Saturday, August 09, 2008

+Katharine in the Guardian:

The Road from Lambeth

The recently-concluded Lambeth Conference provided an opportunity for bishops from around the Anglican communion to discover the deeper realities of the contexts in which each seeks to spread the gospel.

One bishop from India reported a legislative requirement to obtain a magistrate's certificate before baptising a convert, with a prison term of several years and a significant fine as the penalty for proceeding without legal sanction.
A bishop's spouse from Africa reported the church's difficulty in supporting widows who are pressured to marry the dead husband's brother (even if already married), or else forfeit their children and property.

Bishops from Madagascar told of cyclones that destroy their people's homes and crops, often several times a year, and how they seek to build strong church buildings that can be havens from the storms as well as seats of learning. Western bishops spoke of the church's pastoral role in seeking to provide sacred support for same-sex couples living in monogamous, life-long relationships.

Bishops from Africa and Asia told of the difficulty of evangelism in majority Muslim societies. Sudanese bishops sought partnerships as they seek to resettle returning refugees and rebuild a devastated church structure. A Tanzanian bishop lamented the difficulty of biblical study without libraries or access to the scholarly tools Westerners take for granted. Japanese bishops spoke of the church's inability to address social change when Christianity is such a small part of society. And bishops from countless places spoke of their gratitude for the support of others as they struggle with natural disasters, corruption, war, disease, hunger, climate change and counterproductive social pressures.

Given divergences that look interplanetary in degree and scale, what does this diverse body have in common? Certainly a recognisably common framework of worship, descended from the Church of England. A reliance on sacred scripture, in common with tradition and reason, also characteristic of roots in British Christianity. And a passion for caring for their flocks – the hungry, the sick, the aged and infirm, widows and orphans, and the forgotten, as well as those who know no good news.

But the forms and structures of the various provinces of the Anglican communion have diverged significantly, in ways that challenge those ancient ties to England and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those provinces are the result of evangelism tied to colonial structures, whether of Britain or her former colonies, and that colonial history has still to be unpacked and assessed. The present attempts to manage conflict in the communion through a renewed focus on structural ties to old or new authorities have generated significant resistance, both from provinces who largely absented themselves from Lambeth and from dissenting voices among the attending bishops.

The Anglican communion's present reality reflects a struggle to grow into a new level of maturity, like that of adult siblings in a much-conflicted family. As we continue to wrestle, sufficient space and respect for the differing gifts of the siblings just might lead to greater maturity in relationship. This will require greater self-definition as well as decreased reactivity. Jesus' own example in relationships with his opponents and with his disciples will be instructive.
Katharine Jefferts Schori,, Saturday August 09 2008

1 comment:

Ricardo said...

Millions of dollars spent to have tea with the Queen, dress up in pretty purple and talk, talk, talk. Thousands are dying of starvation in Darfur, Muslims are being massacred in Nigeria and the only "pro-active" phrase mentioned to the Guardian was 'DECREASED reactivity.' To quote MLK..."Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." I guess we really don't "get what we pay for." Ricardo, USA