Take the Long Calm View

In Vancouver, British Columbia for the annual meeting May 18 to 20 of the Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN), which includes peoples from Canada’s First Nations, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australian and Torres Strait Islanders, Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans (U.S.), the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church discussed the current contoversies in the Anglican Communion and the work of indigenous communities around the world.

The presiding bishop … unflinchingly predicts the high decibel back-and-forth currently pre occupying the top level of international church may well go on for another decade or more.

“I think the best outcome would be to ratchet down the level of conflict several notches,” Jefferts Schori said. “We have some very anxious people who need to have this resolved structurally right now.”

Those anxious people, personified by the 38 Anglican primates, have given ECUSA a September 30 deadline to cease-and-desist from same-sex blessings and the consecration of gay bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will arrive just days before that for the regular fall meeting of ECUSA’s bishops.

“I hope that he can hear and believe the church is far less divided than he believes it is,” said Jefferts Schori.

“I read Genesis and I see chaos as a necessary precursor to creation,” she said. “Anglicans embrace order and freedom. Both parts are essential. It’s a case of having patience to live with organic messiness to see what emerges.”

But she assured her audience that the work of the church goes on underneath the radar focused on the primates. A March meeting in Boxbourg, South Africa brought together 400 people from 33 Anglican provinces. “Nobody talked about sex,” she said. “They talked abut feeding people, about preventing disease, about how we can build constructive relationships.”

While she listened more than she talked to the AIN delegates, Jefferts Schori did suggest that true reconciliation with natives lies far ahead for the United States. “In some way, Canada has had a gift in wrestling with residential schools which the United States hasn’t done publicly,” she said.

For indigenous people, who feel themselves to be a powerless minority often quarreling among themselves, Jefferts Schori recalled members of the Latino community in California letting down their barriers to each other and uniting for the first time, only to discover they were then a large force in the church.

“Together, all the marginalized can change things,” she said. “The secret is those in power are relatively few.”

And to the plea for native priests ordained in and for their own communities, she said, simply: “Continue to challenge your church.”

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