28 February 2007

Kneejerk reaction to PB online conversation

The live webcast with Bishop Katharine has just ended. Here are a few quick thoughts. I'll want to read a transcript before I mull too much.

As always, I was impressed by her clarity, her purpose, and her non-anxious presence. She has done well, I think, to urge calm as we listen to one another. That said, I think Jim Naughton makes a good point: those who are suffering may not find it so easy to "calm down." Still, I think there are some people in this conversation (especially those desiring immediate schism) who would do well to ask themselves why they're in such a hurry.

Katharine reminded all of us that this will take time. It's possible we'll have some answers for the primates by September 30, but it will take longer (at least until 2009) for a full response from ECUSA. She seems willing to implement the Primatial Vicar scheme, but she did also point out that this will need to provide cover for moderates in dissident dioceses. (I found her use of the term "dissident dioceses" to be instructive, by the way.) I wonder if +Bob Duncan and company have built that into their equation. Will alternative oversight be provided for progressive parishes who are in the jurisdiction of conservative bishops?

As expected, Katharine also pushed the point that the church's authority vests in all orders of ministry. I think this cuts to the heart of many of our differences. Apart from the reality that conservative American money is paying for much of this conflict, it is also true that the conflict has much to do with the nature of authority itself. In many African cultures, for example, the notion that lay people would participate fully in the governance of the church is anathema. And that's one of the things the other primates don't always get about our church. Our church is governed by General Convention, and the authority of our bishops is constitutionally and canonically limited. This is among the many cultural differences that exacerbate the debate.

Finally, I note that Katharine began with the numbers game again, referring numerous times to the majority view in ECUSA versus the minority view in the Anglican Communion. I for one do not find this helpful, especially when there is no democratic means of determining real majorities and minorities elsewhere. Moreover, the truth is not always to be found in the majority. I think it would be helpful to avoid the numbers game. We should stick to the Gospel game.

I continue to be grateful for Katharine's leaderhip. I can't imagine a better person to be our Presiding Bishop through these difficult times. Sure, I don't agree with everything she says or does, but I give her my loyalty and gratitude for service. Let's hope there are more conversations like this one. Wouldn't it be great of +Peter Akinola would talk with us too? Or +Rowan Williams?

No comment: mission cuts to fund palaces?

This is relevant to an Inclusive Church blog, I think, inasmuch as the extent to which we focus on mission is the extent to which we'll live as the church. I enthusiastically support any focus on mission, and I'm sceptical of any distraction from mission. From an article in today's Guardian:

The Church of England is considering cutting spending on parish missions and theological textbooks to help meet the rising cost of its bishops' palaces, it emerged yesterday. Figures released at the church's general synod in London showed that the church's spending on bishops, including their official residences, has risen by 40% in two years, from £20.7m to £29.5m.

To accommodate the costs, the house of bishops privately agreed last month to give a lower priority to sustaining the church's £4.7m parish mission fund - the money spent on maintaining its local proselytising efforts - and even to cutting spending on books for theological students completely...

It also emerged that young clergy will have to work three years longer in order to qualify for full pensions when they retire. The church's pensions fund has been under pressure for some years, partly because clergy are longer lived than most other professions, but also because the Church Commissioners, managers of its investments, lost at least £600m in the 1990s through imprudent management.

Crisis in Nigeria

+Peter Akinola and company like to quote Lambeth 1.10 ad nauseam. Here's one part we don't often hear from them: "any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care."

Against that backdrop, the Nigerian legislature is about to further demonize gay and lesbian Nigerians. +Peter Akinola and +Rowan Williams have been silent on this one, which is morally outrageous, given their quick willingness to speak up about ECUSA at the drop of a hat.

Dear readers, this is a time to do something. Political Spaghetti has the recipe for action.

27 February 2007

Compliance Office? Wha??!!

OK, so apparently we Anglicans need to add a fourth leg to our stool of authority: scripture, tradition, reason, and now the Primates' Communique. Really?

It seem that this is what the AAC wants us to do. They're so keen on the Communique that they're going to set up a Communique Compliance Office. Here's what I think of that. The Primates' are trying to grant themselves unprecedented authority. The AAC, and others, are content to go along with that when it's convenient. (Of course, they're also happy to make ridiculous extrapolations suggesting that the primates have demanded +Gene Robinson's resignation, if Ruth Gledhill can be believed on this one.)

Here's my proposal. I'd like to set up a Gospel Compliance Office. I'll go to work in my new office immediately, if someone wants to fund this one. I'll be looking for a church that follows Jesus' example by inviting those at the margins of society into fellowship, by serving those in greatest needs, by standing up to the powers-that-be, and by loving the most challenging people in the world.

One of the first puzzles of my new office will be to deal with the AAC itself. It seems that their website indicates a remarkable willingness to engage in subtlety with respect to divorce: "Divorce is always contrary to God's original intention, though in a fallen world it is sometimes a tragic necessity." Jesus actually had something to say about divorce, whereas he was silent on homosexuality, so I'll be calling David Anderson to ask about this.

Isn't that ridiculous? Who could imagine a church with a Gospel Compliance Office? I guess in our post-ironic world, with a proposed Communique Compliance Office, nothing seems out of the question.

The Minns reality distortion field

When I got back from Tanzania, I was immediately immersed in a backlog of parish work, so this blog has suffered some neglect. I'm (sort of) caught up now, so a few posts over the next day or so will catch me up to the latest goings-on, I hope. So, blogosphere, rants await...

I think +Martyn Minns went to a different Primates' Meeting than I did. He writes (in a letter to CANA, PDF):

...the Primates concluded that The Episcopal Church had NOT responded adequately to the requests of The Windsor Report and gave them one last chance with a date certain set for September 30, 2007. The Primates were clear that after that there will be serious, though not yet specified, consequences. It is clear that The Episcopal Church must decide if it will uphold the biblical teachings of the Anglican Communion or choose to walk apart.

Um, no. The sub-group report pretty much gave ECUSA 2.5 out of 3.0 stars for "Windsor compliance." As for the choice to "walk apart," I think only one group of primates has chosen to do that thus far. That would include your own primate, Martyn. Ask +Peter Akinola about walking apart, if you're going to ask anyone. He has walked part from the Anglican Communion, quite literally excommunicating himself from his primatial colleagues and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

With regard to CANA, we were recognized as having a valid place in the life and work of the Anglican Communion, under the Primate of Nigeria, and our mission and ministry understood as prompted by our desire to serve as faithful Anglicans.

Um, no again. You are told that you need to negotiate with the leadership of ECUSA and the appointed Primatial Vicar for a place. Sorry, Martyn, but you'll need to accept +Katharine as your primate if you're going to operate in the US and stay in communion with Canterbury.

My frustration comes when Martyn and company pretend that they have a lock on biblical teaching, church history, the Anglican Communion, and truth itself. I seem to recall the response who know-it-alls in the Gospels. Seems like Jesus usually managed to point out that we all need a good dose of humility, and that God's love is in the most surprising places. Would Jesus be issuing demands, setting deadlines, and quoting laws in order to keep people out of the church and deny them God's blessing? I think not.

25 February 2007

PBS show features Primates' Meeting

This week's episode of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly features a story on the Primates' Meeting. You can read a transcript and view the episode here. Vanity note: yours truly makes a very brief appearance in said show.

23 February 2007

Comment moderation is off, for now

In order to facilitate conversation on this blog, I am turning off comment moderation. My primary concern was spam, but I'm hoping the requirement for registration will eliminate this problem. I have approved every comment so far, but there has often been a substantial delay from the time the comment was made until the time it appeared here. No moderation means we can have quick conversations.

Please be civil in what you say, and be respectful of others. Disagreement and dissent are most welcome, but my hope is that we'll be able to share in conversation across our many points of view.

So, please comment away!

