Sunday, August 3, 2008

Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008

Saturday was a day of meetings. The process here is decentralized, and, therefore, it's difficult to have a sense of the whole. There are fifteen groups talking separately and then their conversations are gathered into one report. On a separate track, the Covenant Drafting Group holds hearings during which bishops can give input into their document. On yet a separate track, the Continuing Windsor Group has hearings for input on the status of the Windsor Process. It's like going to a giant tea party and then being asked if you can say what was talked about everywhere.

The draft of the report is on the Lambeth Website. I would just remind you before you read it that it's a report, not a resolution. It is a record of the conversation, not the mind of the Church. This is especially important as concerns the Proposed Covenant. The timeline for that document is (I think) as follows:

+The Drafting Group meets again in late September to revisit the document in light of Lambeth and other feedback.

+They present a report to all the Provinces (national churches) and invite comments between the fall and March 2009.

+They meet again in April 2009 to rewrite the Covenant given the new input.

+They send a new draft to the Anglican Consultative Council in May 2009.

+The ACC will either recommend it or rewrite it or send it back to the Drafting Committee or table it.

+If sent out, all Provinces will vote on it---(it's unclear if that would mean the General Convention 2009 or 2112 or The Episcopal Church).

Therefore, nothing has been ratified here. We have talked about it but not voted on it.

Sunday we have the final plenary. I would anticipate that is a time for summing everything up.

The gift of being here is to know the wideness of the Communion by experience and relationships. The challenge, I think, is to do better at letting Anglicans across the world know about us. I am simply stunned by the lack of reliable information about The Episcopal Church. Few people know anything about our response to the Windsor Report. We cannot do anything about the past, but we can and must do better about getting our story out to our brothers and sisters across the globe.

I would also add that in many ways the experience is the product. If indeed the "bonds of affection" across the Communion have been strained, then our time together is a way of strengthening them. There has been a healing here and a resolve to look at each other differently in the future.

No doubt some will say "You didn't do anything," but I think that's a limited and outside view. We changed our perspective which in itself is doing a great deal. One of the English bishops said, "No one is clapping but the Holy Spirit." I think a lot of people (like me) are clapping but I know the Holy Spirit is. "How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! "

I will be reporting back to the diocese in various ways.

Keep us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.


Friday, August 1, 2008

7/31/08-8/1/08, Thursday and Friday

These past two days have been focused on the hard work of the Conference. The Archbishop's 2nd Address challenged us at the end with this question: "Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?"

We have been wrestling with that in our small groups as we talk about the proposed Anglican Covenant and the issues that have brought us here. My experience is this:

There is a great distress around the globe at where we are. We had a very difficult session this week where we shared the upheaval in the wider Church. I have often quoted lines from the Irish poet, W. B. Yeats: "All is being changed, changed utterly,/ A terrible beauty is being born." Whatever this terrible beauty is, we are going through the birth pangs and it will be a long birth.

There is also a great desire on the people here to stay together. I don't know know if that desire exists with the bishops who chose not to come; clearly it's not strong enough to overcome their reluctance. My only question is whether our desire is to stay together with the actual Churches in the Anglican Communion as it exists today or do we hunger for some idea of the Communion that only exists because we could not know each other very well? In some ways what we are dealing with is "the scandal of the particular." We aren't talking about some generalized Americans or Africans or Brazilians or....; we are talking about people with names and histories and specific actions.

The difficulty is that there are so many layers to the issues. They are about biblical interpretation, the interplay between autonomy and interdependence, ecclesiology, polity, power, money, colonialism, American imperialism, ethics, and on and on. Thus far, we have not separated these, and I believe that is part of our difficulty in moving forward. Too often the situation is presented as if we simply don't agree on Scripture. This is an oversimplification. In addition, I find it very frustrating that the incursions by foreign bishops into the Episcopal Church has gotten little attention or even acknowledgement.

With those qualifications, I would tell you that we are wrestling with issues that matter--despite what the press might report. Much of my afternoon yesterday was spent talking about what constitutes the essentials of our faith. The Proposed Covenant says that our unity might be impaired over "essential concerns" but what are they and how can we define them so they are the same this decade and the next and the next after that?

