Monday, July 13, 2009

Astonishing Insights from a Lambeth Commission Member

Many of you will remember that Dr. Jenny Te Paa (principal of the College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand, within the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) was a member of the Lambeth Commission that penned the so-called Windsor Report … which some people have now enshrined right up there with the Nicene Creed and the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

She is a guest at our General Convention, and she addressed the Convention on Saturday. I am astonished and grateful for her remarks.

She reveals that the Lambeth Commission had no idea how our Episcopal Church operates. She gives thanks for our generosity in the face of massive assaults from others in the Communion. And she seems almost to apologize for what the Windsor Report and the primates have hurled upon our church.

Please, please do go over to the Episcopal Café and read the full text.
Here I share with you just a few snippets from her address:

We are as a Provincial Church both proudly autonomous and yet not to the extent that we cannot hear the cries of the poor beyond our own national gates. We are as a Provincial Church confidently relational and yet not to the extent that we render our unique identity ambivalent. We have in past times been bold in asserting what we see as necessary ‘innovations’ for our context and times. We have brought these respectfully to the councils of the global Anglican Communion and we have on occasion known the sharp sting of rebuff and rebuke. Many of you may not realize that my Province is the only one to ever have been officially censured by the Anglican Consultative Council. It was recent and was to do with our 1992 decision to revise our Constitution along what our critics claimed were ‘dangerously unprecedented racially prescriptive lines’!

The proposal lacks theological credibility said some. The proposal unjustly privileges one [racial] group over another, said others. We proceeded anyway, and we continue to live with faith and endless hope into the promises and the sometimes still untidy consequences of our rightful, timely and necessary decision.

We were at the time thankful for the opinions of others, we were appalled and saddened by others but at the end of the day we sought to proceed to do what we truly believed God was calling, urging, pleading with us to do, which was in our case to do with redeeming our Churches historic legacy of grave injustice toward minority indigenous peoples including indigenous or Maori Anglicans.

I see clear parallels here. Episcopal Church sisters and brothers, you too must follow your contextual spiritual conscience because in the first instance you have to live justly with yourselves in order that you can in turn and in time, live justly and in good faith with others in the Communion.


It may be worth my repeating here something I said the other day in my contribution to the Chicago Consultation luncheon event at which I spoke. I was sharing in all humility one of my deepest regrets (one that I know is shared by other Commissioners) that as members of the Lambeth Commission we were never fully apprised of the full facts of your polity and in particular of the limits to the power of the office of Presiding Bishop.

As a result of that crucial gap in knowledge and understanding it is my belief that the very unfair, in fact the odious myth of ‘The Episcopal Church acting (in the matter of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson) with typical unchecked US imperialism’, was more readily enabled and abetted to grow wings and fly unchecked for way too long across the reaches of the Anglican Communion.

It was only in hindsight as a number of us as Commissioners managed to catch our breath, to compare notes and to consult with our trusted Episcopal Church sisters and brothers that I realized, that we realized, to our utterly deserved chagrin that we had perhaps failed albeit inadvertently to prevent something of the unprecedented vilification of the Episcopal Church and especially of its leadership that inevitably resulted….

I share this with you not by way of exploiting the privilege of this public platform as a confessional site but rather by way of affirming with boundless respect and gratitude the truly mutually redemptive moment it is that you now enable us all to live into.

Your generosity of spirit in spite of all you have suffered so unjustly and unnecessarily over the past few years is just so perfectly admirable. That you continue with such magnanimity to gather international friends, to share with us so openly, so willingly all that you do so formidably, so precisely, so efficiently and so compassionately is a gift offering of such magnitude that it seems so utterly insufficient for me to simply say thank you, thank you, thank you.

If I could be so bold I want also to assure you that among ourselves as your international friends we are now all quietly urging you not to dwell unduly with any sense of uncertainty about your place within the global Anglican Communion. Sure the fearmongerers abound – they always have and they always will but surely our gaze must always be fixed beyond the horizon of fear and just as surely that gaze must always apprehend first and foremost the images of those who are the least among us.


My friends the time is now to go forward together into our shared faithfilled future. Let me once again say to you Bonnie, indeed to you here gathered as the House of Deputies, thank you for your abundant generosity, your enabling missional presence in God’s world through your significant contributions to the Christian life and witness of the global Anglican Communion.
[Emphases mine]

Please read her entire address at the Episcopal Café.

Here is my take-away.

These words are being spoken to the Episcopal Church by a member of the Lambeth Commission who has seen that group’s work subverted and ill-used by enemies of the Episcopal Church. She didn’t say it, but many of have lamented the fact that the “Windsor Report” has been turned into an idol within the Anglican Communion. I hear her saying, “Tear down this idol.”

Over the last few days, I have heard many voices suggesting that the loudest voices of the obstreperous Primates are not the voice of the members of the Anglican Communion. I know for a fact that the obstreperous voice of the Primate of Sudan is not the unanimous voice of the bishops within Sudan – many of whom have such blessed relationships with Episcopal dioceses in the U.S.

Thank God for Dr. Jenny Te Paa’s voice. May others hear and heed it. May our bishops especially heed it.

I am coming to believe we have more friends throughout the Anglican Communion than we realized.

[Photo Credit: Anglican Communion News Service]


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