Today was group photo day. Sort of an exercise in Where’s Waldo? to pick out one’s bishop in the midst of them. One good thing about having fewer bishops who are women (18 of 24 in attendance this year), they are all recognizable in their photo. More reflections on Bible study and Indaba groups as well as the March for the MDGs. What a schedule they keep: up at dawn which is quite early in England this time of year, off to worship, Bible study, Indaba, then plenaries in the evening. Tomorrow, Sunday, is a less busy day, not sure if that will mean more or less bishop blogging.
photo credit The Rev. Cynthia Black ©2008, used with permission
+Porter Taylor, Western North Carolina, TEC, has photos of his Bible study group. He reflects, as many bishops are doing today, about the environment, and comments on the photo session:
We have been talking about the environment and seeking how to combine our many efforts to be better stewards. My hope is that the Anglican Communion Office can help us be more intentional about coordinating the needs of the world with the resources. There is so much good being done but it is so patchwork.
This afternoon (Saturday) we took the group picture. The final print will be like the Saturday Night Life piece of “Find the Pope in the pizza” Contest. It was touching to see all the women bishops of the communion gather together, yet it’s also sobering to see that they can easily be photographed by my camera.
+Laura Ahrens, Sufragan, Connecticut, TEC, reports on the effects of the March for the MDGs on her Indaba group:
Sitting in my Indaba group, I can feel a passion for the MDG’s being energized around the entire Anglican Communion. The stories shared from all over the world make it clear that these eight goals are Gospel goals that we as Christians must be talking about and working toward in our parishes, dioceses, provinces and communion. Talking about the MDG’s with a bishop from the Sudan, I found myself praying for the MDG’s in a new way. In our Indaba group we talked about ways we could become a global public witness to the MDG’s. Our Walk of Witness through London on Thursday inspired us and feels like the beginning of a strong Anglican Communion witness to the MDG’s.
+Andrew Burnham, feels like Indaba group members are listening:
The Indaba process is, I think, evolving. It seems to have begun like a Western ecumenical Lent group – buzz in pairs, talk in quartets, report back with coloured pens and stick it all on the wall and have bright ideas about what is strikingly common and what is strikingly missing. The problem has been Western haste – five topics that would each keep a UN department fully deployed for years despatched in half a morning – instead of (as I understand it) a long period of listening and consultation on a single pressing matter – a meeting lasting days. But ‘they’ are listening to us and it should evolve….
In short, the Anglican Communion, via its Indaba groups and its plenaries at Lambeth, needs to head for a new settlement. One possibility is a split into evangelical and liberal Communions (in which there might be room still for traditionalists of all stripes in the former – if Sidney behaves on lay presidency and evangelicals don’t get as upset about Mary as one or two of them seemed to be when Cardinal Diaz gave us his memorable phrase Fiat, Magnificat and Stabat as models of Christian discipleship). The other is to say that the cork is out of the bottle on women’s ordination but we (which wouldn’t include me) could nonetheless ‘all’ regroup round a Covenant-monitored common hermeneutic (which certainly could not include serial monogamy or homosexual marriage) and maintain the Communion, which would be a godly thing and faithful to the Lord’s high priestly prayer.
HT to T 19
+Christopher Epting, Ecumenical Officer, TEC, comments on the aftermath of Abp Deng’s press conference and statement:
A very interesting development in the dust-up with the Sudanese Archbishop calling for Gene Robinson’s resignation a couple of days ago. Rather than overreacting and making some public statement in response, many of us have engaged our Sudanese colleagues in Bible Study or indaba groups in conversation, and those of us who have companion diocese relations have sought out opposite numbers for deeper reflection.
Much misunderstanding has been cleared up, much deeper appreciation of one another’s contexts and perspectives. Do we now all agree? Nope. Is there a greater chance that we can learn to “give space” to one another and stay at the table for the sake of common mission and the common good? I think so. There’s still a week to go and lots can happen, but — at the halfway point – my sense is that the Lambeth Conference is unfolding just as planned.
+David Rossdale, Grimsby, CofE, adds the opinion of 1/650th of the Lambeth bishops and fears that there is a distorted picture of the group discussions:
As we poise midway through this Lambeth Conference this appears to be exactly what is happening here at Canterbury and a distorted picture is emerging about Indaba Groups, the Bible Studies and the Conference outcomes.
I can report that I am really enjoying both my Bible study group and the Indaba Group – they are good opportunities to share experiences, clarify what others are thinking and they give focus as we address key areas for our mission and ministry. Most important of all, they are forums for building relationships and, in a Communion which is fundamentally about relationships then, that is no bad thing. So this 1/650th of the conference is encouraged by the process and valuing an outcome which feels deeply spiritual, as we build bonds of fellowship and trust.
+Rossdale also comments on the really big issue of caring for creation:
Earlier this evening Professor Chris Rapley , Director of the Science Museum, encouraged the Communion to fill the vacuum of moral leadership in the world as we face of the mounting evidence that unless we change the way we release carbon dioxide, then the damage to the planet’s atmosphere is going bring disastrous consequences.
Over the past 10 days I have met so many bishops who are clearly leaders in their community. Together, we represent a body of leadership which is well placed to give the moral leadership which is so absent from the politicians. To do so we would have to re-order our priorities. Issues within human sexuality are important, how we shape our Communion and cope the variety of approaches to the authority of scripture is important – but our stewardship of God’s gift in creation is fundamentally important for a church whose vocation comes from the one who came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
+Leo Frade, Southeast Florida, TEC, raises a concern for the Dalit (untouchables) in India. This has come up in several blogs and he hopes will result in raised awareness and action in the US.