The conservatives are trying to spin this in their favor

I wrote that the conservatives in Dar es Salaam were spitting mad. Now back home, it seems that some of them are planning to just ignore the whole communique. This will get interesting. Example one: The AMiA says, in part:

We remain thankful that the AMiA enjoys a secure home in the Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and the assurances of our Archbishop that this will not change without our request and/or consent.

I get it, AMiA. You're planning to ignore that parts of the communique that require you to work under the jurisdiction of the to-be-appointed primatial vicar? I guess it fits the pattern. Proof-text the Bible. Proof-text Lambeth 1.10. Proof-text the communique.

So, AMiA, will you be so gracious to allow the Episcopal Church to ignore the parts of the communiqe that we don't like, if we so choose?

Also, just for the record, it seems that +Peter Akinola couldn't be bothered to read the communique either. Maybe he was in the conservatives' war room when some of this was discussed. Now it seems he's going around talking about a cessation of "same sex marriage" and the ordination of "homosexuals." Um, +Peter, the communique doesn't address either one. We don't do the first, and we're only talking about bishops who are living in same-sex relationships. No one has said a word asking us to stop ordaining LGBT people, and we fully plan to continue ordaining LGBT deacons and priests.

(My attention was drawn to the AMiA reponse by Mark Harris. His post is well worth reading.)

Bonnie to bishops: you don't run the church alone

Today Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, has issued a statement. I predicted this. Publicly, I talked about the way Executive Council will need to respond to some of the primates' requests, and a few of them might even have to wait until General Convention 2009. In the meantime, the House of Bishops can express opinions -- and agree amongst themselves not to do certain things. (Though they may be violating our own constitution of they do this!)

Here's an excerpt from Bonnie's statment:

The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.

Some are asking whether the Primates can ask our House of Bishops to take certain actions and put a deadline on their request. Yes, they can ask. There are larger questions that need to be addressed, including: Is it a good idea for our House of Bishops to do what they have asked? Is the House of Bishops the right body within the Episcopal Church to respond to the Primates' requests?

Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin...

Our tradition of autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion, that come together because of our love of Christ and our common heritage, has allowed us to focus on mission and evangelism to our broken world which is in desperate need of the Good News of God in Christ. In recent times, however, we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.

This sentiment expresses one of the reasons I've been less despairing of our situation than some others. I fully agree that we must move toward a fully inclusive church, and we should not surrender any of the progress we have made. I am confident that Bonnie Anderson, our Executive Council, and our General Convention will continue to preach and practice the fullness of our baptismal covenant. My hopeful response to Tanzania lies in the outcome having been better than I expected (ECUSA still the only legitimate Anglican body in the US and Bishop Katharine seated, affirmed, and elected to the primates' standing committee).

Bonnie will speak loudly to keep our bishops from asking that we violate our constitution, our baptismal vows, or our obediance to the Gospel commandment to love one another.

21 February 2007

More thoughts on the cost of Communion

I've just come back from an Ash Wednesday service at St. Alban's Cathedral here in Dar es Salaam. It was a vivid reminder to me of the value of the Anglican Communion. I could still have attended the service without an Anglican Communion, but it would not be my Communion. And that would be a shame.

I didn't understand a word of the service. It was all in Swahili. But I understand everything important about the service. I understood that we were all there to praise God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I understood that we are all sinners, especially as I knelt and ashes were placed on my forehead. And, finally, I understood that in the life of Jesus Christ we are redeemed, especially as I knelt and received Christ's Body and Blood.

The structure of the service was high church Anglican, so it was pretty easy to know what was happening. The only part of the service I couldn't comprehend at all, but whatever the preacher said was delivered with gusto. As I was leaving the church, several people greeted me. I was easy to spot. I was the only white person there. People were, as Tanzanians always seem to be, endlessly warm, friendly, and hospitable.

I was be saddened if we lost our special fellowship with our sisters and brothers around the globe. I've been reading some of the reactions to the Primates' Meeting. There has been some criticism of my own initially optimistic reading. Fine. I can handle disagreement, and I even enjoy the conversations it creates.

Here's why I still think this is was a positive outcome for the movement toward an inclusive church. One of the real possibilities was the immediate breakup of the Communion. Another was a rollback of the gains LGBT people have made in ECUSA. A second province to rival ECUSA was possible. All of these have been averted.

Instead, it appears to me (I'm prepared to admit I'm quite wrong!) after a quick reading that our current status quo is preserved. General Convention's actions have been endorsed, and our church has been asked to clarify its position on Rites of Blessing for same-sex couples.

Sure, I would much prefer to have full inclusion immediately. And if we are asked to roll back what we've gained, I think the cost of Communion has become too high. By staying in Communion, we from ECUSA are able to have built-in relationships to strengthen the movement for inclusion around the globe. Priests will still bless same-sex couples, but they will not be able to do this -- much to my dismay -- with officially authorized texts. So I'll Anglicanize another more progressive denomination's prayers or write my own or use Google or...

We have much work to do. Of that I am certain. But I'd rather us be doing it with people from around the world, who look to us for hope and inspiration. If ECUSA is cut off from the Anglican Communion, it will be much harder to witness to people in other nations.

For the first time, the dissidents in the US will be reined in. I don't know exactly what a Primatial Vicar will do, or how that will work, but I'm confident in our Executive Council. They will not approve a scheme that bypasses Bishop Katharine entirely, and our canons would not permit that anyway. Bishop Jack Iker will still need to face the fact that his primate is a woman.

In all this, we'll have some great conversations. The primates of the Anglican Communion will soon learn, I'm sure, from others that we may not approve of their power grab (see the last section of the communique). The House of Bishops in the US will be reminded, I'm sure, that lay people and other clergy have a role in church governance. But we're doing all this work in the Communion.

Bishop Katharine's place is secure is the primate of all those Americans legitimately in communion with Canterbury, and she's even on the primates' standing committee. And that is all good.

Don't get me wrong. I will continue to pray daily for a church that lives the Gospel by welcoming all people fully, with no regard for...anything. This was, in many respects, disappointing to me. I know it especially hurts for my lesbian and gay friends, and I look forward to hearing more from them. I choose to believe that we're headed in the right direction, albeit too slowly. Let us hope that this is true.

Statement from Inclusive Church

Inclusive Church has issued a statement following the Primates' Meeting. This is a release from the executive of Inclusive Church in the UK. This follows a statement from those of us who were in Dar es Salaam. I encourage you to read both. I'm posting the most recent release here in full, and you can read the statement from Dar es Salaam in a previous post.

PRESS RELEASE

We acknowledge the huge complexity of the issues which the Primates of the Communion brought to Tanzania and the fears and expectations which surrounded the meeting.

In that context we congratulate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow Primates on their achievement of a united communiqué. We are acutely aware that compromises have been made by all sides. This is a sign of the great generosity of those present at the meeting.

There is a cost to discipleship and sometimes it is high. The cost demanded of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is immense, and has been for generations. The continuing failure of the Communion to address the pastoral needs and receive the ministerial gifts and insights of the whole community is part of that cost.

The heart of the Gospel for us is not about sexuality. The continuing arguments are damaging the Church’s mission and undermining the Gospel. Anglicanism has in its DNA the ability to embrace diversity. For example we recognise diversity over the nature of the Sacraments, in worship, and in the interpretation of scripture.

Why then are parts of the church so obsessed by the single issue of homosexuality? It is not a defining issue nor can it be the benchmark of orthodoxy.

We are pleased that the 'listening process' called for by the Windsor Report is receiving serious attention from the Primates, as is the consideration of a common hermeneutical method. But the listening process must not be a sop to lesbian and gay people and their supporters. It cannot be undertaken without those involved being open to the possibility of change. So far there is little evidence of that openness.

As the debate becomes more disconnected from the reality of everyday life of those we serve, it is increasingly clear that TEC is becoming a scapegoat. For example, the demand for TEC to forswear same sex blessings ignores the reality that across the Church of England such blessings are happening right across the country as parish priests respond to the pastoral needs of their community.

We acknowledge the pain experienced on all sides and we would not wish to see those who disagree with us being driven from the church. If that happened all of us would be the poorer. Therefore we commit ourselves as members of an inclusive church to continue the process of dialogue and relationship to which the Primates have called us.

Overshadowed by the rest of the report, the Primates recommitted themselves to the Millennium Development Goals. It is clear to us that in a world riven by injustice and poverty we should be uniting in raising our voices to ensure that those goals are met so that the gospel can be proclaimed afresh for a new generation

20 February 2007

Off the grid for a few hours...

I'm headed off to see some nature and recover from the Primates' Meeting. I'm in the last Internet cafe before this sort of thing ends. After seeing some animals (I hope!) and spending the night, I'll be headed back to Internet-land tomorrow. Look for some news then. If you leave comments in the meantime, they'll be on hold pending moderation.

In the meantime, you can follow things at Thinking Anglicans.

I'll look forward to reading all the reactions to recent events.

19 February 2007

Response to the Primates' Meeting

This statment has been released by InclusiveChurch, Changing Attitude England, and Changing Attitude Nigeria. Signers include the Revd Colin Coward, the Revd Giles Goddard, the Revd Scott Gunn, and Mr Davis Mac-Iyalla. I'm posting just the statement here. You can find the accompanying press release over on the CA site for now, and soon to appear elsewhere.

STATEMENT ON THE PRIMATES MEETING OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

Full Inclusion
We celebrate the fact that the majority of Primates have modelled what it means to be an inclusive church this week, welcoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from the Episcopal Church of the USA. Bishop Katharine has brought hope to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans across the world. She is committed to the full inclusion of all people in the Episcopal Church. Her voice will remind other primates that Gospel justice will not have been accomplished until the church is fully open to everyone, including LGBT people. Her presence has changed the Primates Meeting from being an exclusively male club. Another step has been taken towards the full inclusion of women in our church. We long for the day when all people are welcomed into the church, without regard to race, sexual orientation, economic means, gender, physical or mental challenge, or any other division.

Listening Process
We approve of the progress made by the Revd Canon Philip Groves as he develops his work on the listening process, inviting every province in the Communion to demonstrate how they are responding to the Lambeth 1.10 commitment to listen. We look forward to the development of his proposals for the Lambeth Conference 2008 and offer our full support to him in his work.

We hope that the Listening Process will be undertaken by every Province with the awareness that to listen properly means being open to the possibility of change by all involved. We trust the Holy Spirit, through this process and through our common Anglican life, to lead us into all truth.

The primates and the bishops who will gather at the Lambeth Conference 2008 have yet to hear directly from LGBT people. This remains a major challenge for the church. The listening process needs to be undertaken in every province and by every primate and bishop. We urge renewed emphasis on the listening process throughout the Communion.

Same-sex blessings
The cost of the decision not to authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in the Episcopal Church is a serious means that LGBT people in America are being asked to carry an intolerable burden. As in England and other parts of the Communion which acknowledge that God blesses covenanted, faithful relationships, we know that priests with the courage of their own spiritual convictions will continue to welcome those who come for blessing.

Covenant
We welcome the framework of the draft covenant for the Anglican Communion. For 500 years Anglicanism has been a creedal, rather than a confessional church. We believe that the ancient creeds of the church are sufficient now, as they have been for over 1,600 years. We remain concerned about the increased tendency in Anglicanism to centralise authority.

In particular we welcome the commitment to ensure that 'biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively and coherently' [3(3)], to 'nurture and respond to prophetic and faithful leadership and ministry to assist our Churches as courageous witnesses to the transformative power of the Gospel in the world' [3(4)] and 'to seek to transform unjust structures of society' [4.1].

Theological Diversity
From its inception, the church has been diverse in its theological understanding. We believe that in our many diverse cultures it is to be expected that people will experience God and express their faith in a variety of ways appropriate to their own culture. In our conversations with Tanzanian Anglicans from local congregations, we have heard that while they may not agree with our own view of human sexuality, there is a high level of understanding and acceptance of diversity. They view the threat of schism as posing a great danger to local mission and evangelism, while they continue to hope for a global, diverse Anglican Communion.

As we work to build up the Kingdom of God, we urge sensitivity in our diverse cultures, that not all cultures people are prepared to welcome LGBT at this time.

Working together
Members of Inclusive Church, Integrity USA, and Changing Attitude Nigeria and England have worked together in harmony this week. We have prayed for the Primates. We have given many interviews to the press and media. We have built friendships with other Anglicans across our diversity of opinions. We have talked to many members of the Tanzanian press and helped them some of them begin to understand the experience of LGBT people. We have made contact with LGBT Anglicans from Tanzania and we hope to build on our new friendships. Those Primates who spoke with us encouraged us to work for the unity of the Anglican Communion and for the full inclusion of all, and especially LGBT people.

Prayers
We encourage all people to pray for the primates, bishops, clergy, and people of the Anglican Communion. We especially urge prayer for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Primate of Nigeria Peter Akinola, and the Primate of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori. Each of these three Primates faces tremendous pressure of leadership, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them.

Conclusion: Hope for living the Gospel
We look forward to a time when our conversations will be dominated by concerns of mission, evangelism, and service rather than by threats of discrimination, persecution, and schism.

We read the Gospels as commending radical inclusion. Jesus again and again shared meals with outcasts, treasured those whom the culture rejected, and taught that religious practice must be loving. St. Paul urged the earliest Christian communities to be people of Gospel love and hope, rather than people enslaved to the Law. We firmly believe that LGBT Christians belong at the centre of our common life in Christ, not at the margins.

We hope that the church will live this vision. In short, we seek a church that embraces all people as Gods precious children. We want an inclusive church.

Primates' Meeting -- what does it all mean?

What does it all mean? Indeed. That will take some time to figure out, as all of us parse the released documents and speak with others. Here are some preliminary thoughts on the Communique and Covenant.

No one can say this means victory. Progressives will need to find a way to accept the clear requirement to refrain from consecrating as bishops those who live in same-sex unions. (Though it says nothing about LGBT bishops otherwise.) We need to agree that no Rites of Blessing will be authorized.

For their part, American conservatives, especially ECUSA dissidents, will need to agree that Bishop Katharine is their primate, though they'll have a primatial vicar. They have to deal with the fact that Bishop Katharine is now a member of what was until recently the primatial old boys' club, and they even have to reckon with her on the Primates' Standing Committee. Looks like +Peter Akinola won't be having any communion at Lambeth or the Primates' Meetings any time soon.

The sacrifice of LGBT Anglicans is high. But for the first time, conservatives are being held to account as well. Their jurisdictional incursions must cease. Instead of seeing +Katharine pushed off to the side, she's been elected to their standing committee.

So far, my reaction is guarded, but optimistic. ECUSA continues, and there will be no parallel province for conservatives. The Communion is intact, and even +Peter Akinola signed this statement. While LGBT Anglicans are giving up an extraordinary amount, our ability to witness justice and love to the wider communion continues. Had ECUSA been marginalized, our program of global mission might have been compromised. Now we can model reconciliation and love to people in the whole Anglican Communion.

I hasten to add that +Katharine cannot enforce this within ECUSA on her own. She'll need to get the House of Bishops to agree with her, and for some things, the Executive Council. I can imagine the bishops going right along, but I think some of this will be tough for the Executive Council to sign off on. Particularly challenging will be th notion that the primatial vicar reports to an external Pastoral Council, but is somehow under the jurisdiction of the Primate. It's very late here, but I can't grok this now. Will the Executive Council permit a bishop to operate in our church who leapfrogs over the Primate? I doubt it, but we'll see. This is unexplored polity territory, but I think Executive Council will need to approve this, not just the bishops -- and there are some strong-minded people on Council.

