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JAMAICA: Indaba Funded from Atlanta, GA - ACC-14 Day 5 Part 2

Coming to a church meeting near you: Indaba funded from Atlanta, Georgia. Report from ACC-14 Day 5 part 2

By Chris Sugden
www.anglican-mainstream.net
May 7th, 2009

Today the report was presented from the Listening Process. In short, the ideology of seeking common ground between contradictory points of view that has characterized the listening process so far, has been combined with the Indaba process at Lambeth and extended to cover a range of theological issues.

The listening process has been extended to 2011 and funded by the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, for a project of Continuing Indaba.

Vinay Samuel has written of the Indaba Process:

"The Lambeth centre of the Anglican Communion is experienced as exercising colonial power. How else can the continued resistance of the Anglican Communion instruments to carrying out the decisions of the Primates Meeting over the last five years, leading to the acknowledged dominance of the 2008 Lambeth Conference by Archbishop Williams, be explained?

The Lambeth centre continues to impose its hegemony by introducing into all the central meetings of the Communion, Lambeth, the Primates' Meeting in Egypt and the ACC meeting in Jamaica, the indaba process. This is designed to maintain matters as they are and avoid all discussion and decision about Anglican identity, membership and morality. Worse, this process claims to use a deracinated process that those from the Global South are expected to acknowledge as a tribute to their cultural contribution.

The GAFCON Primates Council has created for itself uncolonial space; the GAFCON Conference and Jerusalem declaration witnessed to the power of the gospel to liberate and transform people not only from oppression in their own societies but also from the power of a colonial mindset which needed to acknowledge the Church of England as their mother church to bolster their own identity.

Indaba is the badge of oppression. It is the badge of a non-revelational faith and an untransforming gospel. It should be resisted."

Here is how this has happened.

Canon Groves, the director of the Listening Process, writes: "The Satcher Health Leadership Institute has utilized consensus methodology to assist leaders with divergent viewpoints in building agreements on controversial issues related to health policy regarding sexual health. The aim of this project is to adapt the consensus method, by drawing upon biblical models, the traditions of the church and cultural methods from across the Communion."

Canon Groves outlines the justification as follows:

"A question facing the Communion is how to move from mutual listening to common purpose." He draws on ACC 3 which said: "Christian partnership did not then mean that the partners, although united in their missionary goals, were always in accord on how they were to carry out his mission - witness the disagreement between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2. Rather they were asked to face each other, and the roots of their disagreement and agreement, so openly that both could go forward in mutual love and respect into further creative activity" Groves continues: Indaba was the designated term for this process at the Lambeth Conference. The continuation of Indaba signifies that the work ws not completed. In African understanding, Indaba is intended to include all interested parties and we are seeking to include clergy and laity in the process. It also results in a common decision.

The Continuing Indaba project will seek to:

- Develop theological resources to inform the process of seeking a common mind by the utilization of theologians around the world reflecting on Scripture and the traditions of the church in the context of diverse cultures, with an emphasis on non-western cultures and to publish them in culturally appropriate forms.

- Develop and publish training for the convening and facilitation of Anglican Indaba processes.

- Run five pilot conversations across diversity, focusing on the mission issues for each and not avoiding hard questions - not only related to sexuality, but also to the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect for the dignity of all. The hope will be that the result of conversations will be a depth of agreement and the clarification of disagreement resulting in positive missional relationships.

- Run theological and process evaluation groups to see if the process is faithful to the Anglican way, valuable in enabling mutual mission and replicable across the Communion.

- Reporting will be to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Joint Standing Committee and the ACC.

The money will be used to pay the salary of the ACO based director and an administrator, employ consultants, fund the movement of people, pay expenses and to publish material in culturally appropriate ways.

