Thursday, July 31, 2008

Emotion, Rationality and Generosity

The conference is heading towards the end now, the Indaba process went ahead amidst challenges, enthusiasm and at times frustration. These are appropriate effects when people really talk and encounter one another. The Indaba Reflection group has produced a third draft of the process so far. You should find it on the website soon - when this entry was posted, the second draft was available there (in PDF form).

Today was full of emotion, rationality and a spirit of generosity as we discussed the issue of the bishop and sexuality. As I write, I am preparing to go for an interactive media training workshop run by Trinity Wall Street's TV and communications department - I am looking forward to it, something different.

Last night I attended my first Global South and CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) meetings. It was good to meet and see my colleagues whom I have read and heard so much about. The meetings were in the evening following a reception hosted by Virginia Theological Seminary. The fatigue was obvious at our Design Group meeting this morning and carried through to our Indaba. I had a bit of rest around lunchtime and am feeling ready for the next phase.

The Windsor Continuation group, Covenant process and Reflections, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury's closing text are now the conference “instruments” to which we look to articulate what we were about. Please pray for these processes.

I spoke to +Rubin and Mrs Glover yesterday morning; pray for both families and +Rubin and +Paddy’s recovery.

God bless you,

++Thabo

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Joint Session on Abuse Evoked Deep Emotions

Today we had a joint session with the spouses reflecting on abuse. The plenary Bible study on 2nd Samuel, the story of Tamar, was the basis of our discussion ably led by Prof Gerald West (University of KwaZulu/Natal). The session evoked deep-seated emotions but the audience was a mature one and obviously restrained. We were given time out with our spouses to reflect on the session.

I had brief meetings and input with the Reflection group tasked with producing a document from the raw data collected from the Indaba process and a useful meeting with ++ABC (the Archbishop of Canterbury) during lunch on the Primates' meetings.

Bible study was in the afternoon today. Following a busy morning, I had a little rest and could not get to it but read the text alone. I missed being there: my group is a source of energy and strength.

At 5pm I had an interview with the Church Times. +Rowan’s second presidential address (photo at left/ACNS Gunn) was apt, speaking into our situation, drawing biblical principles, reflecting on the challenges that we currently face and calling us not to forget the centre, even in Jesus.

The rain has brought welcome weather.

God bless,

+Thabo

PS: Some links have been added to earlier posts below: on the group on HIV/Aids and TB, and the text of Archbishop Rowan's sermon on Sunday.

"I Disagree But Will Not Leave the Communion"

Today (Monday) we had a further hearing on the Windsor Continuation process, which is considering the future of the Communion in response to our current challenges.

It was well attended, in a scourgingly hot gym, and there was frank discussion on the proposed Anglican Covenant and the challenges we face. The process is continuing and what stayed in my mind is what one representative of The Episopal Church (TEC) in the United States said: "I disagree with some of my fellow bishops in the TEC theologically but I will not leave the Communion" (paraphrased). This showed a degree of maturity and openness to dialogue because, as ++Tutu always says, the Holy spirit is not finished with us yet.

Following the hearings, I chaired one of the "self-select" sessions - the one on "The Deadly Co-epidemic of Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS." Though not well attended, the quality of speakers and questions was good. This evening, I was unable to attend the plenary session addressed by the Chief Rabbi in the UK, Sir Jonathan Sacks, whom I had heard in Boston last year, because I was at a session with mission partners - it was a good social with a band.

It was Southern Africa's turn today to lead the Evening Worship today (readings: Psalm 46 and James 2:1-10). +Merwyn Castle, our liaison bishop for liturgical matters, was delegated to lead on our behalf. It was a good multi-lingual service with English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans featuring. I need to apologize to the Lebombo and Angola dioceses - the service was mainly "South" and not "Southern" African, as +Dinis Sengulane always reminds us we should be.

The music and visuals were great, capturing our beautiful Province and featuring some of our old stalwarts, for example the late Bishop George Swartz of Kimberley and Kuruman, may his soul indeed rest in peace.

It has been so hot, but tonight we are having a few, most welcome drops of rain.

God bless you,

++ Thabo

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Southern Africa Features in BBC Sunday Worship

(This photo, and all others on this blog - unless otherwise marked - are © Lambeth Conference) See the full photo from which this image is extracted [large file]

Yesterday we had a photo shoot (above) whilst we continued with the conference rhythm.

We ended the day with a dinner organized by Trinity Wall Street. This was a reunion which followed up on the Walking to Emmaus Consultation which Trinity organized in Spain a year ago for African partners of The Episcopal Church.

This morning we had an early start at St Dunstan's, Canterbury, with a service which was broadcast live on BBC radio. You can hear the service, including a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a number of contributions by Southern African bishops, here. (The service begins 2 minutes after the beginning of the audio file.)