As I parse all of this further, I may change my mind. But for now, this seems like the best we could have hoped for. The fact that the conservatives were very unhappy about all this suggests that they've parsed it the same way I have.

Breaking: draft covenant released

The draft of the proposed covenant is out. On a very fast first reading, it seems OK, if one accepts the idea that a covenant is acceptable within the Anglican ethos.

The section which concerns me most is the very last section. It basically suggests that we should seek accord in controversial matters and -- this is a gross simplification -- let the primates decide everything. I understand that the primates would put themselves in power, but I think they might want to contemplate +Rowan's sermon yesterday. If we're going to have a supreme authority, which I wholly oppose, the ACC would be a much more logical choice. But then, the ACC has lay people as constituent members, and when did bishops ever let lay people do anything?

I would welcome reactions and comments from others. This still isn't out on the blogosphere, but I'm sure the opinions will be flying soon. Remember, my reading was very quick.

Breaking: press conference delayed

The press conference, scheduled for 6:45 p.m., has not begun. It is almost an hour late. I have solid information about the reasons for the delay, and some of the news that will emerge. From what I have heard, things are looking very good from an Inclusive Church perspective.

Will post news when I can, as soon as the conference is over. Also, Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude will release a statement as quickly as possible once the event is over.

Media contacts, please contact me by email for information and interviews. I can be reached in Tanzania by mobile phone. Other contacts are available also.

UPDATE: The press conference will now be at 11:00 p.m., local time, at the earliest. Also, one of the news items I was not prepared to post yet has now appeared elsewhere online. Ruth Gledhill of The Times is reporting that Bishop Katharine has been elected to the Primates' Standing Committee.

Plenty of blog fodder just around the corner.

A few hours ago, Jim Rosenthal gave a brief briefing, in which he indicated that this evening's press briefing will cover the communique and proposed covenant. More details on Jim's comments are here. He's hopeful that a copy of the proposed covenant will be available for us here around an hour before the the press briefing. That would be at 5:45 p.m. local time, in about 45 minutes. So if that happens, we'll know much more about the future of the Anglican Communion and ECUSA.

Jim Naughton says I was pessimistic, though that was not my intent. All I'm saying is that all of us are going to have to ponder what it means to be in communion. Whatever your position in all this, we can no longer take communion or the Anglican Communion for granted.

I'm actually optimistic that, one way or the other, the mission of the church will go on. Lives will be transformed, love will spread, justice will increase, and the Gospel will be proclaimed. My only worry is that it might be too long until all of God's children are welcome in God's church.

Correction: I am happy to report I was wrong about Eucharistic sharing

It appears that I was wrong when I wrote that +John Chew did not receive communion yesterday. I had wondered why he would be a minister distributing the Eucharist in which he did not share. Now, according to someone who was able to see quite clearly, it appears that the answer is known. +John Chew did, in fact, receive communion.

So what does this mean? On Thursday, the so-called Global South primates issued a statement saying that they would not share Eucharist with Bishop Katharine. Now it appears that +John Chew has decided that he can find it in his heart and conscience to receive communion with his primatial colleagues. This bodes well, I think, for the Communion.

We still do not know what kind of statement(s) will be issued today. But we do know that +Peter Akinola increasingly seems to be walking apart from the Anglican Communion. Only he did not appear in Zanzibar, and now some of his brethren are back in communion with Canterbury and the rest.

Another hopeful sign, I think, is that +Henry Orombi of Uganda was walking around with +Rowan during a tour of the cathedral grounds yesterday afternoon. They are at least cordial with one another, and +Henry was willing to be photographed with +Rowan. +Henry was not visible to reporters, so we do not know if he received communion yesterday. I still consider it a hopeful sign that he is walking with +Rowan in public.

Only a few hours until we'll know more. Mostly, I wanted to set the record straight. I am very pleased that I was wrong about +John. (I'm not happy I wrote incorrect information, but I am pleased to learn that the information I had received and passed along was not correct. I apologize to +John, and I hope we will see more primates return to communion with +Rowan.)

What is the Communion worth?

Today will be the telling day. Right down to the wire, the primates are working to craft a single statement. Some reports indicate that a minority statement will be issued by the so-called Global South primates. Other sources expect a single report that chastises ECUSA and demands immediate repentance.

Today we'll finally have some answers, rather than another day of unending schism-is-nearly-upon-us articles. Depending on how things shake out today, we may begin a cycle of will-ECUSA-grovel-enough-to-stay-in-the-Communion articles.

So we should all begin asking ourselves what the Communion is worth. The Akinolites seem to feel that putting pressure on +Rowan is more important than feasting in the Eucharist. Yesterday, they chose to use this sacrament as a political weapon in their struggle, so their value on the Communion must be high, though I still can't quite fathom it.

Akinola has said that the Church of England may not be Anglican enough. Hello? What is the definition of the Anglican Communion other than communion with the See of Canterbury. So, +Peter, if one of you isn't Anglican enough, the problem isn't +Rowan. So again, what's up?

Then there are haunting questions for us progressives. +Rowan may tacitly endorse a second province in the US, which would be a disaster. The alphabet soup of dissident groups would only proliferate once disunity is built into our polity. And what would stop me from traveling to Lagos to set up a missionary parish for moderate Nigerian Anglicans (which may represent a sizable portion of +Peter's church)? Already, the dissenting statement has begun to exact a price on Communion-wide relations. Is the Communion so precious to us that we would ask our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ to make further sacrifices? Can we ignore our vision of a Gospel mandate of complete love and radical inclusion live in a law-based Christianity?

I hope, for the sake of our mission -- and the fullness of the church on earth -- that we can find a way forward together. We need to talk with +Peter, and he needs to talk with us. Rowan sent a clear message yesterday about humility, repentance, and love. Let's hope everyone was listening. It's a pity +Peter wasn't there to hear. I hope he does not continue to walk apart.

18 February 2007

Photos! Sunday

Here are some photos from Zanzibar. See my report on the Eucharist this morning. There are more photos here, with the newer photos at the end of the stream.
















+Rowan Williams preached a brilliant sermon in English, with a Swahili interpreter.


























+Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, gets her first glimpse of Stone Town in Zanzibar.


























+John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, spends a few quiet moments at a monument to slavery. Christ Church Cathedral sits directly over the spot where the last slave trading post was operated.














Like I keep saying, the best thing about Tanzania is the people. Here is a group of children who were present to greet all the primates as they arrived at the cathedral. Maybe the primates should spend more time with these kids and less time with each other bickering. I seem to remember something about the kingdom of God and children.

Sunday: Akinola missed out

Today was the day when the primates and sundry hangers-on (yours truly included among them) went to Zanzibar for a festive Eucharist. I think if more people experienced Rowan's preaching and African singing, we'd all be in better shape. The service was held in Christ Church Cathedral, built over the site of the last slave trading post. The image and reality of good triumphing over evil is powerful indeed.

All of the primates went on the trip, with the exception of dissenting bishop Peter Akinola. The other so-called Global South primates attended the service, but appeared to not receive communion. Interestingly, +John Chew did not receive communion, but he was willing to serve in the liturgy distributing consecrated bread. I don't quite understand why one would be a liturgical minister in a service to which one objects in principle, but I'm sure he has worked something out.

For me, the highlights of the service were the music and the sermon. The service was pretty traditional high church liturgy, with bells, incense, and all the trimmings. Most of the service was in English, though parts were said and sung in Swahili. A vested choir led the procession and sung glorious anthems. The congregation -- numbering some 500 -- sang with great gusto, mostly from memory and in four-part harmony. Hundreds more sat outside under tents, watching the service on televisions and listen on loudspeakers.

+Rowan's sermon was brilliant. Delivered in English with interpretation into Swahili, +Rowan spoke a message of God's love and its ability to open us for greating things. He challenged bishops, especially, to be humble. He talked about joining at the Eucharistic table in a rainbow of diversity. And his main point was that there was one thing bishops should say to other bishops: "I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior."

