There is a sense of some anxiety balanced by hope running through some of the bishops blogs today. Life under the big top and in the small groups has heated up from the warm weather. The Sabbath rest was good but now the conference time is more than half over and some of the more difficult hearings and discussions are on the schedule. The hope is strong that the relationships will continue to reveal the presence of Christ as promised when two or three are gathered.
+Greg Rickel, Olympia, TEC, provides us with a description and photos of his sabbath: the beach, oysters, and hanging out with people.
... I slept in a little more than usual, cleaned up a few things around the little room I have, walked to the train station and went to the town of Whitstable, which is a beach town. They happened to be having their annual Oyster Festival this weekend. So, I took part in these festivities and, on beautiful day, hung out with normal, everyday people. I didn't have to have an ID badge and there was not "the next thing to get to." I went swimming and enjoyed the gorgeous day!
Here is a moment of sabbath music provided by +Greg for your meditation.
+Neff Powell, Southwest Virginia, TEC and blogging for the official Episcopal blog site reports a common thread head in the bishops' blogs today:
The mood of the Lambeth Conference heading into our last week is turning a little uneasy, especially for The Episcopal Church. We will be dealing with the proposed Anglican Covenant. Rumors and conjecture are being fanned by the newspapers. As someone said, "Fasten your seatbelts, it could be a bumpy ride."
+Nick Baines, Croydon, CofE, writing about how some have refused to engage in the discussions:
I think this is how powerful people behave when they don't like being powerless. I think there are bishops here who are behaving like this and find endless fault in everything. I would like to go on a conference organised by them and show them what it is like to have people identify (oh so cleverly) all the other ways in which it could have been done.
I think this process has been remarkable. If others haven't engaged with it and gained from it, that's too bad. But it is only by engaging with it that you stand any chance of getting any gain from it. Furthermore, I am fully committed to getting stuck into whatever we come out with at the end of this conference - whether that be something good or something a bit hopeless. The Church has gone through two millennia of ups and downs and threats and challenges and now is no different. After all, the Church is not the kingdom of God - we are called to be a sign of the Kingdom and that impacts (drives?) not only what we believe but how we live together.
Francisco Silva Secretary General, Province of Brazil, sends this along from his bishop:
My experience these days here assures to me that the result of this Conference will frustrate those who are expecting a complete debacle of the Anglican Communion.
I was so impressed how some media representatives and GAFCON's spokespersons infiltrated at the Conference were working in provoke this terrible result. The end of the Communion does not benefit anyone.
This Conference invited people to hear more than to talk. And this is the great goal that until now the gathering is achieving. It is so evident in testimonials given by bishops and spouses. Words as trust, deepening hearings, integrity in speeches, and very close sense of kind feelings are so repeatedly spoken and written.
Sometimes people are fast in prejudice without know accurately their enemies! I heard from Archbishop of Sudan an answer to a press media that represents the best example of what I'm saying: "I never meet him personally!" This was a response to the question: "had you meet Gene Robinson before?"
This is the mainly reason to some people fight sometimes with their own shadows. They have enemies that never had meet before. When we meet and hear each other we can find ways to not condemn others.
Many things could still happen in this Conference until its end, but surely many hearts were disarmed by frankly and trusty conversations. Those who not came by prejudice or fear loose the opportunity to be heard and listen to others. They preferred to continue struggling with their own shadows. Our hope is that still there is time to approach to the table!
+David Rossdale, Grimsby, CofE, reflects on the gift of Anglicanism and the week ahead:
One of the gifts which the Anglican Communion has offered to God and to the world has been our ability to hold together a diversity of responses to the God whom we have encountered in Jesus Christ. Diversity which has been worked out in the way in which we have made our decisions about the order of the church. We have been a Church which has been held together by belief, as contained in the historic creeds, and not by agreeing to particular statements about that faith. This has always frustrated those who like clarity and structure to the content of faith.
There is pressure from those in the Communion who would be happier with statements or confessions of faith, but many of us are wary of such a move as that requires churches to ‘opt in’, whereas a family is something from which you choose to ‘opt out’. So it is going to be a busy week, but my observation is that we have been well prepared for it by the worship, prayer and personal engagements which have been the substance of the Conference thus far.
+George Packard, Bishop for Chaplaincies, TEC, plays musical chairs with the Archbishop of Canterbury and discovers how the ABC maintains his energy at these events:
...The Most Rev'd Rowan Douglas Williams was roaming around the dining room with his cheesecake set on meeting people and since I was up getting my own desert he sat down or rather sat down as I did too.
We looked like we had just scrambled to the final chord of musical chairs. At first I thought he was an Archbishop look-alike. What are the chances you will share laps with the head of the Anglican Communion? It certainly ranks as the most awkward introduction I've ever had. Maybe for the Archbishop too but he gets around more than I do. He quickly motioned me into an adjoining chair and scooped into his cake, smiling.
He asked how I thought it was going and I said with considerable theological insight, "Good." I worried about being drawn beyond my depth so, in addition to complimenting his retreat homilies, I launched into my favorite question for all luminaries,
"How do you keep up your energy? Do you exercise?"
"No," he said, "but I always bring a book along which has nothing to do with all this."... I tried to think what a scholar with a twinkle in his eye would sneak away and read.
"A P.D. James novel, then?"
He half nodded--I got the impression he had long ago plowed through everything that famed British mystery writer had written.