Canon Groves closed by claiming the new hymn sung at the opening service on diversity and inclusivity ( see the report on Day 2) as being "our" hymn, the hymn of the Anglican Communion. Canon Groves claims an evangelical provenance, trained at St John's College Nottingham and was for six years a CMS Missionary in Kenya.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Canon Philip Groves did not hear Bishop Gregory Cameron in the press conference this afternoon. Bishop Cameron was asked by a reporter from the Episcopal News Service of TEC why the current dispute in the Anglican Communion could not be resolved in the same way and spirit as the disagreement in the Communion about the ordination of women. Bishop Cameron replied that in the current tension, people are saying we are no longer sure we can recognize authentic Christian discipleship in other churches of the communion. He said: " One of the difficulties is that there is no agreed understanding of the genius or spirit of Anglicanism. There are a number of churches saying we are the bearer of authentic Anglicanism. Further, in the debate on the ordination of of women there was a general sense that the instruments was the place where business could be done. People now question the Primates for over reaching themselves, the ACC for being set in western structures, the Lambeth Conference for possessing only moral authority and the Archbishop of Canterbury on the grounds we do not want an Anglican pope."

In other words Bishop Cameron recognizes that the current dispute is not about legitimate diversity in understanding the Christian faith but about competing and incompatible accounts of what it is to be Christian and Anglican.

However, a fund has been secured without any relation to the will of the churches to provide a three year programme to promote reconciling the irreconcilable as the heart of Anglican identity in both sexuality and wider issues of theology.

In the debate on the Listening Process two very significant contributions were made:

Stanley Isaacs (South East Asia): Listen to the people requesting alternative oversight

I ask the house to consider the problems caused to those in the TEC Churches in North American who have been affected by the affirmative actions on homosexuality there. The church in the TEC is fractured. There have been congregations that have separated their own dioceses and are forming a province on their own There is a need for healing and reconciliation of TEC churches. We have to have a listening process for those who are suffering from these actions. This matter was discussed in the discernment group. We suggested a form of words. We hope that the proposal we have to provide for the listening process includes listening to the cases of these people but also to those who have requested primatial oversight by way of cross provincial oversight - to listen to them also so that there would be a solution that could be total. We are hoping that that proposal would find its way into the Windsor Continuation Group.

Mouneer Anis: The way money distorts the listening process

I want to thank Philip Groves for the great work he is doing and the book. What would be the purpose at the end, achieved from this listening. If we are to achieve better pastoral care in combating homophobia this would be an honourable achievement. We do not know how to care for people with homosexual orientation. Homophobia is not good; it does not go with our Christian love. If the achievement we want to achieve is to tolerate the practice of homosexuality - this requires a different kind of dialogue at the level of leaders in the church. For me in our context there are people with homosexual orientation. Though they communicated with me as a medical doctor, they sent me secret letters and they all the time seek help. I could not encounter and help them because it is a shameful thing in our culture. It is very difficult in some provinces to have this listening. I have to say this to have an actual listening. I invited one of the people who was lobbying at Lambeth to have a good dialogue - he did not come.

I welcome a listening across the provinces. But one of the bishops said to me - "I disapprove of practicing homosexuality and I know it is contrary to the scripture. I cannot say this openly - because my diocese is dependent on the donation that comes from the west." I have heard this from several persons who are financially dependent on western churches. This is another dimension to listening different from the cultural dimension."

The power of money

The potential power of money was also to the fore in the report from Bishop Philip Powell, the chair of the Compas Rose Society, a society of 250 people who pay 5000 dollars a year to support Anglican causes. He proposed that it was unsatisfactory to have such a free floating society without any ties to any other Anglican body. Your correspondent asked him afterwards what sort of ties he had in mind - his response was that perhaps a member of the ACC leadership would sit on their board or some other method of representation. Your correspondent observed that this would be to give a privileged access to the counsels of the ACC that depended entirely on money, to the disadvantage of other voluntary bodies of which the Communion has many that might also wish to engage closely with the ACC.

The ideology of Indaba

Canon Vinay Samuel prepared this paper on the ideology of Indaba following the Lambeth Conference. I enclose it here as it appears that there is a concerted three year, fully funded effort.