The sermon began with +Rowan's observation that his family's home parish has a memorial to Frank Weston in its entrance. For readers who may not know, Weston had global influence as bishop of Zanzibar, challenging people to live lives that take seriously the Incarnation. That meant, in Weston's view, that one should see each person as Christ. +Rowan also talked about
the slave trade -- and its end. At one time, +Rowan said, this evil was accepted, but light gradually dawned. He wondered what else we might need to learn.

It was hard not to see his sermon as a challenged to the primates to be open, to let love triumph over hatred and fear, and to find ways to stay together. Unfortunately, +Peter Akinola missed all this. He stayed behind in Dar, presumably working with conservative leaders on his next move.

What if his next move was complete love? What if he said to the others: here is where I will begin to sacrifice, and I would like to hear your views? What if he had been fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus with his primatial colleagues? Alas, that was not to be.

NOTE: I'll have many photos up shortly. ACNS should have a sermon transcript up in the next day or so (please read the whole thing). You can read the AP report here.

17 February 2007

Photos! Saturday

Here are today's photos. More here -- the newer ones are at the end of the stream. Today's round of photos goes with this recent posting about the Buguruni Anglican Health Centre. There are more photos in the Flickr set, but I didn't capture the most moving scenes, since I did not want to photograph patients at the clinic.




























Henry and Priscilla Ziegler are pictured with a Tanzanian staff member at the Buruguni Anglican Health Centre in Dar es Salaam. (I'll get the correct spelling of the woman's name, and then post it here soon, I hope.)














The lab at the clinic, with some very modern, hi-tech equipment.

















The best reason to come to Tanzania: the friendly, warm people who live here.

The real news of the Church at work

As I just mentioned, I did not attend the press briefing tonight. Instead, I met with Henry and Priscilla Ziegler, two ECUSA missionaries who live and work in Dar es Salaam. They run the Buguruni Anglican Health Centre in the Diocese of Dar es Salaam. Henry is a doctor, and Priscilla is trained in public health. Together they are working to improve health conditions in one of the poor neighborhoods of this large city.

Not many people seem to know about the Episcopal Church's Appointed Missionary Program. In this program, missionaries are sent for three years to do the work of the Church. Sometimes they are sent to poor areas of the US, but most often they work in developing countries. The Episcopal Church pays a few benefits, the missionaries are expected to raise considerable funds, and the receiving diocese contributes lodging or other support.

Anyway, the Zieglers are running an amazing place. Photos will be posted shortly. They showed me around the clinic, and they we went out for dinner. In addition to the terrific work they're doing, they are delightful people to share an evening with. The atmosphere of the clinic is filled with their warmth, love, and generous spirit.

The Anglican Health Centre serves over 100 patients each day, offering a range of services. In addition to basic health care, they have a labor & delivery unit, a few overnight beds, a lab, and a dispensary. They are working with government officials to receive permission to open an AIDS treatment unit. There are three doctors on staff, and other medical professionals. The fee to see a doctor is 500 Tanzanian Shillings, which is about 40 US cents.

Beyond the clinic itself, the Anglican Health Centre works to make a difference in the lives of many people in their neighborhood. They run health education programs. One new initiative will show movies using a portable projector, speakers, an inverter, and vehicle batteries. Using this setup, they can project health education movies onto the walls of buildings around the city. Because television is novel, people will watch an hour-long program on health.

All this is being done in a way that will make the Zieglers dispensable. They want this clinic to keep getting better when they leave, so they are training management leaders who can take over when the Americans return home. These people have come across the world to serve others, and they are doing this not for their glory, but for the glory of God. Talk with the Zieglers, and you'll understand mission: a passionate commitment to make the love of Jesus Christ tangible in our world.

This is one of the reasons we need to keep a global communion. The experience of the Zieglers might not happen otherwise. The lives of people who hear from the Zieglers (whether in Dar or in the US) would not be transformed in the same way. The lives of people in Dar es Salaam might not be saved. Fewer people would know the love of Jesus Christ. When I talk with the Zieglers and then contemplate a group of fighting primates in the White Sands enclase, I grieve.

No one seems to care that the Zieglers are from ECUSA. No one seems to ask about their views on human sexuality. It didn't really come up in our conversation this evening. What we did talk about was serving God. And that's how the church is. Most people don't want to squabble over who can sleep with whom. They want to save lives and love God.

------------
You can help. Want to learn more about the Buguruni Anglican Health Centre? They have a foundation web site. They would be happy to receive other visitors, but they also need financial support. With USD 10,000, they could buy an ultrasound unit to help especially in their prenatal care. Another USD 10,000 would computerize their lab, which is desperately needed as they outpace their ability to serve patients. There are other ways they could use help. Read about the clinic and consider a donation. And definitely pray. Pray for them, for all whom they serve, and for the Anglican Communion. That's a no-brainer.

What's going on? Much? Little? Hard to say

Tonight I skipped the press briefing -- more on that in the next post. I haven't read around the blogosphere too much yet, but these notes suggest that no more Communion-shattering news was revealed. That was yesterday, when seven dissenting primates walked apart from their sister and brothers. As an aside, Peter Ould says that some number of primates were present in the service but did not receive communion. He says this brings the number of separated primates to around a third of the total. I'm not sure how he got that information, but it seems plausible.

My hope is for a church that includes (and actively welcomes and invites) all of God's children. I do not intend to compel people to stay, when they clearly feel called to find another spiritual home. I'm still mulling this one, but I can't quite contemplate why these primates wish to stay in the Communion when they literally will not practice communion.

It seems that there was some discussion of the Milennium Development Goals and the theological education initiative on hermeneutics. I didn't find any mention of the discussion on ECUSA in the summary notes; since I wasn't at the press briefing I won't even speculate about what was or wasn't said.

I'm delighted the primates spent time on the MDGs today. That is something in which they could do some productive work together. Perhaps that will facilitate further conversations on mission and theology. As I wrote earlier, I'm not sure what to make of the theological education initiative. Perhaps I'll have something sagacious to offer in the next couple of days. Or not.

Tomorrow we'll all see exactly who is still in communion with Canterbury. The service at the cathedral in Zanzibar will be remarkable, I'm quite confident. News is on the way...

Visual journalism

It's on many blogs, but if you haven't seen it, I encourage you to visit the entry by CartoonChurch on what's happening here. It seems just about right to me.

A quiet day here in Dar

All the reporters, bloggers, video types, and hangers-on are sitting around asking each other if there's any news. As you might guess, the answer is "no." Today the primates are talking about the initiative for a Communion-wide conversation on hermeneutics. Some see this as a stalling tactic, and others perceive this as a necessary pre-condition for global reconciliation, since people understand the Bible differently in different contexts. I think it might be a little of both.

The primates are also talking about ECUSA today. The word is that this conversation is a bit strained, but that people are talking. Who knows what that means? I still think we have not heard enough about the other "Windsor problem," namely the unwelcome interventions across province lines. Will there be a Panel of Reference request with regard to +Peter Akinola in Virginia? What would the response be if ECUSA were to set up a missionary jurisdiction in another province?

Tomorrow there will be news. The primates are celebrating a festive Eucharist at the cathedral in Zanzibar. Your intrepid reporter will be there, suffering through a ferry ride to this beautiful tropical island, with glorious architecture, stunning natural beauty, and delightful people. Oh, the burden of all this pleasure just before Lent. In any case, will there be empty seats in the primates' section during the service? Presumably so, and then we'll be able to see that the Anglican Communion, by definition, has already been abandoned by a few primates. We'll have photographs to show this, though presumably the dissenting primates will appear for the group photo on the cathedral steps. I wonder where they'll pass the time while the rest of us are feasting together as the gathered Body of Christ?

16 February 2007

It's all a numbers game?

