When a ferry overturns, or there is a bomb, one instinct naturally prevails: sauve qui peut. We all start rushing for the exit. As we rush, I hope a second and Christian meaning of the motto begins to occur to us: not 'save yourself if you can', but 'save others if you can. This distinction is not easy when we are in a hurry, and we may assume too easily that by saving oneself we can then be free to help others.
Forward in Faith has had time to perform the calculation, but instead of becoming easier it seems to be endlessly more complicated. Factors change; new proposals and divisions, sometimes unexpected, make our original urge to remain Anglican constantly subject to review. Will there be a big rush for the exits? If so, at what point?
It is a question much like that of divorce. Marriage we regard as an immutable reflection of Christ's love. Only if it becomes clear that the reflection has become irretrievably clouded - as in one of those metal mirrors St Paul talked about - may we accept that a marriage is dead. It is vital there that we do not panic, and that we consider in order of priority Christ's sacrificial love, the welfare of our partner, and lastly that of ourselves.
At our baptism and confirmation we also enter into a contract with Christ in his Church. We love the Church of England, but if a particular branch does the marital equivalent of leaving us and living in a far country, we have to ask ourselves whether the contract is not irretrievably breached. If so, the exits beckon.
Because a Church is an accumulation of people, we are not on our own. We may well cry for leaders. Leadership is a concept that needs to be reviewed, all the more because of the dreadful example of television, where worldly processes ensure that those who shout loudest come to dominate and corrupt the audience for whom they protest such devotion.
Our leaders need to be unwilling, as Christ was, yet reluctantly willing, as Christ was - willing to be used by God. It is the very fact of overcoming unwillingness that makes a person's effect as a leader. Leadership is not domination, after the Stalin style; it is more after the example of those saints and bishops and abbesses and missionaries who read the Scriptures, and tried to act accordingly, whatever their human failings. That was why many of us felt heartened by the obvious fact that Rowan Williams really did not want to be Archbishop. The fact that he was nonetheless prepared to do the right thing makes him a leader, and shows us the way.
The leader is the piper who plays such a tune that all wish to follow him. One can lead merely by doing the right thing. Genuine humility may seem to weaken a leader's position; but it gives him an instinctive sympathy with opponents, which is no bad thing, and not only within the Church, where we are all professedly on the same side: it can also be a kindly key to the rest of the world.
Sauve qui peut is a motto easily confused, by one in trouble, with the command to act alone. In the present situation, we listen anxiously for the piper who plays the right tune; who, by sticking to the homespun verities he learnt in childhood, is in a position to show the world what he and they should stand for. Then we have to decide for ourselves who or what to follow, or what lead to give.
In the rush for the exits at the end of the Great War, Kipling wrote a poem praising 'The Gods of the Copybook Headings! Our Lord's Copybook Heading on sauve qui peut is somewhat unexpected: 'He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' Being human, one just hopes that there will be no great rush. \ND\
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