What if Screwtape Were at General Convention?

The sleep-deprived minds of Deputy Belton Zeigler, Upper South Carolina, and Center Aisle writer John Ohmer got to wondering about “The Screwtape Letters.” If there was an update for General Convention to C.S. Lewis’ famous exchange between two devils, in which the senior devil advises his nephew on how to win over a human soul, how might it read?

My Dear Wormwood:

So your patient is attending what they call their General Convention.

There is no need to despair. This General Convention of theirs is principally an unwieldy and expensive engine for producing bits of paper that the vermin call resolutions. You are correct in saying that irrelevancy is the great virtue of these documents and, in fact, no one outside of a small cadre of institutional insiders pays the slightest attention to the vast majority of what the poor darlings are laboring so diligently to produce.

But you must never allow that thought to enter their heads. We have done all we can to ensure that their schedule supports you in this. But the ready availability of despicable new electronic communications such as Twitter and Facebook means that many of your patients are in alarmingly close touch with the real world of work – local congregations – and, worst of all, family and friends.  This has the undesirable effect of pulling their attentions and affections away from the illusory world of convention, which we have so carefully created, and toward a world where their true duties lie. You should attempt to limit the use of those communication devices by calling them “distractions.”

You write with some alarm about their desire to reform this system. You may take some comfort in the fact that their natures are such that their individual interests and agendas will be far more real and comfortable to them than any vision of a different and revitalized church promoted by our Enemy. But yesterday morning, an entire committee became nearly impenetrable to us when its members repeatedly ignored our suggestion that they jealously guard their power, distrust one another and micromanage.

Should calls for reform gain force, all is not lost. Encourage your patients to see every attempt to change Church structure as limits on the Church’s ministries, not on their personal power or agenda.  Our patients lack the ability to see the irony in calling for radical changes to the society around them, while resisting so inflexibly the call to reform the one institution that they in fact control.

Your eager uncle,



Categories: GC2012

8 replies »

  1. We are merely mortal beings. Our institution known as the church is fallible striving to be heard. Let us give each other love.

  2. “Our patients lack the ability to see the irony in calling for radical changes to the society around them, while resisting so inflexibly the call to reform the one institution that they in fact control.”

    CS Lewis couldn’t have said it better himself!

  3. My experience as a Deputy at recent General Conventions was quite different. At the hearings and in the debates on the floor we were treated to lively discussions by many of the best minds in our church. In the halls and around the tables during worship we made friendships with those on the opposite side of the theological spectrum in our church. At worship we were exposed to much of what it really means to be an Anglican Church with the different strains of our experience acted out during splendid liturgies.
    Contrary to your writers, I believe Wormwood’s age and the beginning of dementia has taken their toll.

  4. Dear Center Aisle, you just lost me as a reader and a supporter, and you lost all credibility as a voice of the “center” of our beloved Church. This article is mean-spirited and full of mean mischaracterizations. In the past, I picked up your print journal on my way into Convention and followed your online stories, but I will no longer do so.

    My experience is that *all* the Deputies are striving to do the best for the Church we love and to respect all other Deputies. My experience is that we are doing this work prayerfully and with respect.

    BTW, neither I nor any other Deputies are rightly characterized as “vermin.”

    Shame on you. This is far beneath the standards I had come of expect of “Center Aisle.”

  5. Great post! How ironic that GC expects to influence domestic (DC statehood) and foreign (Cuba, Israel/Palestine) policy while declining to take a definitive position on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

    Bravo, Belton and the folks at CenterAisle!