Indaba and the Anglican Communion

It has been announced that the indaba process at Lambeth is to be used at the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica. Some bishops who have used it have already said they will introduce into their Diocesan Conventions or Synods. The goal is to change the culture of engagement in the Anglican Church.

What is the culture that is to be introduced? It is a culture based on inclusion of all diversity. No judgment is possible that appears to exclude a point of view. The argument goes like this: Behind the point of view of any member of the community is a person who must be valued for his/her personhood. As people are diverse, diversity is a given and must be accepted as the starting point. So every opinion of a "member' of the community must be included and valued . That opinion becomes part of a process of reflection and reception the end and outcome of which cannot be predetermined or timed. The end could be a consensus to accept that opinion, accept it in a modified form or the person or group promoting it withdraws it as inappropriate at least for the time being.

The difficulty here is on how one determines who is a member of a community. Tribal communities have biological and cultural criteria of membership and identity. In the Anglican Communion membership and identity criteria are minimal. They are primarily self definition and self identity. The open communion table symbolizes this. In the west with its rapidly declining membership this can be a pragmatic step. Any one who wants to be seen as one of us is one of us. We are not fussy. But once you are one of us whatever your opinions they are as valuable as anyone else's.

It now becomes clear why GAFCON stressed the significance of Anglican Identity, and why the orthodox have wrestled with this question and written far more on the topic than the liberals for whom self identification is enough. The key question to ask is what is our definition of community in the Anglican church? Is it an ecclesiological one or one defined by dominant contemporary cultural views?

The community behind the indaba.

Communities in which indabas work have a very clear definition of the community; clearly defined roles and authority structure, a clear definition of who is a member and who is not, and an agreement on clear moral codes. These three, authority, membership and moral framework, form the constitution of the community. These "givens" are never questioned by the indaba process.

Indabas are not unique to Africa. Communities in India and the Middle East do indaba. Indabas are common in traditional societies. The indaba does not decide about the authority structure or moral framework of the community because these form the basis for the community. So the indaba does not constitute the community. It is used in communities which are constituted on other bases. Members accept the authority and moral framework that is given. Once you are accepted as a member, accept the authority structure and the moral framework, then your contribution and opinion is welcomed.

Therefore to use the indaba process to debate issues of authority and morality of the Anglican Communion is to use a process for discussion of authority and morality that was never intended or designed to do this. It uproots indaba from its context and narrative.

The nature of discussion in indaba

Indaba is not about sharing opinions. Indaba recognizes that opinions cannot be voiced without the accompanying story and narrative that has given rise to the opinion. So as a process indaba is experience and narrative focused. That is why indaba takes a long time. It was a complaint at Lambeth that 90 minutes each day was not long enough for true indaba.

It is very difficult to translate narrative into a framework of governance or morals. This is why indaba has not brought any change to the governance, or position of women, or moral commitments of the communities where it takes place. Nothing changes at these levels. In South Africa, Indaba has been used in diocesan synods for some years. One priest from there has observed that nothing has been changed as a result. That is because indaba does not deal with whether people are members, change in the authority structures or the moral framework. This confirms the observation of one African bishop at Lambeth: if indabas are so great why is Africa in such a mess?

The contradiction in using indaba

At the root of Anglican synodical and decision making procedures through debate and decision is the assumption that truth is accessible through discussion, a Christian understanding of the contribution of each person, and the ability to decide about authority, membership and morality. This lies at the root of parliamentary democracy. The role of the churches in enabling democratic debate in their own life has contributed significantly to political education. What is happening now is that into a Christian church, a nurturing place for democracy and change in response to the vision of the kingdom, is introduced a process that is antithetical to change in major matters of authority, membership and morality.

How then are decisions made? They are made by consensus. But who decides the consensus: those in unchallengeable authority. Eventually indaba ends in imposed decisions. And thus it was at Lambeth. The decisions to call for moratoria and the pastoral forum was brought to the conference by the Windsor Continuation Group, and announced at the end of the conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The real issue today.

