Comments: Ethics, Economics, and Global Justice

The hunt for a simple scapegoat for the economic troubles we all now face seems to go on and on and on. Over time, the more alarming feature of this analytic gearing up in retrospect would appear to be its frequent failure to get anywhere near to best practices in terms of being able to draw upon any number of systemic models.

What happened to system thinking? Is two-sided simplistic cause and effect the only sort of connection anybody can make these days? Does anybody much grasp that a system (particularly a very large system, which is what most national and international economics got to be?) can behavior in ways that cannot be tracked back to any one individual, or even a subset of individuals? That interlocking networks of active choices evolve over time, and can take on a dynamic all their own, nearly (perhaps uncannily?) disconnected from the run of the mill daily realities in which we all live, part of the time, until tsunamis hit?

Greedy bankers, deregulated, then - interacting with cultural and religious views which often provided or nurtured climates which equate financial thriving with godly blessings? See African preachers at home, for the continent's dedications to what has sometimes been tagged, A Prosperity Gospel. USA is rife with it, too.

A touch more sophisticated, only a touch, are the innumerable conservative models who cannot rise to having and applying any system model to their much beloved, Free Marketplace. You would be misled to believe that only supply/demand balances and solves everything, especially in very large, very complicated economic or other systems.

I think I read a lack of system savvy when it comes to much in ethics and theology, too. As if human nature and nature were abstract, idealized ciphers in a mind-game, not incarnate treasures and creatures of God, real, alive, evolving together with ecosystems.

Genesis still applies, then. Can we ever take care of what God gives us without wanting to own everything in sight, more, more, more, more, more?

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 7:00pm GMT

"Can we ever take care of what God gives us without wanting to own everything in sight, more, more, more, more, more?" - drdanfee -

Couldn't agree more. This is why such extravagances as space exploration seem at times like this, when we struggle to 'manage' our own earth environment, just a tad too far to travel. If the money and effort spent on such attempts to
manage' other environments were spent on finding ways to improve the lives of we mere mortals on earth, then who knows what could not be done, in terms of facilitation, for the needs of the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed?

I believe the ABC is on the right track, when he asks us to look for ways of properly utitlising what we have in this wonderful world that God has created, and to find ways of sharing that equably. This could lead to the prospect of 'peace in our time' and the 'Coming of God's Kingdom on earth - for which we pray.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 9:24pm GMT

I am afraid that I am unable to listen to or read, any more of the utterances and writing of the archbishop of Canterbury.

I just can't.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 10:11pm GMT

I'm with L Roberts on this. Rowan Williams has made a signal failure of his own responsibilities. He has given succour to homophobes and misogynists, whether or not he is either of those things himself. He has failed to set a moral lead in the Anglican Communion. He excluded a legitimately elected and consecrated bishop of the Anglican Communion from the Lambeth Conference and gave hospitality to those who would tear it apart. Oppressors flourish and spread under his leadership. Why should anyone listen to this man on the state of the nation's economy or anything else?

Posted by toby forward at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 8:05am GMT

L Roberts & Toby Forward: Yes, you're both quite right.

There is a pressing moral imperative for the C of E to get its own ethical house in order and end discrimination before its leaders can even begin to pontificate about ethics to the rest of society.

Everyone except the C of E's bishops seems to see this, but of course taking a courageous moral stand against injustice within one's own organisation entails just too much awkwardness in practice; whereas making high-flown clear-cut ethical statements to the rest of the world is far easier...

Posted by Fr Mark at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 9:56am GMT

Having made a thorough hash of his proper responsibilities, the ABC has no shame in making lofty pronouncements on topics in which he has - to my knowledge - no formal training. Great. I will now expound on string theory ... wait! The ABC is issuing a statement on that very thing!

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 2:08pm GMT

I am sorry, but I am in full agreement with the earlier posts.

I was at the lecture last Saturday and I can only recommend it to all, it is vintage Rowan!

The trouble is I almost had to be tied to my chair and gagged as he nailed his “Justice” flag firmly to the mast.

As we prepare for the “Global Anglican Church” under his primacy and see the crushing of local initiatives -
Rowan denounces globalisation and the destruction of local/national economies which are so much more able to respond.

It's all there, his usual stuff clear and unequivocal support for the oppressed and those disadvantaged by powerful forces – even the call to abandon the search for scapegoats.

Time and time again I felt the anger well up in me – here was the Rowan of old – only now his ecclesiology lives on a different planet to his social and economic theory. He is trying SO hard to reinvent himself as an “old fashioned Anglo-catholic” who had an unfortunate few months expressing some liberals ideas when he was an academic .........