God bless

++Thabo

Friday, July 25, 2008

Delving Deeply Into the Gospels: Sexuality and the NT

The rhythm of the Lambeth Conference continues and the Indabas continue to allow bishops to talk. Today we dealt with ecumenism, and for the plenary session had an input on the ecological crisis and what role can we play as the church.

For the self-select groups I had four options: (1) Christianity in China, (2) Christians where the majority are Buddhist, (3) the proposed Anglican Covenant or (4) sexuality and the New Testament. On my way to the venue I met a French-speaking from a Province which was not allowing its bishops to attend. But he was there anyway. We started talking about his country and he told me that he was attending option 4, so I joined him.

The presentation was interesting and delved deeply into the gospels, looking into both what Jesus said and his deeds, and also into what Paul said and did, concerning the issues of their day. Richard Burridge’s book and Phil Groves' book on enabling listening are good resources.

We had one unhappy respondent on the process. It was encouraging that he voiced his concern, a sign that people are able to disagree and hold together.

Mrs Williams gave a reflection at the evening worship, which was led by the spouses today. She reminded the conference that, (1) spouses want to support bishops in the challenges they are facing in the Communion, (2) bishops are leaders in and not owners of the church and, therefore need to remember (3) that this God’s church and that all should make the gift of Communion work.

God bless

++Thabo

Additional web resources on Phil Groves' book

Keep the Promise: Halve Poverty by 2015

We had a long day yesterday, firstly with a walk of witness in London to highlight the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to call on leaders to meet them and to commit the faith community to play our part. It was well attended (see the photo) and really worked. The input by the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was inspiring, as was that of Hellen Wangusa, the Anglican Communion's observer at the United Nations.

We then went to Lambeth Palace, the home and office of the Archbishop, and to a Buckingham Palace tea party to meet Prince Philip and HM the Queen, which was a memorable event.

We need to remember the plight of the poor and do something about it in the here and now: that summarizes today’s message.

The Times of London gave a critique of the Indaba [you may have to register with their site to read it] and referred to the conference as capitulating to a tribal notion. The critique actually says the newspaper has caught onto the process and in giving this critique, they are perhaps joining in the journey and conversation.

God bless you,

++Thabo

PS: Listen to an interview on the MDGs with Hellen Wangusa

And you can also hear Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Lebombo on the MDGs

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The tempo and rhythm of the conference is relatively set in our Bible study and Indabas. In our small "indaba within the Indaba" group today, we made a commitment not to be overwhelmed by the sea of social justice issues but to start small and from a specific point. The issue of the American biofuels programme and the U.S. government's foreign policies occupied our group - as did malaria, HIV and Aids, TB and the war and displacement of people in Sudan. We resolved to learn best practices and to support one another as we bring Christ into these situations.

I attended the second self-select session of the conference today. The theme was social justice and the session discussed the Christian response to the challenges in the Holy Land. We had various scholars, practioners and archbishops from Israel/Palestine address us. Practical suggestions were: 1. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. 2. Educate the youth in the Holy Land and the Holy Basin (that part of Jerusalem including its holiest sites) to live with respect for one another.

There is a great longing for peace in the midst of anguish and hopelessness in the Holy Land. We should never forget those who are suffering there - we need to visit them, to keep contact with them and to highlight their plight. On a different level, one speaker said the problem there has been imported from the US and the fear of what happened in Eastern Europe, and suggested the solution may be for the US to take away what it has imported into the Holy Land.

All I can say, as the Patriarch of Jerusalem said when handing the Archbishop of Canterbury the Order of the Holy Sepulchre: Thank you for your concern for us and the deep knowledge of our spirituality evident in your words, writings and ways; Let our ways, words and writing bring life and light to all the children of God, bruised at this time in the Holy Land.

I also managed some fun and wandered about in the "marketplace" (see the photo!), looking at various bookstalls and vestments. Bishop Geoff Quinlan kindly loaned me his rochet and chimere for the opening service and, guess what, I found a stall which sells them and have ordered one.

The weather is still great, in fact hot. Last night we joined Archbishop Rowan and Jane Williams and other guests for dinner, where the ambience was lovely and the food delicious. So today Lungi and I took a longer walk than normal to keep fit. She continues to enjoy the conference, the first-ever church conference she has attended. Tomorrow is our walk of witness, a visit to Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace in London.

God bless you,

++Thabo

Broadcast the Call in Micah With Trumpets

Evangelist Brian McLaren, from the US, spoke brilliantly at our plenary session on Monday night, delivering a critique of the state of world Christianity and the “mainline churches,” using humour and imagery; for example, an orphaned male hippo finding solace in a tortoise, or a bridge in Honduras that stood firm after a hurricane but, because the river course was altered, became a bridge that now goes nowhere but has become an interesting tourist site. He called for disciple formation or evangelism that looked at values formation rather than religiosity in our broken, beautiful and bruised world.

