"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Friday, August 01, 2003 I've felt for a while that we are a church and a nation of amazing potential waiting to be inspired.
Tonight, I got a glimpse of what that inspiration looks like.
It was the Presiding Bishop's Forum on Global Reconciliation. I know ... it sounds like something that you'd find on at 2 am on C-Span. Forget the title, it was mind-enlarging, spirit-lifting, soul-moving and so much more.
There were five speakers. After each one, you thought the next couldn't be as good and yet for more than two hours they came after each other each at least as compelling as the last.
*Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, who spoke about the crippling effects of international debt in simple, understandable, human terms.
*Jeffrey Sachs, economist and development expert (he taught Bono everything he knows about global debt), who painted a graphic, human picture of the face of poverty and disease in Africa, challenged us with what we have already promised in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and then inspired us with the truth that, for the first time in human history, we have the power to end poverty on earth. In fact, the money that the 400 richest people in the US will save on their Bush tax cut is enough to wipe out malaria and put 3 million people in Africa with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral drugs.
*Abigail Nelson, a young woman in her 20s who is the DIrector of Latin American Programs at Episcopal Relief and Development, who preached an eloquent sermon about our connectedness as global citizens and members of Christ's body.
*Ranjit Matthews, a 24-year old who has done the same YOung Adult Service Corps program that Steve is, who gave a firey speech about how our materialism and consumerism is the fuel behind the global crisis.
*Finally, Sabina Alkire, an amazing woman I've had the honor of working with a little bit before, an Anglican priest, research writer for the Commission on Human Security at the UN and much more, spoke eloquently and passionately about a new economics that is about not how much money we have to put in our pockets but about how much our efforts give us return in terms of giving us valuable lives. It's an amazing new way of thinking about economics that has the seeds of overthrowing the religion of materialism.
I look back at this and it seems like a dry list, but I cannot tell you how riveting it was. Every speaker got a standing ovation from the crowd of 800+. Steph and Emily and Steve were there with me ... I wish our whole deputation would have been there. But I know they were as moved by it as I was.
THe most amazing thing is that despite the dire figures and graphic stories about poverty and death we heard, we all left with a feeling of amazing power and hope. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (see www.developmentgoals.com) and the challenge to give 0.7% of our GNP as a nation and of our net disposable income as diocese and church towards meeting those goals are the structure, the road map for how we can lead the way doing God's work of global reconciliation.
It's not just about economists and theories and billions of dollars. It's about Jen Coil putting off getting a paying job as a nurse and going to Tanzania for 6 months to work helping reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and Steve spending his summer there,too. It's about our diocesan convention and vestries voting to give 0.7% of our NDI to international development. IT's about writing letters and voting. It's about prayer. It's about looking at where we are investing, what we spend our money on and recognizing that we are being challenged by Christ to spend the resources God gave us not on possessions with no spiritual value but on the priceless work of lifting up those who have nothing.
I hope this sets a tone for the whole COnvention. I hope we can put aside what divides us and get to this business that we have at hand. I'm convinced it will be our greatest joy. I'm convinced it will, in the language of this new economics, give our lives value beyond imagination.
On a sadder note ... Robin's grandmother died last night. Tomorrow morning (this morning?) I'll fly to Indianapolis and I'll do a graveside service for her on Saturday morning and fly back here Saturday evening. Please keep Maxine and her four daughters -- Suzanne (robin's mom), Peggy, Hogan and Sally in your prayers.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."