Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Lambeth, July 29th

Dear Ones,

This was "Ordinary Day 7" however, it was not quite as ordinary as the others. Today the theme was Equal in God's Sight: When Power is abused. Seems we certainly need to listen to such a theme! We still had morning worship at 7:15 provided by the Anglican Church of Canada. If there are churches or provinces here that seem to be the brunt of the "problem" it would be us and the Anglican Church of Canada. Today Bishop Mark McDonald, our former bishop of Alaska and now the Bishop for Indiginous People gave the sermon. It was fantastic as it often is. His best line, which I think I will get right is this, "The only thing strange here is grace." It reminded me of one of my favorite lines, "Grace is hard to take." It is difficult, because we don't want to believe that grace is for everyone, unearned, free, plentiful. Instead we prefer to believe as we see the world live, that things have to be earned, even grace.

The agenda from the ordinary day changed today as we moved from breakfast, not to Bible Study, but to the Big Top, everybody, bishops and spouses. When we arrived at the Big Top the men were seperated from the women and we sat in the Big Top, segregated by gender. We began the topic of violence, especially against women, but also against all those who are not in power. We began with a play which was just superb. I have posted a picture from the play above. It was a montage of sorts of all of the miracles of grace performed by Jesus, the times he healed, women, who were seen as outcasts of their times. Jesus broke all the social codes in doing so. We then had a dramatic reading by the same actors of II Samuel 13, the rape of Tamar. We were put in groups of three to discuss this study and the issues. I was in a group with two from Africa, and our sharing and our cultural learning was amazing. They shared with me that in both their countries, men with AIDS believe they can be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin girl. So, they are having sex with even thier own daughters, often infecting them. In only one of the two countries is this a crime.

At one point we were told, and not very far into our study that the stewards, the wonderful young people who have come from all over the world to do just about everything from ushering, guiding, serving, had reported that since we had started the study (less than an hour) over 100 men had left the tent, and no women. Later it was reported that actually a few woman had left but the disparity is still worthy of notice. Some men stood and complained about our taking on this topic, only one woman did. One woman from the West stood to complain that we were segregated and did not understand why that was done. As she said, "If we cannot talk together about this in this safe place where will we be able too." I was so proud of the leader who said, "The answer is simple, many women in this room do not find this a safe place." In essence the questioners "culture was showing." She is not to be singled out. We are all learning such lessons, one of the great things about this bringing together of so many different cultures from so many different contexts. Chaplains were provided for those who needed to talk after this discussion and they were available all day. I found this to be one of the best pastoral moments of the conference and a much needed thing to do. It was a response to a large number of people who have no voice.
Our House of Bishops met in the afternoon for announcements. We then met with bishops from Africa. I set a meeting with two bishops from Kenya for Thursday. Nedi and I will be be speaking to them about mission possibilities between the two dioceses. We then had our usual Bible Study, today on John 10: 11-18, the Good Shepherd. We then went to Evening worship presided over by the Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma), the area still reeling from cyclones and flooding. At the end of that service, Archbishop Rowan Williams gave his second presidential address to the combined assembly. I found it to be a very courageous speech. He, at great risk by his own assessment, attempted to spell out in his own words the two very different perspectives present on the edges of this event and I must say I think he did a very good job with this. The feeling among many was that his address proved at least one point, he gets it. He does see the different perspectives and additionally, how the opposite edges view each other.
Where will all of that take us? We will see. Still, a general goodwill is still in the air, and hope as well. The only thing strange here is grace. Thank God for it!


  1. Greg, I appreciate the authenticity of your comments. The Lambeth experience sounds tremendous. It is very challenging to remain open in the midst of such diversity, both because it is exhausting and exhilarating. Thank you for helping us to appreciate the events from the "inside." I look forward to hearing more upon your return. Blessings, Jane Maynard

  2. +Greg, I don't really think the Archbishop of Canterbury is getting it. You have heard about the 19-year-old man who is in critical care in Liverpool from a beating he took yesterday because he's gay? The violence is not just in Africa: it's swirling around you.

    So I wonder how the Archbishop can say "Mutual generosity : part of what this means is finding out what the other person or group really means and really needs" while +Gene is standing right outside the door and isn't asked in and that 19-year-old is in critical care partly because the people like the Archbishop who could make a difference as to how gay people are regarded are pushing him away or refusing to hear him, won't acknowledge him as fully human, fully divine, fully able to realize the ministry to which he is called, fully deserving of all the the love, respect, and generosity open to us all in the Heart of the Host.

    The Archbishop is asking you to find the center. Well, that center is present in that young man as well as in the Archbishop. Why should he be denied full inclusion in the life of the church while the Archbishop is welcomed in?

    Yes, African Christians are being hurt by Muslim fundamentalists (and there are plenty of gay Muslims). But isn't the way forward trying to rid the world of discrimination against GLBT people rather than institutionalize it further?

    --sheila stanley--

  3. No, Rowan Cantaur gets it. Events for this day proves it.

    To be understood, you have to speak in a language the other person can comprehend. If 100 men left the tent, the message about power and abuse struck home.

    Now the bishops of the US, Canada, Australia, and other so-called liberal places have the common language to communicate with the other bishops.

    I would suggest you read this entry from another blog.

  4. About speaking from the center, this is what ++Rowan means by that:

    "And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre. I don't mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ."

    This is from ++Rowan's second presidential address to the Lambeth Conference.

    Bob Chapman

  5. I wasn't going to jump in on this one, but seem to be compelled to do so. Whether that's in response to hitherto undiagnosed OCD, or the leading of the Spirt, I'll let the reader decide.

    Having read ++Rowan's speech in its entirety, I would have to say it's a better representation of current concerns than media stories would indicate, and the concept of "center" as he sees it ("The heart of our identity as Anglicans"), a worthy precept.

    However, it is difficult for me to see the two "sides" he presents as morally equivalent. Our detractors would see us as consumed with the need for "acceptance," but for the Christian who has reconciled spirituality and sexuality, "acceptance" by others is irrelevant.

    Our angst, and I think that +Gene is an example of this, is not for ourselves, but for those who still labor under burdens that are not theirs to carry. Our efforts are for those yet to come, so that they know the love of God. All out are in free, and that is very good news.

    Though I do not want to diminish the danger to those who support glbt individuals in other lands, to distance oneself from "undesirables" because of fear of those with religious "authority" or political power is just not the Gospel. That is neither good nor news to the "captive." Here's a place for mission, and we shrink from it? If we mean what we say, how do we place ourselves in harm's way for others? If +Rowan's assessment of this perspective is correct, Christian leaders are sleeping at night knowing that though they should be ministering to the rejected, since they are not, at least they kept their flock safe.

    While most, not all, glbt individuals in the US and Canada are safe from physical harm, many know the spirituality-strangling emotional abuse and rejection from the faith homes of their youth. However, speaking from personal experience, in the life of the believer, there must come a point when truth becomes the "coin of the realm", and of much greater value than artifice for the sake of keeping others happy with and about one within the safety of ecclesiastical walls. The suggestion that such things are "innovations", I must say, seems to indicate a lack of understanding of the depth of the journey, and diminishes the leading of the Spirit.