May 12th Blog written on the 13th
Yesterday was a special day, with much festivity, and partying, so writing a blog late last night made no sense at all. Actually, the blog would have made no sense. Thus the heading is honest, if not scintillating.
Our Bible Study began the last day of meetings…our friendships in the small group have built to a point where it was hard to finish off and say farewell to that configuration. With the huge differences in Biblical interpretation and knowledge within the group, and with the cultures of the Far East, Cuba, England and Wales, Nigeria, New Zealand Maori and Canada represented, we were able to develop good dialogue, careful listening, and new learnings together in such a short time. My new Nigerian episcopal friend and I joked towards the end of the meeting about our capacity to get along, to try to understand each other’s views, the most unlikely of matches considering that we come from opposite ends of the theological spectrum, and cultures so distant from each other. He’s even invited me to stop off in Nigeria on my way to New Zealand (where the next Council meeting takes place in three years)! That may never take place but it indicates how far we have travelled in our small group developing what true Communion can be.
A final round of resolutions got dealt with rather well, almost a breeze compared to what we had been through with some others. And then we went for a final round of our Discernment Groups, this time to reflect on what messages we would take home from ACC-14. By now, our Group was quite diminished in size, but not in capacity to articulate! We focussed a good deal on the need for ACC to find a way to address the involvement of youth in the church, a problem common to all our churches. And then we began to talk about how this meeting was so different from Nottingham (certainly was for us Canadians and the Episcopal Church because of our need to be there, but not speak, and to endure insults from speeches.) And it was different from what we expected. We had come, most of us, full of fear, burdened by making choices (some had come thinking that we would have to settle the homosexuality topic on the spot), and we all said we were going home with a true understanding of what Communion can be…that, despite our differences, and they are still considerable, we are committed to being with each other as the Body of Christ and would be deeply saddened to lose the participation of any of our members. The deeper question was answered, I think, and that was, “can the Anglican Communion stay together or not?” A resounding yes!
The Archbishop has been clear about saying that the mess is not cleaned up, that the Communion still has some rocky road ahead, but we in the group are firm in believing that we anyway will do all we can to hold it together, while still respecting each other’s right and requirement to minister in their own particular settings.
Michael Peers used to quote Desmond Tutu about the Anglican Church being a Church because it meets. I think that we proved that this time. As one of our members said, “I don’t take ACC back in the form of resolutions: I take you back!” Bishop Michael Pryse from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (a valued ecumenical partner to these deliberations) said that we sure “looked like a Communion” to him.
So, we emerged from the business and discussion sessions with profound hope, and I think, a strong willingness to put considerable energy behind that hope. I can’t think of a better solution, a better ending. It’s way beyond what I expected to experience.
I have a whole lot of new friends. Not just the Nigerian Bishop! New Zealanders continue to have strong connections with all of us Canadians because, I think, we have so many challenges and perspectives in common, but are enough different to really learn from each other. And being in the dame small group with the Archbishop of Canterbury was a special opportunity up close and personal to see the profound gifts of the man who leads us. And I’ve just realized that if I go on to enumerate all of those others whom I will continue to be praying for, in touch with, thinking of, this blog won’t finish in time for me to catch the plane home! Suffice to say that I will come home satisfied, replenished, charged with energy, spiritually challenged to pay more attention to learning about the Bible and my faith, and ready to take on anyone who says that the Communion isn’t working. It won’t solve Canadian Anglican problems for us, nor will it give permission for us to do what we may need to do in the future, but the ACC will continue to value our contribution to our denominational issues which we can address better together than apart.
The final service was in Spanish Town at the Cathedral. Allow me to say in all humility and some embarrassment that one of the most amazing thrills of this whole event was being in one of three buses barrelling above speed limit to, and coming home from, that service with a police escort! Sirens blaring, traffic held up for us to pass through, led by the Archbishop in a flashy BMW, it was unlike anything we Canadians would ever have expected or been able to pull off. The gaping mouths of pedestrians as we passed by were enough to set us into an Alice in Wonderland state. You can see a picture of Bishop Sue Moxley and me with one of our escorts after the service outside the Cathedral on the Anglican Journal website today. www.anglicanjouranl.ca if I remember correctly.
The closing service was again loaded with Jamaican music, rousing singing, pomp (but relaxed pomp if there is such a thing). Our new Chair, Bishop James Tengatenga, and Vice Chair, Elizabeth Paver, and the Standing Committee were commissioned for the onerous tasks ahead of them. And Bishop John Paterson, retiring after 21 years on ACC, and two terms as Chair, preached. The line I remember most was “The bonds of affection are back in place”. You can get the whole text of his excellent sermon on the ACNS website www.anglicancommunion.org.
The evening was a gala event, saying thank you to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, to the West Indies, and to each other. There was gift-giving, acknowledgement of hard work completed, piles and piles of food, and a reggae band, with a Jamaican singing star who electrified us. Just as we left Nottingham with the bizarre look of all these members of ACC in Robin Hood hats at a dinner at the Castle, this time, the parting memory is the whole room full of us (well over 150), singing and dancing along with the musicians and the marvellous singer, to Bob Marley’s One Love, One Heart. It went on for a good 15 minutes of absolute joy. Then, the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, in both the Maori tongue and English, in words and in song, welcoming us to their home Province next meeting. Then came the partings, the really meaningful and heartfelt ones left to the very end because we didn’t want to leave each other.
What God has given! We are Resurrection people!
Blessings to all those who have been journeying with me. Don’t forget to go to the websites for more accurate information, for details and pictures, for various perspectives. I hope to do a reflection of the whole Council meeting to share with the Canadian Church, and it may appear here or somewhere else. But right now, it’s too close to really get the perspective I need to do that yet.