A Call to True Indaba

 

 

So... René Descartes goes into a bar and has a drink. After he finishes, the bartender asks, "Would you like another?"

The philosopher replies, "I think not," and POOF! Descartes disappears in a puff of smoke. 

Descartes, the 17th century philosopher was most famous for his dictum, "Cogito ergo sum." (I think, therefore I am.) His assertion captures much of Western thought. It is significant not only because of what it says about thought and existence, but it is also very significant in establishing the great Western momentum of individualism. Individualism is so thoroughly woven into Western thought, we usually don't even think about it or recognize the implications. 

African culture is vastly different. At the core of African thinking is a sense of community. This is reflected in the Kenyan liturgy, "Our Modern Services" (published in North America by Ekklesia, where the following exchange appears:

            Minister: The cup of blessing which we bless,

            People: is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

            Minister: Draw near with faith and receive.

            People: Christ is the host and we are his guests.

            Minister: Christ is alive for ever.

            People: We are because he is.

All across sub-Saharan Africa there is a strong sense of community. Instead of "I think, therefore I am," they often say, "I am because we are." It is not just that there is awareness of other people, identity is derived from community. Not only does the liturgy make clear that we owe our existence and redemption to Christ, it also makes clear that our identity rises from our relationships in community in which we live. 

One of the most dramatic examples of the sense of community occurred at the Primates meeting in Porto, Portugal in 2000. In one of the sessions, two African Primates said to Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, "What you are doing is hurting us." As they left the session, they were exultant. When I picked them up after the meeting they said, "We have solved the crisis in the Communion. We told Frank Griswold that what he was doing was hurting us." 

In their experience, a member of a community who is told that they were hurting the rest by their actions would stop the divisive action. They were used to everyone in the community sharing values and agreeing about the importance of corporate life. For them, it was unthinkable that the offending party would continue along a path that was causing division. I'm confident that Frank Griswold reported to his allies that the objections did not result in any sanctions. For the individualistic Westerner, the fact that no consequences were enumerated meant to him that the Episcopal Church had evaded punishment for what they were doing. 

For the Africans, it was a settled issue. No reasonable member of the community would continue on a course of action that was hurting others. For the individualistic Westerners, it was a victory. 

 In succeeding meetings of the Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams went to great lengths to keep from discussing what the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada were doing. The agendas of meeting after meeting were packed with busy work and thumb twiddling. ABp Rowan knew that if the Primates or the Anglican Consultative Council were able to directly address the crisis, the unbiblical innovations of the West would be shut down. The strategy was that delay could only help the innovators and wear down those who held to historic faith and practice. 

 At the same time, there was an additional brilliant, though evil move to advance the liberal agenda. It was the hijacking of an African model of consultation. In both the Zulu and Xhosa cultures, indaba is a way of doing business in which conversation takes place until a consensus is reached. The actual format of indaba is as foreign to Westerners as is the Xhosa language. Xhosa includes sounds which not only do not appear in Western languages, for most Westerners they are unpronounceable. Most difficult is a glottal click which most eludes almost all Westerners. When rightly pursued, indaba honors the concerns of all the members. A course is not pursued until agreement is achieved. This is NOT the case in the way that the Anglican Communion is pursuing indaba

Anglican indaba is a totally manipulated process in which the outcome is pre-determined. The process limits the input of those who disagree with the planned outcome. Discussion, activities, and questions are managed to keep any possibility of disagreement absolutely minimized. Also central to Anglican Indaba is controlling what is reported about the meetings. No discord is ever reported. Information portrays full incorporation of same-sex behaviors as utterly normative and uncontroversial. The problem is that this is not indaba. It is manipulative lying that does not owe its origins to the Zulus and Xhosas, but to the legions of the pit of hell. 

 Contrasted with Anglican Indaba, are the meeting principles found at a Texas hospital corporation. These agreed principles have been a great help in the Diocese where I serve: 

§ “Be Present” i.e. actively engaged & prepared

§ Once we agree, we will speak with one voice

§ Invitees will speak freely and will listen attentively to others.  No interrupting.

§ Begin and end on time

§ Each gets their say, not  necessarily their way

§ Processes will be discussed, analyzed or attacked, not people

§ No hidden agendas

§ Trust Principles

§ Always have a timekeeper, facilitator, and minute taker

§ Members must notify leader if unable to attend and make arrangements as necessary (substitutes only when absolutely necessary)

§ Silence equals agreement

§ Purpose identified on the agenda

§ Be on time.  No backing up to catch latecomers.

§ Get info and homework out prior to meeting (disseminate information)

§ All team members are equally important

§ Members respect confidentially of team

§ No distractions (i.e. mobile devices should be put on vibrate)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is pretty obvious that if the Anglican Communion had adopted these principles, the tear to the fabric of the Communion would never have taken place. If these principles were applied after the tear, it would have been healed. If we can follow them in the way we make decisions in the International Diocese, we will be much more likely to find God's will.