Tuesday, July 07, 2009


We’ve all heard that “ubuntu” is to be a theme of General Convention. Of course, it’s a worthwhile concept with significant ramifications in our church and the Anglican Communion. It’s been translated as “a person is a person through other persons.”

In the conversations around Lambeth and in the run-up to GC, many have offered definitions and glosses on this African term, and many have quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s remarks:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Let’s lighten up a bit and consider the humorous possibilities.

An overwhelmingly white church has now adopted “ubuntu” as a theme. There’s a luscious irony in that. As we seek to prove how “with it” we are, isn’t there a risk of “all ubuntu all the time” overload?

One of my friends who is at Anaheim messaged me.

Friend: “I am listening to the PB's opening remarks. It is about crisis with ubuntu woven through.”
Me: “Do you think there's a risk you'll all have a case of ubuntumania by the end of General Convention?”
Friend: “Ubuntuitis maybe. Or I will need an ubuntuectomy.”


This is the risk inherent in over-selling a theme, I suppose. Let it be noted, on the first day of GC, I’m already ahead of the curve with ubuntu humor.


Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

I would also add:

Ubuntuosis: The state of being in ubuntu.

Ubuntuotomy: When someone tries to poke a hole in the process of ubuntu (like over at Viagraville when they get started on it)

Ubuntucentesis: the process of drawing up and tapping ubuntu to relive the pressure.

Ubuntuostomy: Putting a hole in ubuntu and letting it drain.

Ubuntuplasty: Patching up messed up ubuntu.

I could go on...

7/07/2009 10:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Oh, Maria! Why didn't I think to go to you first?? Yours are marvelous!

7/07/2009 10:53 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

While a lovely term, when it comes to Anglicanism, such thinking tends to become codependent, no?

7/07/2009 11:26 PM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

Ah, but what do you do about ubuntu when those we are being asked to ubuntu with are busily engaged in trying to make TEC deny that certain people are, in fact, people?

It's what I call the progressive-guilt syndrome: trying to include those who don't want inclusion. Even inclusiveness has limits and there's no shame in that.

7/08/2009 3:40 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...


Exactly. Ubuntu then becomes a reason by liberal sorts to allow the treating of us badly because we need each other to be ourselves. Well, I don't need to be treated badly to be myself. On the contrary, it diminishes, something not intended in Tutu's formulation.

7/08/2009 7:53 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Mark & Christopher, I concur. If "ubuntu" becomes an excuse for bashing the queers in our church, then it has gone seriously awry.

7/08/2009 9:34 PM  

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