"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
We reached Mackinnon by phone in Wisconsin as she was heading out the door to go to the airport ... she gave us the wrong dates ... or James got them wrong, or something. Anyway, we pick her up at 7 tonight!
What a great meeting today with Bishop Akrofi -- the Bishop of Accra, who has been elected primate of West Africa (but has not yet taken that office because of some canonical problems with the election that are really ticky=tack and will be resolved). I didn't know how formal he would be so I dressed in my clericals (damn those cotton-poly blends .. in this heat, the holiness code makes some sense!), greeted him on behalf of Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, and gave him one of the Anglican rosaries that Melanie Barbarito made as a small token of friendship.
He sat down, fully vested, in the bishop's chair in his office ... and proceeded to be as affable, casual and friendly as I could have hoped.
He is an amazingly prayerful person. We talked about the church here in Ghana and in America and it was amazing the similarities. He was talking about how the charismatic churches are growing so much faster than they are, how his church is holding on to old systems and not letting the youth have enough of a voice and staying elite and not bringing the faith to the people. He said that yes, their church is growing, but it pales in comparison to these other faiths ... and that's the story that we don't hear in America.
I was very open with him about how I voted at General Convention -- he said he was there -- and we had the most amazing conversation about it. What happened -- the vote -- was very painful to them, some more than others. But more than anything, he wanted reconciliation because he believes that is the essence of the Gospel. He is a wonderful, reasonable person. We were able to talk frankly about the perceptions of the American church in Africa.
I feel we both agreed that there is a vast middle in between the radical right and left that wants reconciliation, and that if we work hard and continue to build partnerships like the one we are working on now, God's love will prevail.
It was also so valuable for me to hear from this prayerful, reasonable bishop how hurtful some of the talk he heard at General Convention from the left (pro-Gene) was. How -- regardless of the intent -- it felt like they were being told that we had discerned God's will for the church and the world and that when they wised up they would realize it.
It is difficult -- almost impossible -- for me to hear complaints about our arrogance from the far right, who, to my mind have been every bit as arrogant as anybody. But the words from Bishop Akrofi were gentle and kind. I expected to go in and get grilled, but he was so loving. It was the best of what I believe our church can be with each other across this divide and across the globe. We all have much to confess and repent of. We also have much to be joyful about.
He said he wanted to meet with me again before I left ... maybe I can bring Robin or Mackinnon next time.
We ended on a great note ... we were chatting outside as we were getting ready to leave and it turns out we both went to Yale Divinity School (him in the 70s) and even know some of the same people. We laughed and embraced, and at the end we prayed for each other and this wonderful man laid his hands on me and gave me his blessing. Think of that for a second, here I am, one who chaired a deputation that helped do the one thing that we are being told by some will be the end of the church, with one of those who is supposed to have been the most disaffected by it -- and we are talking and laughing and praying together and leaving with each other's prayers and blessings.
I don't think I ever feared for the church, but I certainly don't now. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But if this morning is any small indication, I believe reconciliation and love will prevail.
Big shift -- Stretch of the day ... I ate goat meat! Tasted pretty good ... pretty rich. Kind of feeling it now. Was at lunch with James on this rooftop cafe. Funny thing was that I'm here in Accra, eating goat meat, surrounded by everything African and the music on the loudspeaker was all 80s pop -- Huey Lewis, Air Supply ... that kind of stuff.
Weather here is GOOD! Not as hot as I thought. Pretty humid, but the rainshowers cool things down and make it pleasant. When I go up north, it will be hotter but less humid.
Must go now ... have to try to arrange tomorrow visit with the Overseas Processing Entity (the folks from the UN who take care of refugees in west africa).
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."