In their statement on the Church of Nigeria website, seven dissenting primates mention that "they represent more than 30 million Angicans." I note that the conservatives like to mention numbers, except when it's not convenient.

It would not have done to mention that they represent a minority of Anglicans (30 million out of 77 million) or that they are 7 out of 38 provinces. No, they wanted to make their numbers look as impressive as possible.

Well, speaking of numbers, what about ECUSA? When the church's democratic process works, they don't like it. But those votes are numbers. A majority of Episcopalians have indicated their preferences for women's ministry, the welcome place of gays & lesbians, the 1979 prayer book, and so on. But these votes (numbers!) are often dismissed for one reason or another. (Jan Nunley notes some "fun with numbers" on her blog.)

So here are a couple of numbers questions, so-called Global South primates: if it's about bigger-is-better, then why don't you join with Rome? If it's about numerical growth, why don't you become Mormons or Muslims?

No, you know that it's not really about numbers. So why mention them?

Friday -- reflections on the day

This was a more interesting, and important, day than yesterday. For various reasons, I'm late writing about the evening press briefing, but plenty of others have already commented on it. You can read notes from the briefing here. ENS has a release out, but it's not on the website as I write this (due to the Internet woes that afflict those staying at the White Sands).

So, we are told by our briefers, that things were generally good today, apart from some tension around issues of the Episcopal Church's response to Windsor. The primates discussed the proposal by the Covenant Design Group, and that discussion was fruitful. No real indication was given about the Covenants's contents, but we were told that it is not about issues. Not sure what that means, exactly. Jim Rosenthal was hopeful that we'd all get copies of the draft as early as Monday. Let's see...there was also discussion of the Panel of Reference and the Listening Process. Not much actual info about the discussions, the content, or the tenor of the conversation.

What does it all mean? It's still too early to say. An optimistic reading would point out that everyone is still talking; no one has stormed out of the Meeting. Our briefers talk about "intense listening," and that sounds pretty good. On the flip side, the primates of the Communion can't even share communion together, as I blogged earlier today. We have no specifics, so I wouldn't hazard a guess about how things are really going. The primates who have emerged to share time with us have all been in a good mood, it seems.

Generally, I think the most significant development was the self-imposed Eucharistic exile of the so-called Global South primates. I can't overemphasize the theological statement this makes. I also note that those same primates issued a statement on the Church of Nigeria website, against the agreement the primates themselves had reached not to comment during the Meeting. When asked about this during the briefing tonight, Aspinall, Gomez, and Rosenthal all seemed surprised to hear that the statement was public.

So here's the score: the primates are (mostly) still in the same room, talking with and listening to one another. That's in the plus column. In the minus column, they can't share the Body of Christ together. We won't know the real score until we hear more about the content of their discussions and read their final communique.

Photos! Friday

Here are a few photos from today.
























Archbishop Akinola avoids press contact on one of his trips from the conservative leaders' meeting that took place today during the Primates' Meeting.















The BBC is at work. At left, Andrew Fenner is working up a segment for the television program "Heaven and Earth." At right, Trevor Barnes is preparing a radio report for "Sunday."















Yes, these are the harsh conditions that bloggers and reporters have complained about. Imagine the horror! Having to wait for things to happen whilst sitting in a tropical paradise. Egad!

More photos here. More recent photos are near the end of the set.

Bishop Katharine was a lector at evening prayer today

I'm told that Bishop Katharine read the epistle at evening prayer today. Each day the primates worship together several times, and each primate has at least one liturgical role at some point this week.

Today the appointed lesson for their celebration was Titus 3 (which she read from her laptop, I was told). I suggest you read the whole thing.

Here's an excerpt:

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another....

But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned.

Broken Communion in effect

Today the Church of Nigeria has issued a statement about the absence of several primates from the Primates' Meeting Eucharist today.

We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further. It is a consequence of the decision taken by our provinces to declare that our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired.

It seems to me that, by the very definition of communion, these provinces have removed themselves from the Anglican Communion. That being the case, one wonders why they are still invested in the institutional machinery of the Communion. Even if a second, parallel province were created in the US for conservatives, so long as ECUSA remains in communion with Canterbury, I don't see how these dissenting primates could join with others at the Holy Table. As I understand it, the essential definition of the Anglican Communion is that one must be in communion with the See of Canterbury. If they are unable to join in a Eucharist with +Rowan, then...

I'll write more later, but I think this is significant, not only from a theological perspective, but from a polity perspective. On an optimistic note, it seems that more primates were present for Eucharist than at previous gatherings. I'm not sure that any primate's deliberate absence from the Eucharistic feast has a postive spin though.

Akinola meets with conservative group during Meeting

Archbishop Peter Akinola has been meeting with conservative Anglican leaders today. It is not known exactly with whom he is meeting, because they are in a secured area behind closed doors. (This is not inside the ring of steel. Maybe the ring of aluminum.)

Several times +Peter has gone in and out of the primates' compound to a room upstairs where conservatives have been huddled. Last time he passed through, Peter was accompanied by a security guard and Mrs. Martyn Minns.

Though the exact agenda is not known to us, it is believed that the afternoon session of the Primates' Meeting has begun, and that Peter is not present with his primate colleagues. He was also absent during the noontime celebration of the Eucharist, meeting instead with the conservative group.

The archbishop would not comment to questions asked by the press. Later today, as bandwidth permits, I'll post photographs of the archbishop walking to his private meeting. Details as they emerge.

There have been no public statements, so I can't say what this means. What I can say is that the Primate of Nigeria is not presently with his brothers and sister in the Primates' Meeting.

I'll work to confirm all details, and provide news as it comes. Watch other blogs too, in case there is a statement from one of the right-wing groups.

UPDATE: Bishop Martyn Minns appeared from upstairs. He said that "we'll have something today, I hope" in response to a press request for a comment. So maybe there will be news. Still no sign of +Peter, so it appears that he's meeting with conservative leaders this afternoon rather than attending the Primates' Meeting. I hasten to add that this is unconfirmed. I only know that we saw him go upstairs and we have not seen him return. And we believe the afternoon session is in progress now. I don't know what all this means, but it appears to me that it is a significant development.

UPDATE 2: +Peter was indeed back in for at least part of the Primates' Meeting this afternoon, according to a reliable source. He absented himself for the Eucharist and for part of the meeting, though it is not especially unusual for a primate to step out for a bit. It is still true, as far as I know, that +Peter met with conservative leaders during the day. More details as I have them. (There is a new statement on the Church of Nigeria website. I'm about to post that one.)

What's really important in the Communion?

Yesterday afternoon, I had a long conversation with a Tanzanian reporter. He interviewed me (as a parish priest in ECUSA) for a story he was writing, and then we just talked for a long time. Here's what was striking to me.

We don't share the same view of human sexuality; he said he basically agrees with Peter Akinola about the place of gays in the church. However, we kept talking. I asked him about people who come to church, and what they want in all this. He opined that most Tanzanians come to church to praise God, to hear God, and to grow in their faith. They are worried about their souls and salvation more than anything else, he said. I asked if it would be a problem if the US stayed in Communion -- if this particular society could tolerate being part of a global Communion where there is a more liberal presence.

This man said that he thinks church unity is more important. If the church fractures, then we lose credibility with Muslims. How can we say we are united in Christ if we cannot be united? This was fascinating to me, because the spin machine in the US tells us that any "taint" of homosexuality is a problem in this cultural context. And yet, that is not what I heard from at least this man. For him, the threat of schism is worse than Western liberalism.

I think we would do well to have more conversations with those in developing regions. I think this man was surprised in talking with me and others that we are both progressive and Biblical in our thinking. I learned much from hearing about the view of all this from an African perspective.

I'm not mentioning his name, because homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania, and I don't want any positive statements to get him in trouble.

