GC2009: TEC's Identity? Ubuntu.
By Michael Heidt,
Over 850 episcopal, clerical and lay representatives from 110 dioceses are assembling in Anaheim for the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC), a triennial governing meeting that costs somewhere in the region of four million dollars to put on.
So what's it all about? Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, tells all, it is about "Ubuntu", which is the theme of this year's Convention and a Zulu word meaning, "I am because we are." Are what? If the principles behind TEC's draft Budget are anything to go by TEC is:
Claiming Our Identity Doing Justice & Alleviating Poverty Growing Congregations Promoting Anglican Partnerships Strengthening Governance and Foundations for Mission
In other words, TEC is going to spend millions of dollars on the UN sponsored Millennium Development Goals, will continue to drive the Indaba "listening process" and "do justice" by telling transgendered s/hemales that their sex changes are no obstacle to getting married and becoming bishops. But perhaps, I'm getting ahead of myself. The transgendered may have to sit tight in their oppression by the Church's unjust, transphobic, heterosexist power structures if GC09 fails to pass the thirty odd LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) focused resolutions currently put before it. Who knows, perhaps Resolution B033, urging a moratorium on gayness, won't be repealed and the homosexuals will have to remain in Babylonian exile along with their B&T allies - for another three years. Imagine, three more years to wait before being allowed the heady privilege of becoming a TEC Bishop; scandalous injustice and pertinent to the first budgetary principle of identity.
What is TEC's identity? It is obviously about the kind of radical inclusion that says, "Just because you've had a sex change, doesn't mean you can't become a Bishop. No, we do justice." Quite, but what rule is at the foundation of this passion for multi-gendered equity? We might be forgiven for supposing that some wild aphrodisian deity lies behind it all, but no, evidently it's the Trinity, which brings us back to GC09's theme, "Ubuntu".
This is illustrated by a logo (check it out at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/gc2009_96805_ENG_HTM.htm?menu=undefined) of a glowing yellow sphere, around which swirl figures of indeterminate sexuality in a never ending dance. Lines of longitude and latitude bisect the spheroid making a barely distinguishable cross-like outline in its center. Interestingly, we're we are told that this "depicts God the Creator... God the Son... and God the Holy Spirit..." Well, you could have fooled me.To the uninitiated, the thing is devoid of any Christian content as is its catchphrase, "Ubuntu."
"I am because we are" just doesn't seem to have the same missionary impact as "I am the way, the truth and the life,". Apostolic zeal is somehow lacking from this African expression of humanness, or personhood. Perhaps that's because it's it is not specifically Christian. You see, Ubuntu is part of a larger Zulu phrase, "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, i.e. "a person is a person through other persons" (Ubuntu: An African Assessment of the Religious Other, Dirk J. Louw, University of the North). What Anderson, Schori et al. haven't told us is that these "other persons" have an especially religious identity - they're the spirits of our dead ancestors.
Surely TEC's Convention hierarchy, not that it has one because that would be rascist, homophobic and patriarchal, aren't subliminally telling us to become African ancestor worshippers, all under the guise of a bit of innocent secular liberal humanism? What next? Shamans at the Convention Eucharists? Witchdoctors performing dark rituals to appease the spirits of the dead before legislative assemblies of the House of Bishops? Who knows? They are casting the net of inclusion ever more widely as the years go by, except, of course, for those awkward Christians that actually believe in the Faith.
No, it's doubtless not the case that the Convention means anything more than mere humanism by its new theme and that's a shame because Christianity is about more than that - it's about the God who can save and redeem humanity because He is beyond it. That message, the message of the Gospel, has the power to build and grow churches. We will see if the same applies to our newfound principle of human interconnectivity.
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