I am, frankly, unclear about the overall process. I do not know how our work gets folded into whatever document eventually gets circulated next Spring. But I am trying to let go of that concern (since there is little to do about it) and just focus on the dialogue with my fellow bishops about things that matter.

I too have been reading the newspapers, and I can say that they do not portray the deep generosity that I have experienced here. I read bishops giving condemnations in the press and wonder what conference they are attending. My group has wept and laughed together. We have been quite honest about the dynamics of the last years and about what we need to go forward. I was thinking about the phrase in 1 Peter--the call for us to have a "tender heart": "Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind." Yes, I have witnessed an absence of these qualities here, but only in moments and not on the whole. In my encounters, we have had glimpses of that "unity of spirit" because we have had "tender hearts" and "humble minds."

I do confess that I am tired. I feel like Dorothy and I keep clicking my heels and saying "There's no place like home," but I open my eyes and I am still here--not even in Kansas much less North Carolina. However, there really has been an abundance of grace amid the very confusing issues and process.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral. I will pray for you then and hope wherever you are in the diocese, you pray for us.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

(I am not the only WNC person here. Stan and Carol Hubbard are here for Kanuga and Clare Barry was here last week for the Anglican Women's Empowerment Network.)

Yesterday we addressed our interpretations of scripture. There was much more consensus than I would have imagined. Regardless of where we live, we all preach on Sunday, and we all, therefore, encounter the sacred text during the week. Yes, we have different approaches and use different interpretative tools, and I discovered we preach for different lengths of time (no, I am not thinking of lengthening my sermons), but in my group we see the sacred story as foundational. It is the way we make meaning in our lives.

As I thought about that, I realized that the most common word used here is "context." "What is your context?" we say over and over again. It does matter. In fact, in some ways I feel as if I am in a Henry James novel where the naive American comes to the worldly Europe (although I do hope for a better end that most of James' characters).

But in another way, our context is not where we live, it is who we are. We live and move and have our being in God and God's Son, Jesus Christ. We are Christ's own forever, and that is the only context that matters at the end of the day. The word "context" means "weave together." The Anglican Communion has been together for so long because what weaves us together is our primary story of our dying and rising with Christ. As we say in the Eucharistic Prayer: we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. This dying and rising happens everytime we gather at the Eucharist. It's why our identity as Anglicans is in our Common Prayer. We remember Him and we remember who we are.

My hope is that if we adopt a covenant, it is not a set of rules that we agree on to force uniform behavior; my hope is that a Covenant proclaims our true context. It's the difference between basing a marriage on a pre-nuptial agreement and basing it on the love that two people have for one another. Let's proclaim who we are and agree on a common mission from that unified place.

I can tell you that the design of the Conference is to invite conversation, and it has succeeded. There are many proposals floating and different versions of Covenants. It is not clear how this body will reach any sense of agreement or even of reporting its mind to the Anglican Consultative Council at this point. Our sessions become solely focused on these topics tomorrow.

With all that said, the best parts are always worship and conversation. The day begins and ends with prayer and it is a true communion. The meals are always like going to the United Nations. There is a discovery every day of how people are incredibly faithful in all parts of the world. I do get tired from a day filled with meetings, but I am always invigorated by the prayers, the bread and wine, and the stories.

Keep us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday morning was one of the few sessions we spent together with the Spouses Conference. We had a Bible Study on 2 Samuel 13--the story of Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar. This led to a discussion of sexual abuse and domestic violence as well as the Church's proper role in standing up for victims and creating safe places. I cannot comment in any extensive way on the whole process because my experience is limited to my small group of four. I can say that in many parts of the world, women are not safe. Because of that, the Church needs to be an advocate, a witness, and an agent of transformation.

In the evening we heard the second Presidential Address by Archbishop Rowan Williams. It was unusually direct. You can read the entire text on the Lambeth website (

Let me say what I appreciated about the address. He began by offering his hope "We speak from the centre.... 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."

I could not agree more. The center isn't the middle of political views but it is the deep place where we discover our communion with Christ and therefore with one another. In these large meetings, the temptation is to speak from our ideological edge. One advantage of such a long meeting is to create relationships to speak from somewhere else.

