal Church. If you were in the House of Deputies for the last sets of votes, you could hear the force of their will in the strength of the shouted “yes” and “no” votes as legislation was rammed through.
The key phrase here is “rammed through”. The “center” in the Episcopal Church consists of something like 60 to 75% of the total possible votes (depending on the issue). That means that once it makes up its mind to do something, there’s very little to stop it. Witness the scene on the final day of Convention. The Presiding Bishop used a somewhat obscure parliamentary rule to put B033 into play. The only way that such a thing could really happen was if more than 2/3rds of the deputies voted to allow it to happen. Though the day before a similar attempt had only gathered 60%, by Wednesday morning the mood had changed and there was nothing that was going to stop the action.
The Center “awoke” and discovered that it basically had the votes to override the fail-safes (rules of order of the House) that are in place to protect the rights of minority viewpoints (the two wings of the Church.) And on any given issue, the Center can have its way.
That’s a lot of power, and as such its use presents a great deal of danger. Once we get going, ain’t nothing much out there that can stop us. And if we get up a full head of steam and don’t have people paying attention, we quickly change from being reasonable to being demanding, and, human nature being what it is, to being destructive.
The Ents were like that in the Two Towers. Once they did make a decision, they moved inexorably to destroy all that stood in their path. That’s why I realized that there was more than a little truth in Stand Firm’s description of the moderates as the Ents. I expect Tolkien meant it to be so.
On the drive home I thought about why the center’s voice hadn’t been heard before. It’s in large part because no one has to this point tried to organize a political centrist movement.
Is that something that should happen? I honestly don’t think so. I’m frankly a little worried about the potential for abuse that such a political entity might represent. Like the Ents and the Huorns, once they are awake, they can be quite frightening, because there is nothing to stop them politically.
So what should the “center” do?
- Pay attention. Ignoring the real and complicated issues being discussed is what has led to the present situation.
- Realize that with great power comes even greater responsibility to act as a servant to those with less political power. Any christian solution to the threatened schism is going to require compromise by all parties.
- Love the people who force us to confront uncomfortable questions. They are doing what Jesus did and still does. Without their ministry, we’d end up falling asleep standing out in the fields and forget what we are called to ultimately become.
Anything else? Am I totally off-base here? Let me know in the comments.