This experience does at least establish that we can’t make anything different without thinking different, which was pretty obvious, I suppose.
We’re not quite there yet I realise. Bad experience of old methods certainly vindicates the organisers’ decision not just to re-run the 1998 process. Another bishop said to me today that, actually, to get 650-odd incompatible people from 130 countries to listen to each other and communicate together, breaking bread as Christians, and praying through their problems without rancour or the smack of top-down authoritarianism, is in itself a reasonably unusual thing to happen in today’s world.
The indaba process seems to have been honoured. I was talking to our listener today, and he was telling me about comparing notes between the indaba groups for sympathetic resonance, then crystalising the widest held strong convictions into the document. It’s not every English bishop’s cup of tea, but it certainly gives voices to the voiceless, and may well beat Westminster Custard Pie fighting as a basis for real progress.
Here, for example, is a blog entry from George Packard, that is more wonderful the more I reflect on it:
If the Anglican Communion would just turn over their troubles to my 40 member indaba group everything would be fine. We had a break through as an American female bishop likened our church to siblings arguing in the back seat of the family car. There was a murmur of final understanding since there had been a wonder if those Episcopalians were coming unglued. No, just poking each other the way kids do. "But we stay together and that's what makes unwanted boundary crossings by South American and African bishops so confusing." She said.The vast majority of us in the middle, if you like, are now looking to the people who have more absolute ideas, left and right, to raise their game. If a few of them manage to do that, as well as having invented another way of decision making that takes every voice more seriously than our run of the mill synods and councils, we could achieve a significant breakthrough.
I was re-playing that fateful day in Minneapolis in 2003 in my mind when we confirmed Gene Robinson's consecration and how no one gave much of a passing thought to how this news would impact anyone in this room. Some have been beaten and called members of "the gay church" in cultures where sympathizers like that were stoned, others have died...not because of Gene but because dioceses have rejected the HIV-AIDS assistance from the American church's tainted money.
The conversation--for the Americans and the Canadians--had real remorse in it: we acted without care for the greater family and we were deeply sorry. I'm not saying the consecration wouldn't have happened but the hurt of disregard for them--which was plain and evident--would not have been there.
Then Bishop Michael of Sudan continued as he said that his church was only getting used to thinking about homosexuals now with that he composed a prayer right on the spot emphasizing his point. After the entreaty to "Our dear Lord" it was as sensitive a summary of their uncertain lives in his land that I had ever heard. We were silent. (I wonder if this Lambeth is about where had hoped the 1998 meeting would have been in the appreciation of basic gay lives and rights.)
The bishop went on to say that we had to give he and his people some time; elevating gay persons into leadership positions of authority was confusing to him and his congregations. "Can't a baptized person get into heaven without you making him a bishop for awhile?" He had us there. As he was speaking I wasn't sure if the nods were in sympathy or agreement. It seemed like both and it came about as there was an acceptance of North American remorse.
The atmosphere in the room had changed. Said our facilitator, "We seem to arrived at a special level of trust." And that seemed to hold true for the heretofore stilted conversations about the Covenant too, that code of conduct we have all been dreading. Now, there was a growing consensus around the things which make us an affirmed, communion of churches in search of a grace-filled process which would come to the rescue when we get out of sorts with each other. It had been the meanderings in recent years for the right venue to discuss this which has been so maddening.