Benediction Online

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Schism Averted?

It’s the end of Day 4 and we still don’t have an answer. The press briefing room was remarkably subdued this evening as we heard that there was still no report on the Primate’s discussions of the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report. Bishop Aspinall, the spokesperson of the week, was unavailable as he is part of the drafting committee for the final communiqué and was busy working.

So we moved on to more important things. Archbishop Ndungane of South Africa talked passionately about the urgency of responding to issues of economic justice. He described the situation as one of ‘global apartheid’ where the ‘rich are getting stinkingly rich’ and the ‘poor are getting desperately poor’. It is a sin he said, that half the world live on less than $1 per day. Our mission priority is to address these issues and ensure a sustainable livelihood for everyone.

Hellen Wangusa, the new Anglican UN Observer gave a stirring talk on her role as UN Observer and the importance of the Millennium Development Goals. These are intended to reduce by one half the number of people living in poverty by 2015. But she said, our Biblical mandate is greater than that. We know that ‘when one half of the world is sick, the world is sick’.

Chris Sugden of the conservative UK organization, Anglican Mainstream, hasn’t been getting enough sleep. He rose to ask how our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord who forgives our sin was involved in this. How, he enquired, did what we were talking about differ from what a governmental agency might do? He hadn’t heard that explained. Mrs. Wangusa did not miss a beat, responding ‘I am really surprised, I am really surprised, because I already said…’ that our Biblical mandate is to go beyond the 50% threshold. When Jesus saw the people were hungry he looked at what he had and then he fed all of them, not half.

The Primates also discussed theological education today ‘in a long extended conversation’ and agreed on the importance of this throughout the Communion.

But we still don’t know what they are going to say about the Big Issue. Conservative bishops Duncan, Minns, Akinola and Oko (of Nigeria) met for several hours this evening in the upper room. We can only think that if they were content with things as they stand that they would have relaxed and enjoyed the evening, the band and the acrobatic limbo dancers by the pool. The fact that they are still here suggests that they have hope left that they will be able to remain in the Communion. The fact that Bishop Katharine is still here shows that their demands have not all been met. The fact that they couldn’t enjoy the evening suggests that they are still calling on the Name of the Lord to meet their demands, or trying to decide how they are going to behave tomorrow.

Tomorrow the Primates and the press (in separate compartments of course) take a boat to Zanzibar for a festive Eucharist at which Archbishop Rowan Williams is preaching, and a short sightseeing tour, including the old slave market and Freddie Mercury’s home. I take the flight home, but Colin Coward of Changing Attitude UK will be reporting out the rest of the meeting at (Also see Probably we won’t know whether schism is averted or just postponed until Monday afternoon.

The interaction between Chris Sugden and Mrs. Wangusa said a lot to me about the tension in the Anglican Communion. It isn’t really about lesbian and gay Christians and our full inclusion in the Church. It’s about priorities in mission; are we here primarily to help people find Jesus as their personal Savior, or are we here ‘to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor?’ It can’t really be an either/or, but if a person is starving the first priority is to feed them and let God take care of their souls. If a gay person is oppressed and discriminated against, preaching the good news includes lifting that burden.

Tonight’s headline reads, “Hunger Kills 18,000 Kids Each Day, UN Says”. It’s time to get serious about mission.


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