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!