Monday, July 21, 2008

From Seoul, to Indaba, to MacClaren

Greetings from Canterbury!

Today began with a Holy Eucharist offered according to the Korean Anglican tradition. A special treat was music by the Seoul Mother's Union Choir. Then came our morning time of Bible study and prayer. Today we studied a portion of John 6 about Jesus walking on the water. In that passage Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid. The conversation became quite deep and intense when we thought about what it might mean if we took Jesus' admonition seriously and set out to do God's mission without fear.

Today was also the first two meetings of our Indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word that means deep, intentional conversation. This morning's session focused on Anglican identity and the particular role(s) that bishops play in that. This afternoon we turned to good conversation on the four "signposts" of the Anglican tradition: scripture, liturgy and sacraments, the "ordering" of ministry, and God's mission in the world. Both conversations were rich and stimulating. It is such a gift to be with bishops from all around the world where we do "the same things in very different ways," according to local culture, local priorities, and local needs. One bishop in my group said that after listening to his sister and brother bishops talk all day about being a bishop in their context, that the only thing we might have in common is a love for Jesus and purple shirts! In spite of what we sometimes like to think, there is nothing "uniform" about Anglicanism. Instead it is a colorful tapestry of enormous depth held together by a love for Jesus, faithfulness to common prayer (but not a particular prayer book!), and strong commitment to engaging God's mission. "Diversity is no cause for division; unity is not uniformity," was echoed over and over through the day in a thousand different ways.

This evening we listened to a presentation from Brian MacLaren, a pastor and well-known writer from Maryland. He talked about the challenges of evangelism in our current contexts. He explained in very clear terms why European churches are largely empty, American churches are half full, and African churches are full . . . and it has nothing to do with doctrine or discipline! If you've not read it already, I heartily commend (among several good books by him) A Generous Orthodoxy. During the question and answer period, someone asked him about the sexuality quagmire the church finds itself in. He gave a very thoughtful response by suggesting that we might be trying to respond to a missiological question with a theological answer. I think he's on to something.

Let me commend to your prayers, in particular, Bishop and Irene Mhogolo and their youngest son, Wendo. Word reached us today that Wendo is quite ill and in the hospital in Australia. As a result, Irene will be departing Canterbury tomorrow to be with him. Please pray for Wendo's healing, for Irene's safe travel, and for Bishop Mdimi who will continue to be here, but will no doubt be very concerned about his son's well-being.

To God be the glory!

Bishop Neil

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