This morning’s preacher at the Eucharist was the Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, again on Romans 12, since language from vss. 1-2 is found in the conference theme. It was a rather “cooler” homily than we heard yesterday, centering on the wholesome notion that growth in Christian maturity subverts our loyalty to the “empire” (whatever that might be), which, in this post-modern world, might be the ubiquitous hyper-individualism that seems to be the dominant epistemological and ethical filter.
After the tea break we heard from keynote speaker Patrick Johnstone, an Englishman who has spent most of his life as a missionary in Africa, and, among evangelicals, is one of the world’s leading missiologists. He bombarded us with statistics illustrated by graphs, charts, and maps in PowerPoint. Way too much to take in, but very valuable, and we’re told we’ll be given a CD with all the slides on it. This guy is a premium numbers cruncher.
We then remained in plenary to begin to hear from the four breakout groups that met in the afternoon yesterday and the day before. Somehow this is all supposed to feed into a statement that the conference will issue at its conclusion. Glad I’m not in charge of making that happen!
The track group reports continued after lunch, but we concluded around 3 p.m. I visited the tailor for an initial fitting of the suit I’m buying, then caucused a bit with my Communion Partner colleagues.
This place has a beautiful swimming pool that I’ve been watching people enjoy all week, so I decided to enjoy it myself for a bit. I don’t swim very often, so it’s only dawning on me now that pools don’t have deep ends anymore, and no diving boards. Too many lawyers. There’s a cultural metaphor somewhere here waiting to be exploited.
I then returned to my room and fell asleep—once again, all the way until dinner time.
The evening plenary was devoted to the four groups of guests from the West/North/Minority World. The Communion Partners from TEC went first. We spoke very briefly and tried to strike a humble tone. We apologized for the long pattern of damage done to the wider communion by our own church, most recently at least week’s General Convention, and shared the “Indianapolis Statement” minority report. Our stance was that we need the voice of the Global South to speak for us, since we are a minority voice within our own church. This is sensitive territory. Some of those here are very cool toward us because we remain in what they see as a hopelessly compromised church. They have transferred their seal of approval to the ACNA. Others are more sympathetic to our position and grateful for our continuing witness from within the Episcopal Church. I don’t think we changed any minds among the former, but we did strengthen our position with the latter, and moved some off the fence in our direction. In a few minutes this evening, I think we may have essentially accomplished what we came here for.
We also heard from the two Canadians present (in a very similar situation to ours), two of the four ACNA representatives, the two Australians (both bishops, and rather diverse—one from Canberra and one from Sydney, which is significant if you know anything about Australian Anglicans), and the one Brit who is here (which is itself telling), a priest who works for the Church Missionary Society (CMS).
The four of us then had drinks together on an outdoor patio and a quite lovely evening, with temperatures that are more moderate than at any of the U.S. homes we come from. Way to go, Bangkok!