Thursday 19 June 2008
Article in Outlook, the Canterbury Diocesan Newsletter
What's actually going to happen at the Lambeth Conference? Well, I have no crystal ball to tell me exactly what the outcomes will be. But what I most hope and pray is that we emerge from the quite intensive programme with the two main goals taken forward – having gained more confidence about our Communion and having helped to give bishops more resources for their primary work of serving the Church in mission.
But what we can say a bit about is the way in which the business is going to be done. The programme, devised by a very gifted and dedicated international team, responds to the widely felt concerns that we ought to get away from too 'parliamentary' and formal a style. It's going to be important that no-one goes home feeling they haven't ever been listened to. So it's important to devise structures that guarantee everyone has a chance to be heard. It's also crucial to build the sort of trust that allows deep and passionate differences to be stated and explored together, with time allowed for getting past the slogans and the surface emotions.
So the new thing about Lambeth this time is that the whole body of the bishops will be divided into middle-sized groups, called 'indaba' groups, from a Zulu word describing community discussion and decision-making.
BB NOTE: Who is going to "divide" the bishops "into middle-sized groups?" Will the bishops have the freedom to chose their own groups or will that be decided by someone else? If so, who? And what will be their strategic plan in dividing the bishops into groups?
In these groups of forty or so, expert facilitators will be enabling the kind of discussion in which everyone has a chance to speak;
BB NOTE: Who are these so-called "expert" facilitators? What is their theological persuasion? Are they Christians? What is their faith commitment? What is their political commitment? What is their agenda? Who picked these so-called "expert" facilitators? What instructions have they been given - and by whom?
...and people will be given the responsibility of reporting on behalf of each group, so that over the two weeks of work there will be a lot of attention given to how what comes out of the groups can be woven together in a final statement.
BB NOTE: What people? Who will decided which people? Who will edit the "reporting on behalf of each group?" Will all forty members have the chance to edit the "reporting on behalf of each group?" Will they get to review the "reporting on behalf of each group?" What if they disagree with the "reporting on behalf of each group?"
This work by the 'reporters' will be offered for public discussion at a number of points in the Conference so that anyone who wishes can give some feedback ...
BB NOTE: And again, who are the "reporters?" How will they be chosen? Will they be elected? Will there be several choices? How will the "public discussion" be managed? How will the bishops know when the "number of points" is occurring? What does Rowan mean by "feedback?" Do they get an edited copy of the "report" or do they just swap howdies over tea?
... as the Conference works towards its final reflections.
BB NOTE: So now it's called "final reflections" instead of a report. Who will write the "final reflections?" Who will edit the "final reflections?" Who cares about "final reflections?" We have been reflecting for thirty years - isn't this a tactic to keep these bishops busy to do nothing? Or is it opening up the opportunity to suck the bishops into mire? Is that why there are rumors that the Bishop of Rochester is not going to go - because the bishops are being managed and forsaking their duties as bishops to guard the faith?
Each 'indaba' group brings together a number of smaller Bible study groups, who will be studying John's Gospel each day.
BB NOTE: What does he mean by "study?" Are there questions? Who is writing the questions? Are they "studying" the entire book or just bits? Who gets to decide?
And the hope is that through these small and medium-sized groups, which will stay together throughout the Conference, real relationships will be formed across various boundaries.
BB NOTE: So much for freedom of association! Now the bishops are going to be herded into managed groups put together by people whose names we do not know and with strategic planning we do not know to produce reports written by people we do not know to produce reflections for what reason? Will the bishops just blindly walk into this, nodding and smiling into a massive effort of Group Think?
We've also tried to make sure that there is proper provision in groups for the various languages represented among the Bishops and their wives.
BB NOTE: Ah, but not their husbands? Oops.
The whole event begins with a couple of days' retreat, based in the Cathedral. We learn how to listen to each other by listening to God, quietly and patiently and thankfully; and I pray very earnestly that this opening experience will set the tone for the work that follows.
BB NOTE: Who is going to teach this maneuver to keep the bishops nice and in order and without raise voices or any real passion or conviction? Isn't this how introverts operate? By keeping everything quiet? Doesn't he realize that there are Americans and Australians in the room - or will they be shushed and shuttered with duck tape over their mouths?
Of course it will be a profoundly challenging time for us all.
BB NOTE: The understatement of the year.
Much depends on our willingness to work hard and to be ready to move closer to each other instead of staying in our own familiar territory.
BB NOTE: No, much of it depends on the bishops entering into a Group Think Experience at the expense of their own conscience and convictions.
The Church always seeks a common commitment, not just an assortment of individual beliefs. And that isn't a sort of tyranny; it's a reminder that in biblical terms the truth we come to know is known in and through the Body of Christ, not by any of us in isolation. That's the truth that will set us free.
BB NOTE: Ah, but is not the Church made up of individuals with convictions who band together with those of common vision - and is not this conference attempting to dismantle those freedom groups in favor of Group Think? The truth indeed does set us free - to be ourselves and not to be subject to manipulation, even with the best of intentions. Does it not sound as though Rowan does not trust these bishops to behave and so is imposing strict limits on their engagements with one another in order to manage a chaotic situation?
I'm delighted and very grateful indeed that the people of this diocese have been so generous and enthusiastic about Lambeth. As I wrestle with so many of the organisational and other problems, it's a great gift to go to a parish at the weekend and see the posters about Lambeth and hear people being encouraging about help and hospitality. I feel that the diocese, including in a special way the Cathedral, is really modelling for the Communion a positive and welcoming spirit, and I must say a very heartfelt than you for this.
Please go on praying; may God help us all to meet and work and pray together in a way that gives him glory and offers hope and good news to his world.
BB NOTE: Amen.
With my love always