I was interested in the article by James Walters – ‘Instinctively conservative and bound by ritual’ – in this week’s Church Times. He suggests that parliament faces some of the same questions as the Church in its struggle to reform itself.
He identifies four problems … of which the first has a certain interest for me at this moment. It’s the ‘simplistic reduction of an institution to its leadership.’ Meaning the tendency to intensify blame on leaders when things go wrong and invest unrealistic hope in those who replace them.
He also refers to the resistance to reform even among those who are ostensibly most progressive.
I often ask myself the question, ‘I am bishop of a small diocese in a small church. Why am I so busy?’ Some of the answer, I suppose, is that however small the diocese or church there is an irreducable minimum of work involved in the engagement with society, the wider church, the ecumenical context, etc. And we attempt to have an intensity of contact and engagement which would not be possible elsewhere. But still… the meetings, the time, the difficulty of visualising how things might be other than they are, the huge investment in things as they are …
When I was a parish priest, I used to attempt to measure how much time I spent actually in contact with people. I was never happy with the answer. So Walters suggests, ‘MP’s are incredibly busy, but do not actually do very much.’ Rather like Gilbert’s nice line, ‘The House of Peers throughout the years did nothing in particular and did it very well.’