Virtually my entire experience as an Episcopalian (going on four decades) has been spent on the Catholic side of the Anglican spectrum. I’ve heard and read about Anglican evangelicals, but there are precious few in the U.S., so they’ve been mostly an abstraction. Global South Anglicanism is dominated by evangelicals, so the abstraction has become a reality for me this week. Having been raised in free church evangelicalism, which is not quite the same thing, but with many points of overlap, and then embracing Anglicanism as a means of becoming a Catholic Christian, this has evoked some interesting and complex feelings. I’ve sung some songs that had been relegated to the recesses of my long-term memory, and one that I’m fairly certain I haven’t even thought about in more than forty years. I’ve experienced a piety and a style of homiletical/pedagogical biblical exegesis that is quite foreign to my ordinary experience (today’s example coming from the Dean of Delhi, lavishly accompanied by PowerPoint slides), but still eerily familiar. Some of it evokes nostalgia, and a desire to reincorporate it into my practice of ministry, and some of it makes me glad I don’t live in this particular neighborhood anymore. Much to ponder here.
There was no keynote address today. Instead, after tea, we had a presentation from the Archbishop of the Province of Myanmar. They have an ambitious mission strategy vision, and Archbishop Stephen shared it with us, also using PowerPoint. In many respects (including the PowerPoint!), it reminded me of our own mission strategy for the Diocese of Springfield. Two very different contexts, both committed to authentic gospel proclamation within those contexts. Veni, sancte spiritus.
Before lunch we heard quick summary reports from the regional working groups that met Tuesday and Wednesday evenings while most of the “westerners” took some down time. After lunch, in plenary, we (I say “we” only in a broad sense, and most of us from the “minority world” did not consider it good form to participate) worked on perfecting a draft communique from the conference. As one who considers himself a fairly adept wordsmith, and as a native speaker of English, it was at times uncomfortable to watch people for whom English is a second or third language try to come to consensus on the language of a document in English. The irony of it all — we Americans, rightfully on the margin at this event, were privileged to have proceedings conducted in our native tongue, while those with central positions were forced to work in a foreign one — was not lost on me.
Between three and six we were free. There was some informal conversation in the tea area. Then I took the time to see the tailor (suit jacket still not quite finished), snap some pictures of the hotel and environs, and visit with an American journalist who lives in Bangkok while working for a government-owned communications agency. He’s also an Anglican, and found me through this very diary blog. It was an interesting chat.
In the evening we boarded a river boat for a three-hour dinner cruise — upstream for a while and then downstream, all without leaving Bangkok. It’s a big town, with something like 22 million in the metro area. And, yes, I picked up my suit … at 10 p.m. I don’t think those guys ever go home, but it looks like they’ve done good business from this conference.
Speaking of this conference: it is not an historic event, but it is a big deal. Twenty-four of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion are represented here, twelve by their primate, with a total of 92 in attendance — mostly bishops and priests. This group includes some of the real movers and shakers in Anglicanism, whether one perceives their influence as benign or malign. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office sent formal greetings. Nothing world-shaking is going to emerge from this meeting. But when something significant does happen, these are many of the players who will be involved.