Sunday, July 12, 2009

International guests say, "Do not be afraid."

Without the benefit of seeing the future, I think yesterday, Saturday, July 11, was the turning point in the General Convention for the House of Deputies. We welcomed a panel of guests from around the Anglican Communion, who at the invitation of President Bonnie Anderson, brought us greetings from the Churches of Canada, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and New Zealand.

One by one, each told us powerful stories of shared mission work in which we, The Episcopal Church, have participated with them. They spoke of the strength of our relationships between their provinces and ours, and they expressed profound affection and commitment to our futures together.

The final speaker was Jenny Te Paa, from New Zealand. She is a member of the indigenous people--the equivalent of a Native American to us--and step by step, she explained her experience of serving on the committee that (unless I'm mistaken) eventually produced the Windsor Report. Even if I have that bit wrong, she spoke of how difficult it was for people outside the Episcopal Church to grasp the ways in which we as Episcopalians make decisions, when we are in Convention together. She spoke of how that lack of understanding has resulted in painful and unnecessary treatment of our Presiding Bishop, and how when viewed in its proper perspective, our polity is "formidable."

She used the word "formidable" not in the sense of oppressive or scary, but rather in, I believe, in the French sense--more akin to "fabulous" or "wonderful." Our process is complex, deliberate, and detailed. We pay excruciating attention to ensuring that all proper forms are observed, yet that exquisite web of procedure creates a stage of compassion and generosity. While it isn't easy to follow the steps, all of our decision making is done in the light of day, open to all the world to observe.

Te Paa went on to assure us of our bonds of affection in what she referred to as "the TRUE global South," and enumerated our treasures we have shared with the rest of the Communion. She encouraged us not to feel bad about ourselves, and to move forward with confidence.

All together, our visitors told us not to worry about our relationships with the other provinces of the Anglican Communion, while the decisions we make do affect the rest of the Communion, that speaking for their own six provinces, we should not fear that we are in danger of losing one another.

The overall effect, at least as far as I can tell, has been an overwhelming sense of relief and relaxation. It feels good, and for myself, I give thanks to God for their willingness to come stand with us.

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