Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sadness and Hope

I confess to feeling some sadness tonight. At Evening Prayer we said farewell to the music team that has led us for two and a half weeks. The worship and music remain for me among the real highlights of the Lambeth Conference. Day after day we were treated to new and exciting music, much of it very singable, which I hope to bring home to share. We also said farewell to the incredible variety of worship styles and languages that has characterized our daily worship: English, French, Arabic, Urdu, Swahili, Malaysian... our worship experience has been very, very rich.

We also began saying good bye to new friends and colleagues with whom we have engaged in very deep conversation. The very best part of this Lambeth for me has been learning about the cultures and ministries of the members of my Bible Study and Indaba group. I have learned about the passions and concerns of the Church in India, New Zealand, England, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, Melanesia, and Sri Lanka. In every place there are faithful Christians, passionate about the Gospel, laboring to bring good news to the people, often at great personal sacrifice. I will miss their newly familiar faces.

I think, as my new friend, George, has said, the story line we've been given for this Lambeth is actually the wrong story line. The story line we've been given is that there are two sides locked in combat here at Lambeth. The two sides may be described as progressive or liberal and traditional or conservative, and they are said to extend throughout the Communion. But a truer narrative is that there a many "sides" and that in many places passionate Christians are proclaiming the Gospel. They may have opinions about the issues that divide us, but they are not focused on them and not willing to spend all their time talking about them. Attempts to resolve the conflict do not speak to their situations or their needs.

But the "two sides" story line is very strong, and the Lambeth reflection paper will reinforce it. There are many people who hope the existing moratoria will continue and that a Pastoral Forum will be established to deal with conflicts. And while some folk express deep skepticism about the need for and viability of a covenant, others hope work will go forward. The good news hidden in these matters is the now nearly universal recognition that nothing will work unless ways can be found to continue in genuine conversation. Good relationships are the key to resolving conflicts.

For now, there have been no legislative changes. The reflection paper is advisory and the matters raised will need to be addressed by the Synods or Conventions of each Province. The Covenant process may well go through several more iterations before Provinces will be asked to decide. And in several Provinces, constitutional and canonical issues will further slow consideration. So numerous opportunities for conversation lie before us.

In the meantime, I think we've been inspired to reinvigorate our ministries, especially those related to the poor, the voiceless, and the oppressed. The Good News of Jesus Christ needs to be proclaimed now more than ever, and sometimes, as St. Francis said, with words. Sharing in those ministries is another way we can strengthen our relationships.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers, for your interest, for your comments. We have felt uplifted and supported across all these miles. We are eager to see you and be home again among you.

A final post tomorrow night.



Margaret Reimer said...

Hi Bishop Steve
It has been so wonderful to follow with you the paths you've discovered at Lambeth--thanks for sharing your insights and I look forward to seeing how the work you've done there helps to energize your new ministry here in Maine. I'm so glad you've had this opportunity at the beginning of your time with us--I suspect we may have a slightly different bishop than we consecrated a couple of months ago! Peace--and have a safe journey home.

Ruth Cheavacci said...

Thank you, Steve, for your blog and
for Bishop Knudsen's as well. I've felt throughout that I was on this journey with you and Gretchen. Remember St. Thomas' in your prayers as we remember you all in ours.

Ruth Cheavacci

Geoffrey Schuller said...

Dear Bishops Steve and Chilton
First of all thank you for the blog. I sence there is much work still to be done But that you are well on your way. Welcome home to you all. I'm glad Bishop Steve for your insite as a first attendy. I'm sure you learned alot from this. As I read the blog and watched the videos that they'er is some conflict but also some commond groud. I loved the music. I wish we could invite them to Maine. They were very uplifting and a joy to hear. Did you know that in England the elevator is called a lift. Your friend in CHRIST Geoff Schuller