The real issue today in the Anglican Communion is the nature of Anglican identity and membership of the community. With its declining numbers in the west, the inclusion of anyone who wants to be a part of it on any basis, and the privileging of the opinions of individuals above the teaching of the church, the Anglican Communion is in danger of becoming everything to everyone and thus nothing to anybody.

Indaba is not designed to address these issues. So the indaba presupposes that it itself has no access to truth and no revelation. Theological neutrality is being structured into the life of the church's discernment and decision-making process. All we have from the 3 week Lambeth conference is 130 pages of reflections, from which some bishops, Bishop Jack Iker for one, complain their own contribution is conspicuous by its absence.

The real effect of using indaba is that a process is being taken from the Global South, removed from its roots, used to prevent any change from what the current establishment have decided and to secure their own supremacy, and then sold back to the Global South with the pretence that it is their own process that is now being used by the Anglican establishment: "You should like this because we got it from you." Indaba is a further example of Anglican establishment colonialism.

Indaba and uncolonial space

When those who lived in colonies experienced colonialism in their education, and intellectual and political life, they worked on creating what is called "uncolonial space". If the Global South is finding the establishment of the Anglican Communion colonial, as Archbishop Orombi argued in the Times on the last weekend of the Lambeth Conference, then the work of GAFCON can be seen as creating uncolonial space - creating new forms of governance, identity and resistance to the colonial hegemonies and power differentials in uncolonial space.

In the colonial era the Anglican Church and British Imperial Power were not just continuous but identical. Orthodoxy and imperialism were inseparable in the British colonial project. British imperialism used religious orthodoxy - the true faith, and political orthodoxy, parliamentary government as opposed to despotic rule. This helps to explain the resistance among liberals to orthodoxy. It was unthinkable for them to espouse orthodoxy without being associated with imperialism.

This now presents a problem for those from the non-western former colonial world who espouse orthodoxy. They are thought themselves to be relics of a colonial past. The challenge for them is demonstrate that religious orthodoxy is liberating and transformative. Liberals see them only as representing an alliance of orthodoxy with oppression. In creating uncolonial space where they demonstrate that the gospel brings liberation and transformation, the Global South leaders are not only creating space for themselves, but also for the orthodox of western societies who are marginalized because they will not go along with the cultural pressure for diversity, inclusion and pluralism and are therefore seen as rigid and repressive. Evangelicals since John Stott have been regarded as marginal from the centres of power both of English society and the English church. Thus uncolonial space is global.

One example of unintentional creation of uncolonial space is the rapid rise of the Pentecostal movement, the fastest growing social movement in the twentieth century. This movement used the language of the kingdom and power. It developed power in an uncolonial space. If it ever exercises power in a colonial space it will no longer have the attraction it has for the poor and marginalized: it will be corrupted.

Conclusion.

The Lambeth centre of the Anglican Communion is experienced as exercising colonial power. How else can the continued resistance of the Anglican Communion instruments to carrying out the decisions of the Primates Meeting over the last five years, leading to the acknowledged dominance of the 2008 Lambeth Conference by Archbishop Williams, be explained?

The Lambeth centre continues to impose its hegemony by introducing into all the central meetings of the Communion, Lambeth, the Primates' Meeting in Egypt and the ACC meeting in Jamaica, the indaba process. This is designed to maintain matters as they are and avoid all discussion and decision about Anglican identity, membership and morality. Worse, this process claims to use a deracinated process that those from the Global South are expected to acknowledge as a tribute to their cultural contribution.

The GAFCON Primates Council has created for itself uncolonial space; the GAFCON Conference and Jerusalem declaration witnessed to the power of the gospel to liberate and transform people not only from oppression in their own societies but also from the power of a colonial mindset which needed to acknowledge the Church of England as their mother church to bolster their own identity.

Indaba is the badge of oppression. It is the badge of a non-revelational faith and an untransforming gospel. It should be resisted.

END

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