Monday, 21 July 2008

Lambeth Conference - Indaba – the experience

The first Indaba followed on from the Bible Study which today consisted of only five of us, a Bishop from Connecticut, North America, who is our facilitator, and three Indian bishops. It was a good experience, in which I was encouraged to participate fully. It was humbling to hear the answer to the question - set in the context of the story of Jesus walking on the water and saying to the disciples in the boat, ‘I am, do not be afraid’ – what are the things that bring fear to Christians in your own context? ‘Waiting for the church to be burnt for the third time’, ‘Waiting for an excuse to be attacked.’ And not just for being a minority religion, but for being linked to the West. For these brothers from India expressing faith in ‘I am’ rather than living in fear was inspiring.

And the Indaba group? Well, so far, it’s what it said on the packing. We set some ground rules and then in quietness answered three questions. We then moved into two conversations in different pairs and then formed a group of five in which we explored in more detail the question, ‘Who am I as an Anglican bishop?’ At this point I might have felt left out, but not only was I was fully included but the group immediately offered to ordain me to the episcopacy there and then, and were already improvising for a bishop’s staff and Episcopal ring! Of course I resisted. What followed was not significantly different to the conversation I might have with my Team Leader colleagues, or indeed all Regional Ministers.

We then took our one sentence back and with the other small groups within the larger group, shared findings noting points of convergence and divergence.

Group dynamics are always fascinating, more so when you get a group of leaders together. And today was no exception, although everyone was very gracious and listened well. This was just the first meeting.

The second meeting followed later on in the afternoon. We took as the starting point, The Anglican Way: Signposts on a Common Journey. These are: Formed by Scripture; Shaped through Worship; Ordered for Communion; and Directed by God’s Mission. After a reading of each of these, we opted for one of these signposts for further discussion. I decided to join the group considering Formed by Scripture.

We were asked to engage with the statement which began, ‘we discern the voice of the living God in the Holy Scriptures, mediated by tradition and reason’. I was intrigued to hear the breadth of understanding, ranging from a ready acceptance of the tools of the historical-critical approach to simply taking God’s Word as it is, without allowing our culture to interfere with it in any way.

We face a similar breadth of understanding among our Baptist ministers and churches. But I return to our Baptist Declaration of Principle which begins in a different place in stating, ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.’ Interestingly, this went down extraordinarily well with my Anglican friends who seemed to be quite taken with it!

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