But what about the Indaba and Bible Study groups driving the conference?
- Indaba demands Full Participation. It’s more important to participate than to blog. The precondition of being a reporter (which I’m not) is critical distance. Whatever happens, I can’t be part of it without ful engagement.
- Indaba is an emergent process. the vast majority of particpants have never done this before. Good. We’re in God’s hands. It means predictions “based on last time” are least probable of all to come true. Like all cross-cultural dialogue it requires sensitive reticence in its early stages. Provisional, unfinished work has to be allowed to stand and be shared for what it is, as provisional, or you end up with speculation dressed up as conlusion which then becomes output. We may not achieve certainty this side of heaven, but if we work at it, we may achieve higher levels of clarity.
- Indaba is driven by Trust. Some personalities think out loud in the public square, and need room to do this without anything they say being captured and pushed out on the internet.
- Indaba requires working space. Some personalities and cultures are very reflective and process things carefully inside before bringing it to a group. It does not facilitate openness for anyone to feel they are being bugged. It is also the case that a few bishops come from parts of the world where it wold be simply dangerous to their personal security to tell tales out of school about their work and context. It’s important they feel free to be themselves and tell it like it is, with real confidence they can do so without being plastered all over the internet by some silly blogger.
- Indaba is an expression of respect. This means radical openness — trying hard to listen to others and understand them in their own terms before pitching in one’s own reaction. Mark Twain pointed out that what makes people dumb is not what they don’t know, but what they think they know, and it’s wrong. Coming from a generally sperficial, low-respect, cynical culture doesn’t help.
- Indaba is an expression of faith. +Ossie Swartz was reminding us in Oxford Cathedral on Saturday, God wants to turn fear and hysteria into positive energy for the kingdom. We have to decide whether we want to be undertakers, or whether we see ourselves as on the egde of a very special thing God may be doing. I have been, quite honestly, pretty amazed by the cynicism of some commentators already — “all they’re going to do is have a prayer meeting and study the Bible — what’s the point of that?” The more I think about it, the more power there is in shared listening to God in the Scriptures and in prayer. In spite of nostalgia, fear and the dangers of syncretism we live in this world, in this generation, because God has called us to do so. It may be evil and adulterous, but it always was, and it holds out possibilities as well as threats. We cannot solve problems on the level that produced them. As ever, without faith it is impossible to please God.
- There’s a real world out there, far more important to God than Ecclesiastical navel gazing. This requires a sense of realism. “It’s not that the God of the Church has a mission, but the God of Mission has a Church.”