I also appreciated the Archbishop's attempt to describe what both "sides" have to lose in coming a resolution. It is true that we all have fears about any new proposal and it is true that often it is easier to hold on to our clearly defined positions instead of stepping out into a new place in trust and faith.

Finally, I appreciate that our work really is reconciliation because Jesus' prayer is that we be One even as He and the Father are One. I appreciate his final question very much: ‘Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?’

I have some issues with his characterization of the position of "not so traditional believer." I resist that term, and I found his description of that position incomplete. I also think there are more than two sides to this issue and certainly there are more dynamics at play. There is more than a theological difference going on.

However, I agree that as a Church we are called to make "generous initiatives" and I too long for "a new transformed relation of communion in Christ." The question is whether the Covenant, as eventually revised will give us that. It is clear that while we will have many talks about the proposed document, our role is to give input to the Anglican Consultative Council. I would anticipate most of the conversation to center around the Appendix. At this point, I am ready to listen to other perspectives and to offer them my sense of what it means to be in a Communion with 38 very diverse provinces, and discuss how a Covenant and especially the proposed Covenant is or is not true to the nature of Anglicanism.

We will spend much of the remaining time on these issues.

Keep us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

(This is the Bishops and Spouses' Choir from The Episcopal Church singing at Evening Prayer.)

Monday was a wonderful and hard day. We began as we always begin: Eucharist, breakfast, Bible study, our groups of 40. All of that was very stimulating. I find our conversation in these groups to be very enriching because of the strong cultural differences. We worship the same Lord but in 130 countries.

Monday afternoon we had an opening hearing on both the situation of the Anglican Communion as well as the proposed Covenant from "The Continuing Windsor Group." This is a committee appointed by the Archbishop to monitor what has happened in the Communion since the Windsor Report and to make recommendations of how that report might be folded into any proposed Covenant.

For me, it was Deja vu all over again but in different languages. There were some very insightful comments and one very moving talk by an American bishop. On the whole, however, this was not a conversation but a host of speeches, and we have heard most of them before. The afternoon did underline how profound the differences are. We have such little time and so wide a gulf that I came away without much optimism.

However, last evening we heard Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi for England. I had read one of his books, and, therefore, knew how brilliant he was, but I didn't know what kind of speaker he might be. He was amazing.

The Archbishop had asked him to speak on Covenant (for obvious reasons). Rabbi Sacks spoke of Covenants of Fate--which are bonds that arise from a common condition (which he links to Noah) and Covenants of Faith--which are bonds that arise from a common hope and promise (which he links to Abraham and Moses). The paradox, he says, is that just as our Covenants of Faith are breaking apart, our Covenants of Fate are pushing us together. Our sense of communion gets smaller at the very time when what happens in the Far East directly affects us in WNC and we face a global energy crisis.

He called on humanity to renew our Covenant of Fate because if we do not, we will die separately. This covenant enables us to "make space for one another and for God." More poignantly, he called on us as Anglicans to be an example of communion to the world. He said the hardest thing in this time is holding a faith community together and yet we have done this with a world wide Communion for 500 years with grace. He called for us to be an example to a world of growing divisions.

He ended by talking about the Middle East. He said that the way to reconciliation there was through "our shared tears." It's only when Arab and Israeli; Muslim and Jew look at the loss of lives together that peace will come. Specifically, he mentioned a group of Muslim and Jewish parents who have all lost children in the conflict. They go and advocate for peace so that no more parents will have to weep as they have.

I thought about that and prayed that we in the Anglican Communion do not have to lose so much before we turn towards one another. Perhaps we don't have to replay a Shakespearean tragedy where at the end when the stage is littered with bodies, the actors say "If only...." Perhaps we can skip to the end and find reconcilation before more and more tears are shed. At the end of the day, it is about opening our hearts to God.

Thus, the day was one of bookends: a sobering realization of the stark differences and an inspired call to find a bridge and to lay down our verbal arms for Christ's sake. I do not know the way forward, but I am convinced that Christ has called us to the ministry of reconciliation and, therefore, we must believe he will show us the way.

