Dr. Jenny Te Paa, a Maori theologian, presented the second keynote at the Anglican Communion Conference this week at General Theological seminary. The Rev. Susan Russell, blogging at the event, made an interesting observation about what she saw unfold between Te Paa and Archbishop Drexel Gomez as a result of Te Paa's critique of the covenant process:
... key for many in the room was Dr. Te Paa's confession that she had reconsidered her initial support for "a covenant process" as a result of her experience since the Windsor Report was issued and declared herself to be "both proud and embarrassed by the naivete" that kept her from recognizing, at the time of the Lambeth Commission, just how much "power politics" were in play in pushing an "agenda for domination" by insisting that "what we already had in place was not sufficient" and shifting to "bullying rhetoric used to exploit differences over human sexuality" into what Dr. Te Paa called: sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.
A way to "cure" that disease, she suggested, was to enlist the aid of those not impacted by the syndrome. Dr. Te Paa went onto suggest that the combination of women, young people, indigenous peoples and LGBT folk between them (by her math) who do not see the current differences as "irresolvable differences" came to approximately 75.3% of the Communion ... and that this significant majority of Anglicans needed to be part of a "slowed down, measured & considered process of inviting more stakeholders in the conversations about what it means to be in covenant relationship with each other as Anglicans" offering what she called "a Good News cure" to sudden onset arch-episcopal paroxysm.
She also rocked the boat a little. (Well, a little more than a little.) After lunch, Archbishop Gomez, (who had been what I thought was remarkably "non-defensive" last night during the Q&A following his initial address) took some umbrage to Dr. Te Paa's taking on the primates -- which she did with some gusto.
+Gomez rose and rejected the suggestion that the covenant proposal had been "top down" inspired by the primates and also used the opportunity to work in a quick treatise of his own on "global numbers" explaining that the "biblically orthodox" were a super majority in not only the Anglican Communion but in the wider Christian faith if we throw in the Romans and Eastern Orthodox, too.
Dr. Te Paa listened respectfully ... when he had "done" she said "Thank you, Archbishop" ... and when the moderator asked if she wanted to respond further she smiled politely and said "No, thank you" and went out to take her place in the audience ... right next to +Drexel Gomez.
The thing that struck me about the exchange was not how defensive the Archbishop became but how "apples and oranges" it all was. It was as if he hadn't heard a word she'd really said ... her point being NOT that 75.3% (by her reckoning) of the Anglican Communion AGREED with the American Episcopal Church or the Diocese of New Hampshire or whatever ... but that 75.3% DISAGREED that these differences of opinion rose the to level of "communion splitting."
It seemed to me that there in that exchange was an icon where we are and how we can move forward.
You can read the whole thing here.