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.