Sunday, August 3, 2008

One last picture!

I started this blog with English change-ringing at St. Alban's Cathedral. So I will finish with more of the same--this time the bells at Canterbury Cathedral as we gathered tonight for our final service.

Final Day, Final Blog

It was an emotionally up and down day. The final verson of the "Reflections" came out and I was not only disappointed with its content, but also with the process. We had not been given a chance to review the last and most controversial section before it was printed up, and I felt that the process had not been done fairly. The trust that had built up over the past few weeks was rapidly evaporating for me. But after a wonderful final Bible study session and the chance to air my concerns in the final indaba group, I felt much better.

There will be a lot of questions as to "what came out of Lambeth?" I will be mulling this over in the next week or so, and will write more about it later, but it is probably easier to say what did NOT come out. First, no schism! Those who predicted that this would be the end of the Anglican Communion were dead wrong. Yes, there is a group (GAFCON) which has already left, but those of us remaining (about 85%) are committed to remaining together. The other thing did not come out was any kind of policy. There was no legislation done--only conversations were held. Finally, what will have to wait is a solution to the problems that beset us. There will be more meetings, more discussions. The American House of Bishop's meeting in September will be important for us to digest the meeting and come to some understanding of how we will respond to the mood of Lambeth, especially as regards c the issues of moratoria and "Pastoral Forums" who could monitor our compliance with the Windsor Report. All this remains to be done, and no one should jump to any early conclusions!

As for what DID come out--There is above all a renewed scene of connectedness in mission. As one bishop said, "We are the product of the conference." This new level of trust and respect and unity in Christ will serve us well in the years ahead. For me personally, I've also made several very close prayer partners who will be friends for life. I've also got a briefcase full of ideas for how we can work with our world wide partners on poverty and environmental issues.

We concluded the Conference tonight with a final Eucharist in the Cathedral. It was a dark and rainy night outside, but brilliantly lit inside. Towards the end of the service a group from the Melanesian Brotherhood (a religious order of both men and women) commemorated the deaths of 6 of their members who were recently killed when they try to separate two warring factions in their country. The order knelt before the Archbishop and then, chanting together, bore the names of their comrades to the very front of the cathedral--the Chapel of the Martyrs of Today. Their singing got fainter and fainter as they moved to the far end of this vast cathedral. We in the nave read aloud the Great Commission, sang a hymn, and went out the great west door. While the dead were carried to glory, we were sent into the world.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading this blog--we leave early tomorrow for Phoenix, and I will be signing off. I hope to be able to talk to many of you about Lambeth in the months to come--Trinity Church has given us a nice video to bring along! We will be glad to be back home, but grateful for this once in a life time experience.

I am grateful to be your bishop and thankful for all your prayers.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 15--Finishing up

This morning we had our second to last Bible Study and Indaba group. We continued to discuss the Covenant and the report of the Windsor Continuation Group. It was a good exchange, although some of our brothers and sisters seem to be unaware of the fact that the American church did respond to the Windsor Report in a way that was acceptable to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. We will certainly hear more about "moritoria" tomorrow at our last session.

A final report of the Conference is almost done, and there is some concern in our House that it contains things that were not said in the indaba groups and also that it will be perceived by the larger church as policy statement. We have been told repeatedly that this Conference is a consultative meeting and is not deciding anything. Still there are some who are pressing for a definitive judgement on the controversial issues. I think we will hear more about this tomorrow.

On the bright side, this evening we had a plenary session to hear from the "Stewards" a group of about 50 college students from around the world give their impressions of the conference. We had a chance to ask them about what they wanted in a church 30 years from now when they might be sitting in our seats. It was great fun and a real inspiration. I've attached a picture of one young man from Madagascar speaking.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday, con't

This afternoon's session was not quite as smooth as this mornings, but still very productive. Even though there is an overwhelming desire to keep together, there are some who feel that a Covenant agreement still needs to have some "teeth" that would enforce what we would agree upon. Of course, the draft Covenant as it stands now, specifically the Appendix section, would not work for Americans. It would be like signing our own death warrant! This discussion will continue tomorrow, but I am more optimistic than ever that we will leave with high level of agreement.

We have begun to think about the trip home. We may need another suitcase for books.

Let's see if I can find a good picture from the files to add some visual interest.

Day 14--Indaba Groups at Work

One word that will certainly come out of this Conference is "indaba," that S. African word used to describe our daily conversation groups.

Yesterday I posted a picture of our small Bible study group (which meets before the Indaba session). Here is a picture of my Indaba group beginning to tackle the difficult topic of today--The Covenant process. We will meet again later this afternoon, and I might have more to say after that. Americans will notice some familiar faces--Bob Anderson(Assisting, LA), Pierre Whalon (Europe), Dorsey Henderson,(Upper S.C), Bob Fitzpatrick (HI) and the back of Russ Jacobus' head (Fond du Lac).