I was glad to leave as I found the paeons of praise that followed irksome.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 4:40pm GMT

toby forward, fr Mark and Cynthia Gillatt, I am afraid you speak for me too.

The worse thing for me, probably, is tht I can have no confidence in the intgrity and persistence of Anything he says now. He may blithely wave it away in 5, 10 or twnety years from now.

Having sat in the clergy consultation at the Royal foundation of St Katherine (Buther Row) and ehard him address a gathering of gay clergy enthusiastiucally about gay relationships and their place in Church and their blessedness -he was recieved 'as one of our own' --then to hear him now..... And in the distant pass to hear and then read the Michael Harding Memorial Address, The Body's Grace....and now , and now....

Yes, we may all change our minds (I know I have), but in the role of archbishop of Canterbury, some acknowledgement of this will be necessary,some addressing of the apparent change-- NOT simply ignoring it and pretending nothing has changed -'all is well'.

It isnt . It will not do.

To say, as I understand Rowan Williams has, "IO was a young professor trying out some ideas" is very irresponsible and arrogant. No Rowan, you were a minister of religion, a teacher of religion and one entrusted with great responsiblity. I and others like me based our lives on what you and others like you said. I was a young ordinand at the time of the Memorial Address (I think or newly ordained)- we looked to you, Norman Pittenger, HA Williams, Malcolm Johnston and Una Kroll for such little glimmers of light and hope as there then were.

That's why I just can't take any more.

But when Rowan steps down, I have no hope of anyone better. That's the tragedy-- Rowan was chosen to take things forward with gays and women and a generaly intelligent and sensitive engagement with the world of today --- he has flunked this, in order to placate Rome and his own apparently-implaccable super-ego.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 5:01pm GMT

I omitted 'the Jeffrey John affair'. That spoke volumes, but we couldnt have known then the depth of it. Williams behaved very badly --as did others who should have known better. But it was up to Canterbury to 'withstand them to their face.' Surely.

How I wish the bishop-designate could have held his nerve --a tall order amidst that maelstrom. He had the Royal Assent and in C ofE terms needed none other.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 5:18pm GMT

"“Trustworthiness, realism (humility) and the clear sense that we must resist polices or practices which accept the welfare of some at the expense of others – there is a back-of-an-envelope idea of where we might start in pressing for a global economic order that has some claim to be just,” he commented. cf Rowan Williams ABC

This statement, above, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, may seem to be just one more cliche in the plethora of cliches with which the world is confronted in troday's economic climate, but there is one word here (humility) which we will not find in the more worldy statements that are the daily fare of political pundits. Herein is a profoundly Christian view of what is needed by all of us, in order to address our selfishness and greed in a time of world crisis.

Poor Archbishop Rowan! It seems that whatever he says and does he is going to be criticised by one side of the debate or the other. However when one analyses what he is actually saying - here, for instance, about the world economic situation -
he usually manages to put the subject under a spiritual spot-light, which, I guess, is what anyone would expect a Leader of the Church to do.
Like the Pope, he is sometimes expected to pontificate. But then, isn't that what Church Leaders usually do. The difference with Rowan is that he is seeking to find some common ground on which to engage with his audience, seeking to be, like Saint Paul "All things to all (people)".

The alternative to Rowan as Archbishop might well have been someone like the Bishop of Rochester, a vocal supporter of the Global South school of theology, which seeks to bring down the wrath of God on all LBGT members of the Church. Where then would we have found open-ness to the possibility of women Bishops and the Blessing of monogamous same-sex relationships? Whatever Rowan may not have done to champion these causes in the synodical meetings of the Church, we all know that he is open to the reality of their authentic needs.

As Primus inter pares, the ABC has to listen to all sides of every argument. He knows that, in the end, the whole Church will decide what will become polity and praxis - not the lone voice of any single apostolic delegate - no matter how exalted by tradition. - (humility)?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 10:56pm GMT

Economic crises do not occur in a vacuum. When spending is diverted into war related activities, it is at the expense of other things. Too much diversion, and eventually a funding crunch occurs - either through paying interest on debts, or having to urgently find funds to replace necessary infrastructure that crumbled from neglect.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 6:10am GMT

Ron, at the time of his appointment, the most promising alternative was not Rochester, but Richard Harries. He would have had a short time to occupy the office. He had the courage and discernment to appoint Jeffrey John. It is likely that he would have had the courage and discernment to make it clear to the Anglican Communion that the Church of England would not discriminate against women and gay people. He was the ideal candidate to deal with the Bullying Tendency which has frightened the present incumbent into his shameful stance.

Posted by Toby Forward at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 8:05am GMT

Maybe Richard Harries would have been more pressing on the cause of women and gays in the Church of England, but, Toby, would he have been able to keep the rest of Communion together for long enough to stop it splitting apart? Much as most of us do love the C.of E. (it was my own foundation of faith), we cannot consider only the Mother Church in all of this. There is the world-wide community of Anglican Churches to bring into the equation.

I believe that Rowam Williams is an outstanding ABC, and still think that his prayerful, catholic spirituality will prove to have been a catalyst that allows for a more liberalised Communion. He will not exert any kind of 'papal' pressure, but the unity of the Anglican Churches is no light responsibility for one who takes his primatial duties seriously. As he himself says, being the Archbishop of Canterbury is very different from being a diocesan bishop, and more different from being an academic theologian. He has 'the care of all the Churches' in his basket. I believe that God is using Rowan's many gifts to bring about a slow revolution in the Anglican Communion.

He needs our prayers, and not our condemnation.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 10:13am GMT

"He [the ABC} needs our prayers, and not our condemnation."

Well I pray that he look at more pending anti-glbt legislation in Nigeria and what some of his Global South people are saying about lgbt people.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 12:04pm GMT

Ron, you mean the Anglican Communion is holding together now? You must be on some good stuff; where can I get some?
If it's all right with you, I'll pray for him and condemn his actions at the same time.

Posted by toby forward at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 2:03pm GMT

Cynthia and Toby, now that Nigeria has pronounced its own condemnation of the LGBT community by supporting adverse legislation against them in the law-courts, I think - agreeing with you both -that this might be the right time for the ABC and other Primates of the Anglican Communion to disassociate themselves from the Archbishop of Nigeria and other bishops in that Province on this issue. I do believe in the power of prayer.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 6:32pm GMT

Hi Ron, thanks for your latest post. I think the first thing that needs to happen is for a personal and public apology to go from Rowan williams to the Bishop of New Hampshire. That would be a start.

Posted by toby forward at Friday, 13 March 2009 at 9:16am GMT

Toby - I find I am in agreement with your last post. Having been privileged to meet with Bishop Gene in the UK during his earlier visit last year to St. Mary's, Putney, and having read the book he launched on that occasion; I believe that he ought to be in receipt of an apology by the whole assembly of the A.C. Primates. Gene's prophetic stance in our Churches needs to be vindicated - especially in the light of the Nigerian Primate's latest collusion in homophobic legislation within his country.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 14 March 2009 at 9:52am GMT

'the Jeffrey John affair'

You know, I am fascinated by the perception of Jeffrey John as the poor guy who was walked on by the Archbishop of Canterbury in deference to the homophobes. No doubt, he received incredible pressure from on high to step aside. But a good read of the life of St. Chad of Lichfield is in order. He was a duly appointed bishop. His consecration was irregular because of a decision by the then ABpofC. No doubt he too received much political pressure to step down. He had a bunch of snotty continentals treating him like a peasant who had had the nerve to stand and be counted among their number, that dirty little Celtic barbarian! And he did step aside. His response to Theodore was, basically "I didn't want this. You pressured me into getting consecrated. If there is something wrong with my consecration, it's your fault for doing it, you knew it would be irregular." It so impressed Theodore that he made Chad Bishop of Lichfield. And, who's the one we consider a saint now? Not Theodore, not the bishop who was so put out by Chad's presence. How is it that JJ's stepping aside isn't seen in this light? Whatever the reasons for it, he chose to do it so as not to be divisive. Why is that not valuable? Why is it so much more important to stand and defy rather than to act with humility? Perhaps humility isn't glorious? After, there's not many rebel songs that speak of humility.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 6:32pm GMT

Yes, but Ford, he subsequently accepted the position of Dean of St Albans, a high level post in the C of E. The hypocrisy of system that says someone is ineligible to be a bishop on the basis of their sexuality, but perfectly eligible to be a dean, is shameful.

Posted by Fr Mark at Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 11:49am GMT

"The hypocrisy of system that says someone is ineligible to be a bishop on the basis of their sexuality, but perfectly eligible to be a dean, is shameful."

No argument from me on this. But what does that have to do with JJ stepping aside "for the good of the Church"? (Assuming, of course, that's why he did it) If anything, you could say that the situation you describe is a prime opportunity to highlight the hypocrisy that 500 years of Erastianism has brought to the CofE.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 2:02pm GMT
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