Yesterday, our Indaba - the third - went extremely well. There were some intial rumblings but nothing more materialised and everyone came. Brian McLaren's presentation was still alive in all of us, and we discussed the bishop and evangelism.

After the Indabas, we met in self-select groups. I went to the Micah Challenge on social justice and being prophetic for the cause of the poor. The story of what is happening in the Philippines, and how it challenges the church, was moving. The bishops in our self-select group described how the military was "persecuting" Christians. Earlier, in my Indaba group, we heard how Christians in India were being marginalised and harassed for their faith. We need trumpets to broadcast louder the call in Micah 6:8 for God's justice, mercy and peace to be established, and for humility on the part of those who inflict terror.

On another note, we from ACSA are well represented here apart from the bishops and their spouses. We have Canon Dalene Mark, on the Anglican Communion's Peace and Justice Network, Odwa Gonya on the Youth Network, who is one of the stewards and a former ASF president, Canon Suzanne Peterson from Grahamstown and Dean Rowan Smith from Cape Town (who will be joining us to service the listening team).

We press on and continue to talk, encounter each other and open ourselves to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we are nurtured daily by the sacrament so that Jesus in us is revealed. And the weather is great - you could even get a sun tan here!

++Thabo

(Thanks to Bishop Alan of Buckinghamshire for the photo of that bridge in Honduras)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Holy Spirit Fills Us Not With Optimism, But Hope

The first day of conference took place today and the concept of Indaba was put into practice. The initial responses are positive. One journalist asked me: "Are you optimistic?” I answered that because this was God’s church and as the Holy Spirit is at work in us as the same power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead, I was not optimistic but full of hope.

The evening worship reflection from +Winston was very helpful to tuck my end-of-day reflection into. He used an imagery of waves, both literally and metaphorically. As the effects of global warming become real, the sea is rising and the vulnerable Islanders are thrown into deep despair. But they know that God will never let them down.

Here is a physical, literal example of lack of good stewardship of creation creating a human disaster but also allowing the Islanders to see God in this hopeless situation.

A response to our intercessory prayers: "We do not proclaim ourselves Lord; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord," was a further reminder of what our identity and mission should be about, revealing the Son of God in the tumultuous waves of our mortal life. These prepare us for our session for tomorrow, "Proclaiming the Good News; the Bishop and Evangelism."

God bless,

++Thabo

Lambeth 2000 Opens In Canterbury

The introductory session of Lambeth last night went well, as did the opening Eucharist (see the photo), my first international press conference and the introduction of Indaba.

The mood and response to ++ABC (the Archbishop of Canterbury) was a standing ovation.

The diocese of Joburg yesterday had a service of repentance in the light of the xenophobia. +Brian, ++ABC and I did an interview which was shown during their service. The message was what I said previously about our treatment of difference and that foreign people are God’s people too.

Today we go into the conference proper, and will see how the Indaba, self-select and listening and reflection groups pan out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lambeth Adopts the Indaba Model of Face-to-Face Encounter

It is going to be interesting to hear the debates at the Indabas, the group discussions in which much of the Conference discussion will take place, and what the Spirit is saying to the churches that are gathered and represented here in Kent, as well as those who were represented at the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem.

One particular aspect that has struck me about the Archbishop of Canterbury is his spirit of generosity. He prays for and is pained by those who have absented themselves from Lambeth, a sign on his part of Christian maturity, humility and generosity.

Our South African context has taught me not to stay away, but to be present and to state my case to those who disagree with me, until we all meet one other. Therefore, the response to the Anglican Covenant that we are debating at Lambeth - as I will be saying this evening in explaining the Indabas to the Conference - lies in face-to-face encounters with one another, rather than in the cold and fierce responses which, sadly, people have been exchanging with one another through the media.

We are alive, and we need to keep talking!

Pray for us, God bless, ++Thabo

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Learning the Art of Waiting on Others and the Lord

We have just had an ecumenical service during which a stage full of ecumenical guests was welcomed. In his message, ++Rowan reflected on the reading used for our Bible study this morning.

To deviate, I am enjoying Bible study but am learning the art of being gracious and more sensitive to those who can't speak English, something I previously took for granted. We have three Koreans, a bishop from Burma and one from India in our group, and the Bible study is conducted through interpreters. It's a challenge, but an art to wait upon the others to say their say and also upon the Lord, and to say less in order to communicate more or profoundly.

In his homily, reflecting on love and the Samaritan woman at the well, ++Rowan called upon us to go deeper into God's infinite and bottomless well that has love which surpasses all understanding. He called on the ecumenical partners to challenge us as we all seek that perfection in Christ which is not possible to fully attain but nevertheless draws us into wanting to be more Christ-like.