I was amazed about how well this morning's session went. You may be reading in the press about how fragmented we are. But this is due to the fact that a few hot heads are are quick to cozy up to any reporter they can find. There are two or three American bishops here who would like nothing better than to see the Conference fail. The truth is that there is an (dare I say it?) almost miraculous cooperative and respectful spirit at work here. This morning for example, there was no mention of punishing the Americans. The word "accountability" was not even mentioned. Instead, we talked a lot about the example of a marriage covenant which is based not on punishment but on a spirit of the parties "loving each other no matter what." It was pointed out that the current proposed Covenant with all its provisions for kicking people out of the Communion sounds more like a pre-nuptial agreement than a marriage covenant!

If my group is typical, and from what I can tell, it is, there are some pretty clear themes: 1. There is a desire to stay together, no matter what. Relationships are more important that doctrine. 2. Most want a covenant that is an affirming rather than a disciplinary doctrine. 3. People have little regard for the Primates. 4. We want to meet together more often and work together more closely.

All this seem very positive to me. But remember--this Conference is only a consulting body, there will be no policy declaration issued when we get done. The work we do will be sent onto the Covenant design group that meets in September. They in turn will report to the Anglican Consultative Council at their meeting in May. The ACC has three options: 1)Reject the final draft of the Covenant,2)Send it back for more work, 3)Pass it onto the Provinces for final approval. My guess is that thanks to the work done here, the draft the ACC gets in the spring will look much different than the St Andrew's draft we have before us today.

More later....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 13--Hitting a wall?

The morning started well, but a long and difficult discussion this afternoon changed all that. The Archbishop had called for an additional (optional) meeting of those who wanted to look at some possible plans for a way forward. His question to all of us this morning was: "Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ." In other words, is there a "compromise solution" in which both sides are willing to give up something so that we can stay together?

Being by nature a pragmatist, I attended this session hoping to hear some concrete suggestions. But none were really forthcoming. The participants keep rehashing the same old positions--liberals stressing full inclusion now (no more moratoriums), conservatives wanting some firm definition of who is in and who is out (the Americans being out).

Two of our bishops (Reeves of Camino Reale and Rivera of Olympia) offered a great plan based on relationship rather than doctrine. They called for a "rule of life" in which we would meet more often, pray for each other, and enter into supportive missionary relationships. But both being women, their proposal did not get very far.
I liked the story they included, even though it failed to get the attention most of of the old men:

Joan Chittester, in speaking of the nature of a Rule of Life, tells the story of someone who visited a huge sheep station in South Australia. After driving the vast expanse of the ranch, the visitor asked the rancher, "I see you have herds of livestock all over your ranch, but you have no fences. How do you keep your sheep on the ranch? The rancher responded simply, "We have wells."

The moral of the story--let's concentrate on offering things that will draw people to church, instead of putting up barriers to keep us apart.

Thank God for women in the church! The women bishops and the spouses who are here understand the importance of relationship, while the men argue about words and doctrine.

But here is the good news: Everyone wants to stay together. We have a much better understanding of each others cultural contexts and there is a real affection for one another. But we seem tonight to be at a kind of an impass as to how to create a structure that will enable us to do just that.

Tomorrow we continue with talks about a possible Covenant. Will we go away with something "robust" as the ABC calls it, or will it be a "we agreed to disagree" document?

By the way, the attached picture has nothing to do with any of this, it just came out well.


It was too late for me last night to redo the text of my blog. If anyone back in the States thinks that we are on some kind of a junket here, they are mistaken. We are up at 6 AM and go until 10 or 11 at night. With the heat and humidity and lack of air conditioning, I am pretty brain dead by the time I get to sit down to do my blog, so I hope you will forgive my technological mistakes at that late hour!

[PS. Go down to "Two Moving Moments" to see a video of Laura that accidently also got left off]

Yesterday we talked a lot about the role of Scripture in the church, and my impression was that most of us are in agreement as to how to study and apply the Bible. I have found few literalists or fundamentalists in this bunch. I sometimes hear it said the our troubles as a church are not over sex but over Scripture. I don't believe that is true. What is true is that we use the same tools to approach Scripture and come away with conflicting understandings. Given our wide range of cultural backgrounds, that is not only to be expected, but is probably a good thing.

One of the insights that came out of our meetings this morning (Thursday) as we turned our attention to sexuality was that whereas inclusion of Gay and Lesbian people is an important part of mission strategy in the first world, just the opposite is true in the third world. We heard stories of how churches have grown in places because of the welcome given to homosexual people, and also stories of how the American churches actions have hindered church growth in other parts of the world.

It made me think, could we say something like
"As the Anglican Communion we affirm a committment to mission above all, and we realize that like St Paul, we need to be 'all things to all people in order that we might win some for Christ.' Might that approach allow us to move the question of sexuality away from a theological debate over who reads the Bible correctly, to a
multifacted missionary stragety where full inclusion could be accepted in one place and not in another?

The good news so far today (and I will write more about this later today) is that the mood of listening and understanding is extra-ordinary good. So far there has not been one hint of rancor or anger. Stay tuned.