Friday, May 4, 2012

Christchurch Suffers Neo Colonialist Oppression

I have been developing a bad joke which goes like this. "It's worth aiming to be the next Pope because if you fail you might pick up the Archbishopric of Canterbury as a consolation prize." Of course my kind and lovely friends delight to point out that in my case there a number of impediments to being the Pope. I am not infallible. I am married. It is difficult having friends with such short-sightedness, but I try to be gracious. However I was stumped when a friend pointed out that for the consolation job I lack the necessary bushy eyebrows. Even I have to admit that is true and I have no idea what to do about it. Speaking of those bushy eyebrows, I do not normally reveal private conversations online, but I am going to bend my own rules slightly by mentioning that in conversation with one of our clergy who was at the recent GAFCON/FCA event in London, he expressed his amazement at meeting the Archbishop of ACNA. Until then he had no idea that anyone could have bushier eyebrows than the current ABC!

It is really London and its tentacles snaking down to the South Pacific that I want to write about this morning. Sequestered at our annual clergy conference, I only saw one newspaper, Tuesday's Press, and had no idea until returning that the stormy waters around our cathedral and its deconstruction were not abating. The new squall this time is a letter urging retention of the cathedral, signed by 82 prominent Cantabrians (accurately: 82 people, some of whom are resident Cantabrians, some non-residential Cantabrians, and some never having resided here Canterbury-philes).

On closer inspection the names are revealing. There are a swag of people all with the same surname. There are some people of immense wealth but the letter does not reveal the specific six or seven figure they are contributing to the $100 million required for their letter to have actual transformative effect. There is the name of a former chaplain at the school I attended. At last count this individual resides in England, as do a number of other individuals signing the letter. I think it fair to wonder if they know what they are talking about when urging reversal of the deconstruction of a badly damaged and unsafe building.

I also think it fair to wonder what is going on when a group of people call on a group of people in England to support them in an attempt to force the Diocese of Christchurch to reverse its decision. In other circles, e.g. if this was a group of powerful Englishmen telling Maori Anglicans what to do (say, via a Covenant!), this would be called colonialism or neo-colonialism. The proper response in academic-speak is to deconstruct the narrative they are attempting to impose upon us and to speak truth to their power.

Another version, in the vernacular, is "Butt out."

If the Diocese is to use this time of pausing in the taking down of the cathedral to safe levels to reconsider its decision, it needs a conversation among the people of Canterbury experiencing the pain and difficulty of fellow Cantabrians firsthand, not communications from people faraway. What would London know of the context for making decisions here when people do not have working toilets and are sleeping in cars? What kind of church serving the poor of our city makes decisions with reference to the voices of people sleeping comfortably in England?

1 comment:

carl jacobs said...

There is a really easy way to silence the critics. All you have to say is:

"The diocese is willing to spend X dollars to replace the cathedral. It will cost Y dollars to rebuild it as it originally stood according to modern safety standards. You have six months to raise Y-X dollars and present it to the diocese as an unconditional gift. Plus you have to indemnify us against overruns. And you have to guarantee us access to insurance. All without conditions. Otherwise we will do what we want."

There will be an uncomfortable silence, and some coughing, and hemming and hawing. But as soon as it becomes necessary to put real money - their own money - on the table, then the complaints will dry up. People love to spend other peoples' money. Once demand they open their own wallets, and they will start dropping out like the men who would have stoned the woman taken in adultery.