On another note, the attached photo is of my hotel room bed. You'll notice the netting. That tells a bit of a story, I think, about what is really important. You see, that net can save my life and the lives of others. A simple net prevents most malaria, since malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite mostly at night. Most poor people do not have nets, and so they risk malaria needlessly. If they do get malaria, treatment is often prohibitively expensive. So that's something we could focus on in our Communion -- sharing resources to save lives.

I am 100% convinced that if we stopped posturing and started listening, we could get ourselves out of this Communion mess. I have no illusions that we'll agree, but I believe that what unites us is much stronger than what divides us.

I have long believed that the view of Africa as an inflexibly conservative place was wrong, and now my conversations are bearing that out. Please consider coming to Africa. Enjoy the beauty, love the people, admire the landscape, learn about poverty, and spend some money here. Most of all, love the people. They are the image of God, just as you are. And that, my friends, is an important reason to stay together in the Communion.

Prayers are needed

As I was wandering around yesterday, I saw two women sitting in the lobby of the White Sands. One had an open Bible on her lap, so I guessed they were here with the primates' meeting. I introduced myself, and we had a delightful conversation.

The women are here with, I believe, the Anglican Communion Network. The woman I spoke with is the leader of a team of people engaged in intercessory prayer. They are praying for a good outcome of the meeting. This seems like a fine idea. I commend the Network for this work, for sending people here to pray for for coordinating prayers around the world. Certainly all the primates and those of us in Dar and the whole Communion need prayer.

So if you have a few minutes today, please spend some time engaged in prayer for our church and the whole world. It will be good for you, good for our church, and good for God.

15 February 2007

Photos! Thursday's set














A banner greets guests on their way to the Primates' Meeting.




















Davis Mac-Iyalla of Changing Attitude Nigeria with a newspaper featuring a front-page article about him and the struggle for gay rights.














Bishops Duncan, Epting, and McPherson being rushed away from the public area to the primates' compound in--I'm not making this up--a stretch golf cart.

More photos on my Flickr set.

News round-up

In case you haven't seen the news on any of the other blogs, here are some news stories to pass the time.

ENS has two stories from today.

There were stories from AP and from Reuters.

This from the Guardian.

Don't forget to read a few blogs.

If I missed any good stuff, let me know.

Reflections on the day

Over dinner tonight, several of us talked about the day's news and its possible meaning. All are agreed that the report of the sub-group could have been worse, but that it doesn't let ECUSA off the hook. Who knows whether the primates will accept this report, or what final decisions will be made. The briefer made it clear that no decisions were taken today, so it's still up in the air. Progressives should not assume the worst is over, and conservatives should not be so quick to assume the worst.

What I continue to find striking is the sense that ECUSA is on trial. I understand full well the extent to which ECUSA is different from other provinces. I understand why we need to attend to our impact on others, especially those in other cultures. So, fine, let's discuss ECUSA. Let's talk about gays and lesbians. Let's talk about all that. But let us also talk about the "listening process" which has never really begun. (When only one side talks, it is not a "listening process.") Let's talk about the breaches of the Windsor Report that have come from Nigeria and elsewhere. Let's talk about our polity and its history. Let's talk about the sudden desire for centralized authority in Anglicanism -- except when it's not convenient. Let's talk about the scandal of wealth among a vast sea of poverty. Let's talk about the Great Commandment. Let's talk about everything on this agenda, and then I'll be happy for us to talk about ECUSA.

One wonders if everyone made it all the way through the Windsor Report, or if we're just proof-texting that document the way many people like to proof-text the Bible. Many +Rowan's idea for a Communion-wide study of hermeneutics is a great idea, after all.

Evening press briefing: actual news, sort of

The briefing finished an hour ago, which is the time it takes to make one blog posting here. Sigh. In any case, the big news is that when we walked into the room, we were handed the Report of the Communion Sub-group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. This was the report that basically judged whether ECUSA had met the terms of the Windsor Report. More later, because I want to get this sent before the power cuts again.

The short answer is that ECUSA made two out of three benchmarks. On the subject of the moratorium on consecration of gay & lesbian persons as bishops, ECUSA passed. There was reservation (and implication of failure) on the subject of public rites of same-sex blessings. Finally, the "expression of regret" passed at GC in Columbus last summer was judged to have passed muster.

Generally speaking, I was astonished at the overall positive tone of the report, which is available here in full text. Of course, this is somewhat expected given the moderate make-up of the group who wrote the report. More on all this later. So, for now at least, it seems that schism might be avoided, at least based on this one public indicator. I should hasten to emphasize that this was just a report, and the primates could do anything they want with it.

Other news: Katharine was seated all day, and so was John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. The place of both had been questioned in some quarters, but they were in the meeting all day. Also, the primates prayed the Great Litany together at lunchtime instead of Eucharist. My recollection (possibly clouded by heat and hunger) is that we were told there would be Eucharist today. Not sure what significance to attache to this. We are told they'll celebrate Eucharist every day for the remainder of the meeting. It will be interesting to see who attends and who does not.

The day was described as a day of "intense listening" characterized by "graciousness and patience." So they were civil, I guess. At least I can confirm that no gunshots were heard emanating from the primates' compound.

The four American bishops (+Katharine plus the theological buffet of three invited bishops) made presentations today, but no details were provided. The three guests are reported to be on their way home. I believe that includes +Bob Duncan, though I'll check that one at the dinner table in a few minutes.

Tomorrow afternoon there will be a discussion of the Covenant proposal. We shall see what that brings. We should know something tomorrow night.

When asked if a proposal had been discussed for a second (parallel) province in the US, Archbishop Aspinall simply said that the four American presenting bishops today had given a number of potential solutions to the issue at hand. He would not elaborate, but I take that as a "yes."

One more tidbit. It was noted that "unwanted interventions" "sometimes cause difficulty," but apparently no substantial discussion was held about those encroachments in the US.

Photos coming soon, but in the meantime, there are some photos on the ACNS site.

UPDATE: Here are some notes from an anonymous person who was at the briefing. I can't fathom why they wish to remain nameless, but there it is.

News of the day? Not so much

Here's the official report of what has happened so far at the meeting today: nothing. OK, we're told that the primates began the day with Bible study, and the remainder of the morning was taken up by opening remarks and discussions of the agenda. This afternoon, they were to take up some of the more substantive (read: controversial) issues. They're scheduled to adjourn in 10 minutes (at 4 p.m. local time), so perhaps the rumor mill will have a fresh round of fodder then.

In other news, the reporters are now interviewing each other, due to desperation for news. There was a great article on the front of one of today's Dar es Salaam English-language papers, The Citizen. It deals with the "gay issue" and features interviews with Colin Coward and Davis Mac-Iyalla. It's a balanced article, and it was above the fold, I might add.

Finally, even the Tanzanians are complaining about the heat. Wow. We European/American types would be complaining about that too, were it not for our time being occupied by rumor mongering and Internet access kvetching. If you wonder how the wire services have stuff, it's because they brought satellite net equipment. The newspaper reporters have been phoning their articles in. And bloggers are out of luck.

More news, gossip, and idle chatter as I can post it...

Why come to Tanzania? The right hand of fellowship

It was expensive to come here. Not just for me, but for Peter Akinola, Rowan Williams, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and every primate. It was costly for all the reporters who are here, for representatives of conservative and progressive groups, for everyone.

Was it worth it? Yes, because without these meetings we are talking about each other, not with each other. As Colin Coward observed yesterday, it makes one think about what one writes on a blog when you know the person you're writing about will see you in a few hours. People are talking across "party lines" here. I don't know that we'll heal any rifts, but we'll know each other much better by the time we all take the long journey home.

Here's one vignette of the value in being here. Yesterday Davis Mac-Iyalla met his primate. Is that extraordinary in itself? Not particularly, but for one thing. Davis is a well-known gay Nigerian and his primate is Peter Akinola. A couple of weeks ago, the NY Times reported that Peter Akinola had never knowingly shaken the hand of a gay person. And yet yesterday, they had a face-to-face encounter and Davis was warmly greeted by +Peter. Was either person changed by the encounter? It's hard to say. Certainly though the meeting meant very much to Davis. You can read about the meeting on Colin Coward's excellent blog.

