Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Learning from Lambeth

OK — now I'm back at work, what is clearer to me as a result of Lambeth?
  1. The sheer scale of our communion in global terms. It was immensely moving to meet colleagues from around the world — Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Darfur — and learn directly about the human and gospel dimensions of their lives. Most moving was the experience of being in a huge congregation saying the Lords prayer together in over a hundred languages. Quoting a Tanzanian brother, God’s Word speaks to each of us in our own language as the people we are, where we are. I was often reminded of Max Warren’s saying “It takes a whole world to know Christ.”
    So? Get to know and prioritize time for the world Church
  2. The experience of African led Bible studies in community was fantastic. Some of the more academic English felt it wasn’t quite their cup of tea. It was mine. I am ashamed at the comaratively modest amount of time I have spent down the years in teams and groups studying the scriptures personally together. Business always seemed more important. If only I had seen that corporate study of the scriptures was our business, I might have prioritised things rather differently!
    So? Direct, personal, corporate Bible study could be given a greater place in the engine room of our decision making processes.
  3. Indaba is a considerable discipline that takes a while to master, but it’s worth it. We are so inculturated into parliamentary methods and tactics, with winners and losers, as the way to make decisions. Indaba is slower, and requires a higher order of listening skills. Imagine, say, the last General Synod, without all the locker room intrigue, hysterics and theatricals. I am still haunted by a Japanese colleague, who had needed continuous translation, thanking the group in broken English for “the beauty of being listened to.” It brings no glory to God that the same would be very improbable feedback from many of our church meetings.
    So? Be more aware about the negative effects of parliamentary processes on people, and work for more patient, open, mutual, emotionally inteligent ways of deciding things together.
  4. Rowan’s big Lambeth strategy seemed to be about committing to personal and corporate holiness, and alowing our plans to grow out of that. I have no grand overarching command and control strategy for Bucks. Here’s my strategy: Grace through Faith — strive to become the kind of people God needs us to be, and he will show us, on the ground, what needs doing and, more importantly, how to do it. As we step out, with authenticity, in faith we grow; as we shrink back, our visions get bogged down in fear and trivial pursuits. Therefore, as well as looking outward, centering our team processes in Scripture and being rigorously self-critical of our methods, we will be richly rewarded by God as we prioritise faith over fear, realism over fantasy, personal and spiritual excellence over mediocrity.
    So? We need more Faith, more realism, more holiness!


Anonymous said...

"...strive to become the kind of people God needs us to be, and he will show us, on the ground, what needs doing and, more importantly, how to do it."

Or, more concisely, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your thoughts today. It is so much more helpful and encouraging to read a God-centered response than ones which are humand problem-centered - bemoaning that the time at Lambeth did not "sort out " the communion's problems.
It is encouraging too, to be challenged to take some of what was learned about listening adn learning fom each other into the living and dedison-making of us"ordinary" Christians - that what was learned at Lambeth does not need to end when all the bishops (and spouses) return. it ash certainly challenged me to think about whether we could be doing more bible study and less business talk.... (faculties permitting!!!!)
Thank you for making time for all the posts from Lambeth - they were much appreciated.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thanks. reflecting on your thoughts, it's all rather more simple than we tend to make it, isn't it?! The interesting bit will be looking back in a year or two's time and seeing what actually changed. But Lambeth sowed good seed — I hope we can be good soil!

Tim Chesterton said...

Inspiring thoughts as usual, Alan - many thanks. I'm particularly challenged by your calls to get to know the global community and to make corporate Bible study more central. Here in a busy commuter parish we have great difficulty getting people to make time for corporate Bible study, but the transforming experience of you and other Lambeth bishops has challenged me not to give up the fight!

Erika Baker said...

I don't want to throw a spanner in the works of all this lovely soft focussing, and I have felt very privileged to read your Lambeth blog. I have appreciated much of what you wrote, and I think you are right with what you post here too.

But... it does seem a little unrealistic to focus on faith and bible studies alone when there is at least one huge elephant left in the room.

One bishop was not invited because his presence would have stopped others from coming.
One province is being asked to desist from walking a path it perceives to be a call from the Holy Spirit.

I have much sympathy for those calls, but not if the only response from the majority of the 650 nice men who met at Lambeth is to congratulate themselves on how well they have managed to avoid controversy, firmly resolved to stick their heads in the sand and hope that ugly elephant will just self combust out of compassion for the indaba friendships.

Realism dictates that the elephant must be looked at, and from now on the rather silent majority of bishops in the AC who are not yet part of the political fray have a particular responsibility here.
It is up to them to bridge the gap between the extremes. It is up to them to come off the fence and look at the reality of the lives of those they have excluded from Lambeth, just as they have used the indaba sessions to look at the reality of lives of the people represented by those present.

At the very least it is up to them to raise the level of the public debate.
Middle of the road conservatives, for example, should point out clearly that they agree with the moral theology of the conservatives, while at the same time deploring lies, slander, dehumanisation and the spreading of false “facts” about those they oppose, as there can be absolutely no theological justification for that. The debates and events in the coming weeks and months will provide ample opportunity for clearly audible calls for upholding Christian standards of truth and love.

If we want to create that rosy world you’re painting, we all have our part to play in it.
I’m looking forward to the increasing contribution of the silent majority.

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