Keep us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thursday--Saturday July 24-26

It's been a blur for the past few days. The photos on the page are my Bible Study Group, who have been a main community for me during this Conference, the women bishops in the Anglican Communion, and Westminster Abbey.

On Thursday we went by bus to London. We marched on behalf of the M.D.G.'s (which is a campaign to change the world by such actions as eliminating global poverty and hunger). We heard Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister speak and then had lunch at the Lambeth Palace gardens. It was--to use the local term--splendid. We dined under a tent big enough for 1500 people and walked the gardens.

Then we went to Buckingham Palace. You cannot take any cameras inside (hence no photos). I did talk to Prince Philip and saw the Queen. The gardens must be @15 acres in the middle of London. It was wonderful. As I watched her walk down the lawn protected by her guards, I realized how powerful our symbols are. The British don't need a queen for running their government, but they do need her for the symbolic unity of their identity. When they say "God save the Queen," it isn't just Elizabeth they are talking about; it's themselves projected onto her.

We also went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey. I sat next to the choir stalls and watched the tourists--most of whom were American--come in with hats and cameras and phones. Few looked as if they knew what was going on; they looked as if they came just for the building. Yet I wondered if God had brought them here to stir something in their souls; I wondered if a prayer or a chant or a reading might quicken something that had been dormant for longer than they could remember. Surely God uses the beauty of this building to bring God's children closer to God. I kept thinking as we prayed "for Christ's sake" that God has brought these people here for Christ's sake. Our Lord is happy when his children come together to give God praise.

We have been talking about the environment and seeking how to combine our many efforts to be better stewards. My hope is that the Anglican Communion Office can help us be more intentional about coordinating the needs of the world with the resources. There is so much good being done but it is so patchwork.

This afternoon (Saturday) we took the group picture. The final print will be like the Saturday Night Life piece of "Find the Pope in the pizza" Contest. It was touching to see all the women bishops of the communion gather together, yet it's also sobering to see that they can easily be photographed by my camera.

So much of this Conference is about our stories. A bishop told me he walks eight days for confirmations in his diocese. Another spoke of the many murders done by the governmental regime. It's all about seeing that we all live the One Story of Christ dying and rising over and over again.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I'll go to Church in Canterbury.
Pray for us as I pray for you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 23, 2008

Yesterday we spent our time talking about social justice. The question we were asked is "What is my/our role as bishops in a hurting and broken world?"

I was humbled by the conversations. Bishops in other parts of the world simply face more external hurt and more societal brokenness that we can imagine. I spoke to bishops whose people fear for their lives because of the government. One told me that his house is filled with students who have no place to live because they have no parents. Another said that the churches had been torn down so now they worship under trees.

What is common is a desire for the church to be the Good News that gives hope and promise to people. The purpose of this conference is less to legislate a new structure for the Communion and more to energize our collective effort to be the Church God needs us to be for our day and time.

I also reflected that in face of such pain it is easy to become paralyzed. "What can I do?" we ask. But we begin by seeing more clearly how things are and then by asking God to give us the first step. If we cannot help the people across the globe directly, what can we do right now?

Today we go to London to visit the Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace.

Keep all of us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 22, 2008

Tuesday was a day primarily in small groups. We spend Bible Study in groups of 8 and then go to our Indaba groups of 40. In the larger groups we talk about the mission of the Church and seek to understand how we in our role as bishops can be better leaders and change agents. The remarkable thing is how much we can learn from each other both in spite of and because of our differences. I spoke for a long time with a bishop from the Far East about Christian Formation and was amazed that we confront the same basic issues.
Daily I am confronted with the bubble of being an American. Someone told me they were in the serving line at the cafeteria when an African woman began to weep and she turned and said "So much food. So much food." Surely part of Lambeth is to cleanse our eyes and see a broader vision for the sake of being more committed to Christ's mission. We are to take a long look at what we take for granted.

I heard Brian McLaren again in the afternoon. He asked us what questions were being asked by the people that do not come to Church and why the Church isn't giving any answers which is an exercise all our parishes ought to consider. He challenged us to see ourselves as a board of directors of a new venture that has as its primary objective to make disciples and then to think about what the Church ought to look like. At the end of his session, he said that the biggest change doesn't require bigger budgets or more staff but living examples of the faith.

Each evening the Archbishop of Canterbury asks about 125 people for dinner and rotates from table to table. Jo and I were fortunate enough to talk to him for about 15 minutes. Because it was social occasion, we took a Sabbath from church talk and conversed about novels and poetry and the imagination.

There is all sorts of other news swirling around the Conference which reminds us of the divisions that exist. I have been reading a book called Amish Grace which is about the response of the Amish community after ten girls were shot in Nickel Mines, PA. They forgave the killers because they believe that's what Christians do. Their sense of forgiveness is so deeply rooted that it's part of their Holy Communion. They only have Holy Communion every six months. Part of the preparation for it is for the community to resolve its differences before coming to the table. They go to the person with whom they are estranged and ask for or extend forgiveness so that the circle will be whole around the Lord's Table. Sometimes they delay the service in order to allow the healing to be accomplished. As the discord within the communion bubbles up both in the press and our discussions, I kept thinking about the Amish. I kept thinking that we need to see one another face to face and work it out for Christ's sake and the Church's sake and the world's sake.

Tommorrow we go to London. You may not hear from me for a few days just because my computer may not go with me.
Keep us all in your prayers as I keep the diocese in mine.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Today was the first real work day. We spent the morning and a session in the afternoon in "Indaba" Groups--which are groups of 40 bishops from all over the communion. This is how it's defined: "In Indaba we must be aware of [the current] challenges (issues) without immediately trying to resolve them one way or the other....The to find out the deeper convergences that might hold people together in difference...."

We spent the morning on "The Bishop and Anglican Identity" and the afternoon on the Five Marks of Mission: proclaim the Good News; teach, baptize and nurture new believers; respond to human need by loving service; seek to transform unjust structures of society; strive to safeguard the integrity of creation.

I was heartened by the common commitment to these five marks as well as the diversity about how we seek to achieve them. Despite our geography, our objectives are congruent. If this conference is successful, then we will dedicate ourselves to helping one another with the mission of the Church.

In the evening we heard Brian McLaren, author of A Generous Orthodoxy. He challenged those in the West, the South, and the East to get on with the task of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. For those of us in West, he reminded us of the shrinking numbers of church goers in Europe and the USA. We could spend our time on "division, diversion, or implosion," or we could get on with our task.

I came away with a reminder of how we must remember that our connection to God in Christ has primary importance in our lives. Jesus Christ is not want occupies our Sundays; He is at the center of everything. That shift pushes us to cease focusing on the running the church machine and instead motivates us to share the Good News by word and example. It's why the Diocese of WNC has been working on the project Daily Practices for God's People. Christianity is about being transformed and being an agent of God's transformation of the world.

May hope is this conference will continue its focus on mission, for our sakes and for the world's.

Keep all of us in your prayers.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday July 20, 2008

Sunday was a day of contrasts. The morning was glorious. We had the opening Eucharist at the Cathedral. It was overwhelming to walk down the center aisle through the rood screen to the high altar. I was thinking of all the people that have walked this way in the past fifteen hundred years. That is both humbling and inspiring. The music and liturgy were glorious.

In the afternoon, we had the first working session. I think that after three days of retreat and the wonderful Eucharist I had forgotten how much work is in front of us. The Archbishop and the Design Team have created a new structure that puts us in groups of about forty bishops for intense conversations over many issues, but particularly those threatening the unity of the Anglican Communion. There will be no votes, but there will be team of bishops who are to reflect in some written way what is being said.

Clearly the objective is to get a reading on where the bishops are in terms of the proposed Anglican Covenant. There was also a reference to the Windsor Report and its conditions. Whatever comes out of this meeting in terms of the Covenant will then be presented to the Provinces (that is our national church) for input. A new draft will be circulated in time to go the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in May 2009.

There are many difficulties here. We come from different places and with different experiences. What I find disheartening is the amount of misconception about the Episcopal Church. Many bishops have misconceptions about our theology as well as our responses to the discord in the Communion. We have many bridges to build in the next two weeks.

The Archbishops opening address is on the Lambeth Website and will give you an idea of his intent in the format of the Conference.

So today (Monday) we begin the work.
Keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine.