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.