I will not write tonight as the Vice-Chancellor of Kent University has invited the primates and spouses for dinner. Tomorrow we have our main opening Eucharist and I have a couple of media interviews.

God bless you,

++Thabo

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Christian Exists in Community

Today was special, repeating same format as yesterday. In the Church Times, most pictures feature our SA bishops with the bishop of Umtata on the front page. (See the picture on the left!)

The worship of the conference continues to be uplifting, with a SA tune, Thuma Mina, as a theme song.

The Archbishop's challenge today was: how do we as bishops live as community and exercise our ministry in fellowship, citing Tertullian from the second century when he said a single Christian is no Christian (but a Christian exists in community). He further remind us that a bishop is a biblical person and silently listens to God with one ear and with the other to the cries, longings and needs of the world.

God bless,

++Thabo

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Inspiring Retreat Addresses in the Cathedral

Today the day started well, I have managed to meet up with almost all of the ACSA bishops and some of their spouses. Both bishops and spouses began the day with worship. After Bible study, the bishops were bused to Canterbury Cathedral for their retreat, lunch and evening prayer.

Members of the cathedral choir always make great melody with their voices and the sung evensong was uplifting. The Archbishop of Canterbury's retreat addresses - two of them today - were inspiring, reflecting on ideas and messages from Paul’s letters and how they define the bishop as a centre of unity and the imperative for social justice concerns, healing and hope.

Lungi is attending the launch of Jane Williams' book, "Marriage, Mitres and Being Myself" tonight and I am writing these reflections.

Although it was a grey day today, it is still light outside and the time is 8.45pm.

The campus is full of media and after our retreat we had one protester outside the cathedral gates, with a vulgar poster. So far so good. My thanks to Rob Rogerson, who has made our journey smooth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our first day at Lambeth

It's warm in Kent, the opening session starts today. We had our briefing session yesterday and I addressed the group briefly on the essence of Indaba, the concept of which has been built into our deliberations at Lambeth.

Today we met to do a “voice check” on the PA system. The local newspaper, The Guardian, on Monday covered a brief story on the conference but more about Gene Robinson and the resistance he had before preaching here in the UK on Sunday. I have not read the Times but it had good coverage, +Peter Lee told me yesterday.

I have also had my first "internal" media interview by the TV team from the Trinity Church, Wall Street.

On Sunday, as part of the opening, I will give a little input to the whole conference on what Indaba means.

Do keep the bishops, their spouses and all of us involved in the Conference, in your prayers.

God bless you all,

++Thabo

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Visit to the Holy Land

My Dear People,

I thought I should drop you this line on my recent trip to the Holy Land, squeezed into my schedule just before Lungi and I left for the Lambeth Conference.

The trip was made at the invitation of a diverse group of South Africans concerned with justice in Israel and the Occupied Territories. They have a website, and you can see the Mission Statement of the visit here:

http://www.humanrightsdelegation.org/statements.asp

Also on the website is other information, such as the names of those who travelled with me, and press clippings of coverage while we were there:

http://www.humanrightsdelegation.org/statements.asp

As I write this, there is so much raw data in my mind and soul that I need more space and time to reflect on and process my experiences. The issues raised by the situation in the Middle East are sensitive, and maintaining a balance in our approach is crucial.

Nevertheless, as a preliminary reflection, what is uppermost in my mind can be categorised into three sections.

First, the physical and superficial - the topography of the Holy Land, the separation walls and fence which set people apart from one another, the separate roads on the West Bank on which only Israeli settlers are allowed to travel, the robust and solid settlements the settlers have established, and the old and new Jerusalem, clearly divided into Jewish and Palestinian areas.

Second and at a slightly deeper level, I was struck by the people, their pain and their longing for peace and for the Holy Basin to be whole again.

At a third level are my personal and spiritual responses: my wrestling with God and God's invitation in Mark's Gospel, to come and let us cross to the other side. Crossing to the other side is a missional invitation that needs courage and humility and rootedness in the sure hope of a call.

Following this short visit, I am humbled and encouraged by those who build peace - and feel moved to invite others to be peace builders. It is obviously costly but we cannot but be stirred by suffering, separation, brokenness and God's sure message of hope.

God bless you,

++Thabo

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blogging from Bishopscourt - And the Road

My Dear People,

As part of my sharing with you, I have taken advantage of some of the new technology available on the internet to create this blog.

On it, both from Bishopscourt and as I travel, I plan to share with you more informally than in my regular letters "Ad Laos." I will also include links to each Ad Laos - beginning below with those already sent - and when I come across something particularly useful or interesting on the web, I will include a link here.

I hope you find it useful, and that it will help to focus your prayers that I should fulfill God's will for me from day to day.

Every blessing,

Archbishop Thabo

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ad Laos for July 2008

My Ad Laos for July, sent as Lungi and I left, after returning from the Holy Land, to the Lambeth Conference.