May 4 Blog
We began in earnest today. Starting with Eucharist (again rollicking reggae type music) and the first Bible Study in a small group of five, we went into an Information Plenary that had Archbishop Drexel Gomez presented the Covenant’s third draft. He was very articulate and persuasive in highlighting the challenge of drafting such a document, the considerable consultation with each of the previous two drafts, and the ways the Covenant Design Group had responded to what they had heard in those consultations. The burden of our decision-making at this meeting was made even sharper by his comments: “…the Communion is close to the point of breaking up. If we can’t state clearly and simply what holds us together, and speak clearly at this meeting, then I fear that there will be clear breaks in the Communion in the period following this meeting.” All the nice warm and fuzzy feelings we’ve been experiencing in the first few days jolted into a revived reality for me…I had come here with a sense of deep burden, and it’s back, big-time!
Our first Discernment Group followed, fortunately. This is a group of about 20 where we discuss issues informally and confidentially. It’s a really good technique to enable more voices to be heard, and listened to intently. We’ve all been singing its praises as a new way to avoid the winner/loser mode of parliamentary gatherings, where knowledge of parliamentary procedure trumps insight and wisdom. I feel unable to share much of what goes on in these groups, in order to keep confidentiality, but can certainly say that we immediately moved to some of the deep and hard issues that our churches back home have been struggling with. In terms of the Covenant, which was the topic we began to discuss today, I need to remind readers that what is before us is a decision to send the Covenant in its current draft out to the Provinces for consideration and adoption, or to ask for further work to be done on it. Our role is not, thank goodness, to adopt it ourselves for the Communion or for our Province.
The resolution we’ve been asked to consider, prepared by the Joint Standing Committee, addresses my major concern with the draft Covenant, and that is that there is the provision that other “churches” (read, potentially, the break-away splinter group in Canada, or individual dioceses or parishes) can adopt the Covenant. The resolution asks that only the current member churches of the ACC be asked to consider and adopt the Covenant at this time. A wise insertion in the draft resolution…I hope it remains there to keep us together and not encouraging further splintering.
The afternoon was rich too with some in-depth time with two of the many Anglican Communion Networks. I chose to go to the Anglican Indigenous Network, and the proposed new Network on Health. In the first session, I was moved to hear the story of the Maori history in New Zealand, and their constant vision from the start of their life as Christians to be a Mission Church. Both sessions were opening exciting possibilities for our churches to work together. I know how important the Indigenous Network has been to the First Nations Anglicans in Canada, and I think that deep relationship will continue to be part of what emerges in our church in our work of healing and reconciliation, and especially rethinking.
The Anglican Networks, a least a dozen either already authorized or seeking status, are almost an unknown treasure in most of Canada’s parishes. I think there are lots of lonely Canadian Anglican “prophets” (on the environment, on gender equality, on health and healing etc.) that would gain support and good ideas if they were connected to the network that held similar-minded individuals, called to minister in that particular area. How to get pout that word more effectively when I get home will be a challenge.
By the way, Canada is well represented in these Networks’ leaders…those people are contributing so much to the mission of the Communion. They are in large part what the Communion is doing together when it isn’t focussing on sex and jurisdiction!
There’s more to tell, but I’m exhausted and need to hit bed. Tomorrow we tackle the Windsor Continuation Group, and I need to be alert.