Although it feels as though we have been here forever, today is actually only day three of the Conference itself and for me it marks a turning point. Both in my Bible Study Group and in the Indaba Group, the quality of the engagement and the positive energy within the conversations has changed and we started to look at the issue which tacitly dominates the agenda of the Conference – homosexuality.
The day started with an amazingly upbeat Eucharist led by the Episcopal Church of Cuba and which undoubtedly contributed to the texture of the morning. The story of the woman taken in adultery in John’s Gospel was a good vehicle to take the Bible study group into a discussion of a statement by the Sudanese Bishops in which they expressed their opposition to the consecration of a practicing homosexual as a bishop. Whilst the majority of my group shared the concerns of the Sudanese, the engagement was much more about how we can ensure that the Communion remains intact.
I was moved by the very positive statements being made about the value of the Anglican Communion. We considered how provinces having a different attitude to these things may not be an issue which can be resolved, but we went onto consider how we can find a future together. Whilst we didn’t even begin to resolve the issues, we did achieve a quality of engagement which will frustrate those looking for conflict and schism.
At the Indaba we were considering ‘Bishops and Social justice’. Gone were the rather disconnected and reluctant conversations of yesterday and in came a positive response to the questions. Again we heard moving stories from those who minister on the frontline of human suffering. We heard of the church’s involvement with the disastrous impact of HIV/Aids. We heard of the care being given to orphans, of the programmes of education and of a positive commitment to the challenges being faced by the church in different parts of the Communion.
One thing which came through was the strength of a global family of churches being committed to human flourishing. We were at one in recognising each and every person as an outward and visible sign of God’s grace, in other words that we are each a sacrament and that we should be treated and cared for as such. Again, although the members of my group represent both sides of the issues concerning human sexuality, there was no thirst for division, but rather a desire to reinforce the links which hold the Communion together in a common cause of mission.
One good day doesn’t solve our problems, but it does suggest that the Indaba process may yet prove to be a positive way of us working together at the challenges we face as the Anglican Communion. The voices of the sceptics, the cynics and the disaffected can still be heard and will probably end up being the most reported, even if they are a minority, but I was greatly encouraged by my experiences today. So tomorrow were off to London to see the Queen and, should she ask, I will be able to reassure her that we are making progress!