Photos!

I am hoping this is the first batch of many photos to be posted. Alas, Internet is a challenge, even by African standards. When I learned that my reservation at the White Sands (where all the meetings are taking place) was canceled, I was initially unhappy. Now, I'm grateful. I'm staying in a studio apartment in Dar, with quick Internet access. The downside is that I'm 30 minutes away by taxi. Back on the bright side, I get a tour of Dar each morning on my way to the enclave.

In any case, here are a few photos. There are more on my Flickr photo set. I'll post more photos there as often as I can, bandwidth permitting.













Bishop Katharine meets with ECUSA missionaries resident in Tanzania. Matthew Davies has written an ENS story about this meeting, but it's not on the ENS website yet. Matthew is facing the same Internet challenges as all of us. I'll update this post with a link to the ENS story when it hits the web.












Archbishop Ndungane of South Africa meets press.












As Archbishop Aspinall of Australia briefs the press, video cameras record the proceedings.

14 February 2007

Who reads the Gospel? Who follows the Gospel?

At dinner conversation tonight, we got to talking about the Gospel and the current "crisis" facing the Anglican Communion. I, for one, am weary of progressives being tarred with the image of ignoring the Gospel.

This is a rant. Please feel free to read on to the next post, if you like. It is a well-trodden rant.

When I pick up my Bible and read the gospels, I read a message of radical and complete love. Love so strong that it reached out to the most marginal people in the culture. Love so strong that it offered health and salvation. Love so strong that it was not concerned with the structures of religion or society.

So, I ask you: who is following the Gospel? Those who would exclude people from fullness in the Body of Christ? Those who ignore issues of life and health in favor of pushing an agenda of division and purity laws?

Interestingly, I also note that Jesus said not a word about homosexuality. Mostly he talked about love and money. To the extent he had anything to say about so-called traditional marriage, he was not keen on divorce. Strangely, the American Anglican Council can have a nuanced position on that one. Perhaps because it hits close to home? Any, go figure.

I'm calling myself a Gospel-following Christian until shown otherwise.

Evening press briefing: revisionist polity?

The evening press briefing was fairly uneventful. Basically, what we learned (again) is that the primates will set their own agenda, behind closed doors, and we'll find out what they did when it's done. Maybe.

OK, we found out a few more things, but that was the gist of it. Tomorrow (Thursday) is when the fireworks will happen. After a Bible study first thing in the morning, the primates will begin their deliberations. The Anglican Communion staffers are saying confidently that the question of +Katharine and +John Sentamu being seated is settled. Rumblings around the pool are different. We'll hear what happens, I guess. Either way, there's a story tomorrow. Either +Katharine is accepted by all the primates, or she's sent off. Details as they come tomorrow.

As one senior person put it to me today, speaking about the conservative block, "If they don't like it, they can take their hats and go home." Indeed. He was saying that +Rowan and +Katharine are here to stay, and like it or leave it. Amen.

So the most interesting thing at the briefing, to me at least, was Gregory Cameron's background briefing to reporters. Knowing that many of the press in attendance are either local press or service beat reporters, he thought it wise to give some background. I agree whole-heartedly with this thinking. He explained the situation in the Anglican Communion since about 2003. I'll skip the play-by-play, but I'll observe that it seemed to be point-for-point right out of an Anglican Communion Network backgrounder. For example, the Panel of Reference was described as a solution to North American problems, not as an adjudication of communion-wide disputes. No explicit mention was made of jurisdicational boundary crossings until yours truly asked about them in relation to Windsor Compliance. It was stated that because of the "delicate" situation in North America, it was not appropriate to ask that these Windsor infractions cease immediately. Really? So should the Bishop of New Hampshire or some other bishop start to cross boundaries to care for gay or lesbian Nigierians? Somehow I think the situation will be viewed differently in that light. Sigh.

Representing diverse views?

One more bit from today's press briefing. Jim Rosenthal said that the three American bishops (Duncan, MacPherson, and Epting) are here to represent a diversity of views within the American church. I'll ask the question again: what about the diversity of views within other provinces? There are thousands of gay Nigerians, for example. Shouldn't they be represented here?

For that matter, I was intrigued by a question from a Tanzanian reporter who wondered if the primates were hearing from any gay or lesbian people while they're here. Jim deferred until tonight's press briefing, but I think we all know the answer is no. Isn't that what the listening process is about...listening? Why does only one perspective have to listen, and the other wants only to talk?

Lastly, there is buzz here about strategies that might be used to exclude Bishop Katharine. Most seem to involve her participation in the consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire. That makes her out of "Windsor Compliance." A bit of a tough argument for the conservatives to make, since Archbishop Akinola has crossed boundaries to set up his Nigerian branch in the US. I guess, then, if Katharine is denied entry, it would only make sense for Peter to pack his bags too.

Conspiracy theories abound -- news from this afternoon's briefing

I just came back from a press briefing with Jim Rosenthal of the Anglican Communion Office. There were perhaps 30 (or maybe a few more) reporters there. In addition to major news outlets -- AP, Reuters, BBC, London papers, -- there are people here from the American Anglican Council, Integrity, and sundry other groups. Of course, there were lots of local press people here. This story seems to be gathering steam.

Speaking of steam, there was some concern over Bishop Duncan having "no room at the inn" as the interlocutor said. Really? Apparently his reservation was misplaced or something and he's had to stay at another hotel. Based on earlier reports his hotel is "THE headquarters" anyway, so life should be good for him. For what's worth, the White Sands lost my reservation too. And the hotel where I'm staying neglected to send someone to the airport to pick me up. Do I ascribe it to a vast right-wing conspiracy? No, I just understand this as inefficient bureaucracy. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, and sometimes a lost reservation is a lost reservation.

Here was the main news of the press briefing: there will be more press briefings. Each night at about 7 p.m. local time, Archbishop Aspinall and others will brief the media on the events of the day. So I'll have some fodder for future posts starting this evening. Also, the media will be allowed to ride over to Zanzibar for the Sunday service on the same (chartered) boat with the Primates. It gladdens my heart to see the church ensuring that its story is told. Of course, there will be a security cordon on the boat to prevent the bishops from interacting with their people.

Speaking of security, the head of security stood at the door during the press briefing. This is, as Stephen Bates of the Guardian pointed out, very unusual. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I wonder if I was meant to be intimated. Or perhaps he wanted to see who the trouble-makers are? My sense of malfeasance was heightened at the security man's Orwellian response to the question about his presence in the press room: "I'm here for your safety." Please. We're in an enclave surrounded by armed guards. The reason he was there, whatever it is, had nothing to do with our safety.

Bishop Katharine, says Jim Rosenthal, is fully assured of her place in the Primates' Meeting. This was said by Archbishop Rowan Williams this morning. This afternoon Katharine will join 10 other new primates in an orientation meeting with +Rowan. Tomorrow is the official start of the Primates' Meeting, and the real fireworks will begin then, I suspect.

Finally, there was a Eucharist this afternoon. When asked if the primates attended, a partial attendance list was provided. Only a few primates were there, and of a particular theological stripe. There was no official list of those present, so I cannot say anything with certainty. Still, it seems to be that there is some irony. The conservative forces are wailing about "last chance for unity" and so forth, but they don't seem to show up for a Eucharist. +Rowan was there with a few primates, mostly from northern provinces. What does this say about our communion? I'll be very interested to see what happens at the Eucharist on Sunday. We're to be allowed in, so there will be no masking who does and does not share in communion -- at this Eucharist of the Anglican Communion primates.

(Note: when I get some more Internet time later today, I'll be posting photos. Come back later.)