+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, CofE, checked the UK newspapers for the first time in a week and was surprised by what he found. He is also one of the few blogging bishops who allow comments - read the stream there and his responses:
The other side of the page was Ruth Gledhill’s, expressing frustration about the way the media are being handled. She couldn't get into an indaba group about the media. But hang on there aren’t any indaba groups about the media. And to think there could be reveals a complete misunderstanding of what an indaba group is. I tried the sweeping statement that “Indaba isn’t working” out on a table of people who have actually been in such groups for a week, and all 16 strongly disagreed, although they had differing views about how it was working. Groups that felt they wanted to press on were using the liberty in the process to do so. Some bishops, inevitably, are better listeners than others. We are all anxious to get a substantial result. The views of the senior bishop she quoted are very different from those of most younger bishops. Perhaps she hasn’t spoken to any of those.
Riazat Butt had a forty year old scoop, that the architect who designed the University of Kent had also designed prisons. Her point being that if this were taking place in a campus designed by an architect who had never designed a prison, er, this would be taking place in a campus designed by an architect who had never designed a prison. And... ? The fact this hides, apart from the way university staff have gone out of their way to be welcoming, friendly and efficient, is that the campus is a public space — the whole thing is open anyway, apart from the Big Top with all the gizmos in that had to be fenced to be insurable.
I turned to the Guardian blog to see if I’d missed something, there to find a hilarious piece built around the fact that bishops were stuffing themselves at breakfast with £1·95 waffles (waffles, geddit?) in the canteen. Hang on, I thought. Bishops’ food is all free, and in the place we eat they don’t have any waffles. What on earth this is suposed to have to do with anything that matters beats me, but the premise of the whole story is simply wrong.
Back to the Church of England Newspaper where I learn on page 23 “blogging bishops are causing the organizers most nightmares.” Now that one’s easy to check out. I collar a few organizers and ask them whether any blogging bishop has caused any organizer they know any anxiety whatsoever. They can’t think of any. It’s flattering, though, to be told the Bishop who has taken best to blogging is the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Smith. Alan Smith?
+Alan Wilson also records a statement by +Duncan Gray III, MIssissippi, TEC, from the Windsor Continuation Group hearings. A few of the remarks follow but read it all here
For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.
“But do I see the Church in [my fellow bishops in the Episcopal Chruch]?” as the most serious question at the last hearing asked. As God is my witness, I do. despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.
+Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, TEC, is learning the local language:
My Cockney driver is a total delight to listen to. I'd rather listen to him talk than eat, and that's saying a lot. When something surprises or shocks him, he cries, "Crikey!" Britain, just like I pictured it!
Americans use the phrase, "You get what you pay for." Here, it's "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!"
Today, in the press, I was called a "pantechnicon." I've looked it up and it means a "moving van." I still don't get it -- but can it be good?!
+N.T. Wright, Durham, CofE, is wondering how the conference will all come together in the next few days and is glad to be able to have some time in his own home and not be traveling around the world:
.... there is a sense that the Conference has done all its preliminary work, has got to know one another, and is now ready for the final seven days, beginning on Monday (tomorrow, Sunday, is more or less a rest day and that’s how I intend to spend it). The tricky thing now is that there are several different processes going on simultaneously which are designed to come together into some kind of ‘reflection’, or even ‘statement’, but nobody (except perhaps the planning group?) has a clear idea of how precisely this will happen. There are several sessions labelled ‘conference reflection’ as the week develops, and these will presumably be used as plenaries to discuss the major issues that are coming up.
So you see life is not dull. However, this is the first time for nearly a year that I have had more than seven consecutive nights in the same bed, so I am glad of some stability at least!
+Wayne Smith, Missouri, TEC, along with other bloggers, finds the bishops sweltering under the big top and in their small group rooms. He reports that many were inspired by Rabbi Jonathan Sachs presentation on the meaning of covenant in the history of faith.
The weather here is hardly what you would call hot by Missouri standards, with today's high around eighty degrees Fahrenheit, but the meeting rooms are deadly. Obviously designed to hold the heat, they fulfill that function quite well. Bible study room, hot. Indaba room, hotter. The Big Top, hotter still. Not a hint of breeze in any room, anywhere.
The hottest of all was the room where the bishops met this afternoon for a hearing with the Windsor Continuation Group. It is a most impractically large room in the University's sports center, a room designed to let in a lot of natural light, rather like a gymnasium-size atrium. With a difficult subject before us and hardly any air to breathe, the atmosphere was more than stifling.
Under the Big Top tonight, in a plenary session, we heard from Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He awed the gathering with his explication of covenant as a crucial idea in our world--and gave us some hope, both for the world and for our own internal difficulties. He differentiated the commodities of covenant (love, friendship, trust) from the commodity of politics (power) and the commodity of economics (wealth), thereby arguing for the urgency of covenant, the natural language of religion, in an age awash with the signs of power and wealth and their misuse. He also noted the ill effects for a world in which covenental goods disappear--anxiety, loss of identity, substance abuse, and on and on, and he challenged us for the sake of society, not for our own sake alone, to sustain the presence of covenant.
Then he elaborated a distinction between the covenant of faith, which binds a people together based on common hope, identity, and purpose, and a covenant of fate, which binds people together through shared hardship or even disaster. In a world faced with global climate change, economic disaster, warfare, and other life-and-death matters, he pushed us to stake a claim in such a covenant, one of fate, that bears the potential for binding us together when so much is at stake. This summary hardly does justice to the brilliance, the forcefulness, and accessibilty of his presentation, but it will have to do.
Rabbi Sacks won a standing ovation from a crowd that is typically reserved in its such displays. And what a sight it was to see Archbishop Rowan embrace him, at moment the sound of applause only increased.
Dave Walker, Official Cartoonist for the Lambeth Conference, reveals the Secret Plan - used with permission
And here is the Bishops and Spouses choir thanks to +Chilton Knudsen, Maine, TEC: