Friday, 25 July 2008

News from the Big Blue Tent (9)

It was the turn of the Church of North India to lead the Conference Eucharist this morning. It’s surely no coincidence that the Indian bishops have been more prominent participants in the various events I’ve attended since. Having presided at the breaking of the bread with us they have gone on, like an extended Ministry of the Word, to break open their stories and their lives through the rest of the day.

The conference theme for Friday has been Christian ecumenism. There are huge differences of context between a majority denomination in a majority Christian community and a small church in a land where some other faith dominates, but what all seemed to have in common is that ecumenism works best in places with natural shared boundaries (a town, an island, a nation) but it’s much harder going at intermediate levels where jurisdictions overlap and often make it hard to assemble meetings of the necessary people. It also appears easier to be ecumenical when there is an obvious shared task, particularly in response to a crisis. Someone offered us a lovely quote from Desmond Tutu, that apartheid was too big a problem for the churches to tackle it separately. What I’m increasingly feeling though is that much of what we do is an infantile form of ecumenism based on “what can we all do together?”, grown up ecumenism must lie in what we empower some to do on behalf of all.

It feels like we’re now close to being ready to tackle some of the Anglican Communion agenda items directly. Whilst they are certainly not more important than what we did in London yesterday they are matters for which the conference, as one of the Instruments of Communion, has a particular responsibility and locus. We’ve built relationships and allowed divisive issues to emerge where they have come up naturally and it has been OK. I even get a sense that for some the encounters (let the lobbyists shudder) have led to bishops reflecting on and maybe revising their positions.

I took my daily tour round the marketplace earlier, to honour the efforts of those who have come to Canterbury to be with us. I’m trying to let myself be drawn into conversations both with those whose positions I share and others whose viewpoints I find antithetical or even (in one or two instances) slightly disturbing. Partly, I think it’s important to be open to having my attitudes challenged and changed and partly, as my chaplain used to say when he’d invited the JWs in for a chat, when they’re talking to me they’re not talking to anyone else.

I’m writing somewhat earlier today in the hope of getting to sleep sooner, so I’ll blog something tomorrow about tonight’s plenary on the environment and climate change – another issue far too important to get pushed off the agenda.

Highlight of the day: Meeting Professor Grace Davie, whose work I’ve long admired and whose arguments I’ve written papers attacking. Her work in the sociology of religion has paved the way for humble empirical theologians like myself to do our work.

Lowlight of the day: writing this blog then the program crashing before I’d saved it, so I’ve had to type it all in again. But, dear reader, you’re worth it!

Posted by David Walker on Friday, 25 July 2008 at 7:11pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Big Blue Tent | Lambeth Conference 2008

Quote. What I’m increasingly feeling though is that much of what we do is an infantile form of ecumenism based on “what can we all do together?”, grown up ecumenism must lie in what we empower some to do on behalf of all. Unquote.

Bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo. Thanks...

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 25 July 2008 at 8:43pm BST

David W,

Is there a real difference between, in your words, "infantile form of ecumenism based on “what can we all do together?”, grown up ecumenism must lie in what we empower some to do on behalf of all?"

I can understand if this means people being prepared to give real weight to the teaching of people like ++ Williams and other spiritual leaders. Just talking "issues" may only further polarise people and deepen division (people merely talking past each other or clashing in the night); finding the common point of reference and proceeding from that to understand together can be constructive in advancing unity.

Your view sounds in some ways like leaving it to the "elite" or the "clergy class?" Acts 15 is people hearing the different points of view and then in hearing one another coming to one mind and heart.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Friday, 25 July 2008 at 11:25pm BST

I agree! (A rare event!!) We are worth it!!!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 25 July 2008 at 11:26pm BST

Speak for yourself Martin R ! ;-)

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 1:12am BST

Thank you...Dear David...for taking the time to re-type your thoughts of the day vs a vs "Lowlight of the day"....
And also for being willing to expose yourself to
people and blogs that you might not normally agree with . It has always seemed to me that that frame of mind is the "genius" of Anglicanism. And indeed
the Body of Christ would seem a lackluster stopoff if we all thought , spoke , and preached in exactly the "same" manner...Pure Anglicanism..? Hmphhhhh !

Posted by: David Lyon on Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 2:27am BST

I hear the bishops blog comments as asking us to grow up, enough to be able to let God serve a suffering planet and its many different peoples through our steady mutual Anglican recognitions across all our hot button differences. I dislike Akinola, say, for much that he preaches so uppity and self-satisfied in his own salvation ungenerous. But if Akinola so much as gives a cup of cold water to a little one beloved of God in Jesus of Nazareth, then God is at work in those hands - and I am involved in that generosity even if in the very next awful moment it is swamped by Akinola's fondness for meanness, policing, punishments.

The God who uses a talking ass and an angel to enlighten and teach the prophet for hire in Numbers, can surely give a cup of cold water to a little one, or disconfirming science data to the rest of us, no suprise.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 26 July 2008 at 3:38pm BST

Gee thanks - its so nice to know we are 'worth it' and you care so much. Great!?
But are the bishops?
Have to say I agree with Bishop Chane who has spotted that bishops and bureaucrats are hardly the most 'in touch' and Simon Sarmiento in his piece has his pulse on what it all actually adds up to in the pews...zilch!
Any decisions will have to involve the clergy and laity. And the answer I feel pretty sure would be 'No' to the covenant and 'Are you serious?' (to quote a former tennis player from US) about a new Curia.
People would be happy with a loose association/fellowship for old times sake. I am shocked the bishops are so clubbable and malleable by a lovely/good/bright but failed and wrong ABC.

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 12:00am BST
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