In many ways today was a day in which the issue of the “Untouchables” of India, or the Dalit, as they are called, dominated many of our discussions. The word Dalit actually means “broken people.” There are over 200 million Dalits in India; they are the lowest you can be in the caste system of India, condemned for life to the most degrading existence that a human being could have. A common job that they can do is cleaning the excrement from the sewers. They are discriminated against and not allowed to move out of the class in which they were born.
I learned that about 70 percent of Indian Christians are from the Dalit or Untouchables caste, and that the Christians have been their only salvation and support, providing education, moral support and defense of their civil rights.
The Indian bishops asked us to make our dioceses aware of the many American, British and Canadian businesses operating in India that are cooperating indirectly with the discriminatory practices against the Dalits, so that we can work together for needed changes.
+Greg Rickel, Olympia, TEC, was extremely interested in the presentations and reflections on Climate Change and what the church can do both to prevent it and to ameliorate the effects on the poorest areas of the world:
Today, we turned our focus to one of the issues that I have the most passion about and the one that I think is the most serious for us to have a voice; Climate Change and Global Warming. In my self select session I again attended the Climate Change workshop entitled today “The consequences of of climate change From South to North” The Chair was John Prichard, Bishop of Oxford, UK, and Tom Wilmot, Bishop of Perth, Australia and Bishop Mark McDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, Toronto, Canada and former bishop of Alaska. This was a fascinating discussion. I am very heartened by how many bishops see this as a major focus and how many want to know more.
In keeping with that theme today the spouses had a presentation from Professor Chris Rapley, Director of the Science Museum, a known expert in Climate Change. Until 2007 he was the Director of the British Antartic Survey. He then gave an excellent plenary to the entire conference tonight in the Big Top.
+Kirk Smith, Arizona, TEC, videos the “herding cats” exercise of arranging 700 bishops for their photo, reports that the ABC thinks there will be a ‘prophetic’ report from the conference out of the Indaba groups, and tells of the painful discussions in his wife’s study group:
It required an hour to get 700 bishops on a scaffold, and standing up there in the heat was not pleasant, but fortunately we all got through it with no one passing out. Secondly, the American Church had its chance to lead worship at Evening Prayer today. The service was a lively mixture of American music, featuring the Bishops and Spouses choir.
After worship tonight, Rowan Williams commented that the planning committee had decided not to change the schedule for next week, an idea that was floating around a lot. He also indicated that there we could expect to have some kind of document at the end of our time which would be more than simply–“We met,we had a good time, we have many differences yet to be resolved.” We should expect something much more substantial and “prophetic” based on the feedback we were giving to the planners.
Laura (Kirk’s wife) reports that there has been some very deep and powerful sharing in her group. Some of the spouses have suffered terribly, especially in Africa. The stories of the torture, rape, and genocide that they have endured became so intense today, that the group had to stop. It was just too much to hear at one time.
Last night and today we’ve looked at environmental issues. The figures for how much the carbon dioxide level has gone up in recent years were, alongside plenty of other statistics, both frightening and compelling. And, given that Anglicans don’t subscribe to the “let’s use the world up so that Jesus will come back soon” heresy, we need to effect the moral leadership that is our only option for a problem market capitalism is singularly unfitted to deal with unaided. I spoke with a bishop from the Pacific region who has already seen five islands disappear under the water in recent years; one from Tanzania told us that the snows are melting from the summit of Kilimanjaro; a colleague from Zambia spoke of how the rainy season which should last from October to late April is now down to December-March. What bishops do in their bedrooms gets put into perspective when we recognise that those bedrooms may be uninhabitable or under water within a generation.
The conference process goes on and there were some deeply moving moments in my Bible Study Group this morning. The group of 15 or so listeners (one from each indaba) has now been chosen. These bishops will produce the draft documents that will eventually be processed by the conference into something that Rowan told us after Evensong today should not be a record of what was said but provide clear and prophetic direction to the communion. I don’t as yet have a full list but I do know two good friends; Michael Perham of Gloucester and Bill Godfrey of Peru are on it. These are people in whom I have confidence.
After lunch we had the Lambeth 08 photo. For forty minutes the staff painstakingly arranged all 670 or so of us in tiers whilst we sweated in the afternoon heat, close proximity and convocation dress, and regressed to schoolboy/girl status. At the point when the whole thing seemed to have completely bogged down we burst into a spontaneous rendition of Amazing Grace (a full four verses) which defused the situation.
Tonight there are a handful of fringe events but I’ve bought a can of decent beer and am watching a favourite old film (Pleasantville) on my laptop. Tomorrow I’m skipping both the options of the cathedral and civic reception or a parish visit and will take a train to a decent beach where I can enjoy a long walk and a good novel.
Highlight of the day: the amazingly proficient choir of TEC bishops and spouses who helped lead Evening Prayer.
Lowlight of the day: discovering that the train I need tomorrow goes from the further away station.
And lastly, for a bit of perspective, here is an article and photo of the 11 women at Lambeth 1998.
+Greg Kerr-Wilson, Qu’Appelle, Canada, and other bishops are featured in a video of interviews along the March for the MDGs: