First full day of the conference. Same impressive breakfast buffet array as yesterday. We began with Eucharist at 7:30. The Thai Anglicans have their own Prayer Book (paperback), with Thai on the right and English on the left. We used English. The words of the liturgy are very similar to TEC’s, with some interesting adaptations and variations.
I have heard that Global South Anglican evangelicals tend not to pay very much attention to liturgical detail … and I seem to have heard correctly. Everything seemed to be “on the fly.” Nobody—lectors, celebrant, keyboard musician (a bishop volunteer who was recruited at dinner last night)—was very well prepared.
The exception was the preacher, Archbishop Chew, who masterfully situated the challenge of 21st-century mission in St Paul’s epistle to the Romans, particularly the first chapter and its theme of obedience/disobedience. A fine example of the classic evangelical Anglican genre of Bible teaching/preaching. It was long, and given that we were seated at hotel tables in the same room and configuration where our plenary sessions take place, it was easy to forget that we were in the middle of a Eucharist when he finished.
After a short break for tea, we heard the day’s keynote address. It was written by Richard Magnus of Singapore, but delivered by a surrogate as the author could not be with us. The subject was a survey of geopolitics in the post-Cold War world. It exposed the seed of what has emerged as perhaps the preeminent concern of those here assembled, which is the tense frontier between Christianity and Islam. Takeaway line: “The Arab spring is turning into a Christian autumn.”
We then had brief introductory presentations from the convenors of four sub-groups:
1. Developing Resources for Holistic and Sustainable Missions
2. Global South Emerging Servant Leaders
3. Global South Theological Resourcing
4. Christianity & Other Faiths
After breaking for lunch, and a wee bit of downtown, we self-selected into one of those four groups. The four of us representing Communion Partners spread ourselves evenly, one to each, and we will remain in these groups during a dedicated time each day. I went to #3, since I have more than a passing interest in theological education. I think I already knew this subliminally, but the prevailing sense in the Global South (a term that might be morphing into Global Majority) is that they were hoodwinked by seminaries in the “first world” countries that evangelized them 200 years ago, and to which they have been sending a steady stream of ordinands until fairly recently. By their lights, we sold out to the theological zeitgeist and failed to send them a memo. Now they’re upset. Or at least cautious. Understandably.
These groups adjourned at 4 p.m., whereupon I made my way directly to the tailor a stone’s throw from the front of the hotel and ordered a suit. Yes, a black one. Can’t have too many. It was not particularly inexpensive for an off-the-rack suit, but it’s being custom-made in four days, and, for that, it’s an excellent value. I figured I don’t make it to Asia all that often, so I should avail myself of the opportunity.
I took a nap. Much needed.
Evensong was on the schedule for 6 p.m., but it was just said Evening Prayer, sans any Psalms, and with hymns tacked on to the beginning and the end. I’m always grateful to be able to pray the office communally, but disappointed again that more thought and preparation could not have gone into the endeavor. Those of us from the U.S. and Canada found ourselves a little perplexed that the default alternative to kneeling when kneeling is awkward is not standing, but sitting. At both the Eucharist and Evening Prayer, we were audibly directed to sit whenever the rubric said kneel. This seems completely counterintuitive, but I recall from my visit to England in January that the same thing is catching on there. Bizarre.
Dinner was a very diverse buffet consisting of—you guessed it—Thai cuisine. I’m not an adventurous eater, but there was plenty for even picky me to choose from. But now I know to add my own hot sauce. What comes out of the chafing dish is pretty tame.
The evening program consisted of regional discussion groups. Those of us from the “first world” (U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K.) were invited to crash the party of our choice, but the four TEC Americans and two Canadians (Dean Sumner and the Bishop of Algoma) found ourselves having a fairly lively caucus of our own. Some Canadian jokes were told (that is, jokes about Canada). What’s the Canadian equivalent of “As American as apple pie”? “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.”
I took a brief stroll along the riverfront and then retired to write this blog post.