Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Importance of Good Communication

I sometimes have the opportunity to speak about "The Three 'C's of Healthy Relationships; Communication, Caring and Commitment." It is through good communication, invloving equal amounts of listening and talking, that we learn who the other person really is. If the communication part is done well, we can then begin to express care for the real person, instead of our projections or assumptions about who they are. Out of this good communication and sincere caring grows a commitment to the relationship.

The communication part always has to come first, though. Without it, we are attempting to have a relationship with what may turn out to be nothing more than our own mental construct of who the other person is and what they're all about.

Now, this communication can happen in a lot of different ways. My stepmother was from Greece. She had nine brothers and sisters. Their idea of a "good time" was to sit around the large table in Uncle Cosmos' kitchen, sip wine, nibble cheese, and argue. These were loud, passionate arguments, on every topic you could imagine. But, when it came time to go home, everyone would warmly embrace, and comment on how much they enjoyed the evening. A form of communication? I think so.

I know another couple who would never dream of arguing in public. But they would periodically beckon one another into the next room and close the door. Only the expressions on their faces when they emerged some time later gave any clue that there had been some serious communication going on behind that closed door.

Some couples use "talk times." This is a method by which a set amount of time (say, 20 minutes) will be set aside to talk about one issue, and one issue only. Tangents are verboten. The advantage is that the partner who is more verbal will have a set time when an issue will be discussed, and the less verbal partner will have a time certain at which the words will end. If both happen to be verbal, the time might be expanded; if less so, it might be shrunk.

Whatever method is used, the important thing is that effective communication happens, intentionally. Without it, meaningful caring and long lasting commitments don't have a chance.

It doesn't take much imagination to expand this idea beyond the realm of a couple trying to build a healthy relationship. Isn't communication important in our relationship with God? Isn't it equally important in building relationships with our neighbors?

So, expanding this to include various groups, rather than just individuals (do individuals exist? Another topic for another time, perhaps), consider the most recent attempt of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion at more transparency and better communication:

...Douglas said the committee, through the support of the Anglican Communion Office, "has pursued a course of transparency and open communication, which I think is vitally important if trust and understanding across the communion is to be engendered. We cannot minimize what a significant move that is in the right direction for our health as a communion."

The Anglican Communion Office's communications department, under the directorship of Jan Butter, has issued two daily bulletins during the meeting and more are expected. This is the first time the committee's proceedings have been communicated in this way...
So, was this attempt at "open communication" immediately successful? Not exactly.

The second daily bulletin contained this bit of information:

...A proposal from Dato' Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered...
Are there items in that statement that bother you? Various aspects certainly troubled me. And, apparently, they troubled Executive Council member Mark Harris:

...So a closed meeting of the Standing Committee can consider a proposal to separate The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, supposedly with the understanding that such a proposal was in order. It failed not because the power of the Standing Committee was challenged, but because it was felt to be premature and the Standing Committee awaited further input.

Given this, why in the world would TEC, or any other church in the Anglican Communion, believe the Standing Committee to be a servant of unity in the Anglican Communion...
Given only this limited communication of what happened at the Standing Committee meeting, I was inclined to agree with Mark.

But, then on day four of the meeting, we are offered this briefing, which communicates what transpired in in the initial discussion, and later dicusssions, in more detail:

...As agreed, the Committee revisited Saturday's discussion. Dato' Stanley Isaacs delivered a frank and passionate presentation about the distress felt by some parts of the Communion about The Episcopal Church's decision to breach one of the moratoria. He concluded by proposing that rights to participate in discussions of matters of faith and order at the Standing Committee and the ACC be withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.

In the subsequent discussion Archbishop Philip Aspinall reiterated that the Standing Committee did not have the power to undertake such an action...

...the Standing Committee agreed a resolution that it: "regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion; regrets the consequential resignations of members of the Standing Committee which diminish our common life and work on behalf of the ACC and the Primates' Meeting; recognises that the ACC and the Primates' Meeting are the appropriate bodies to consider these matters further."
Well, this is quite different, isn't it? Note that Mark acknowledges that the fuller "briefing" from day four does take some of the sting out of what might have been assumed from the day two briefing. However, there remains a very real concern with this new thing called the "Standing Committee" being a bit top heavy when it comes to Primates. In my opinion, the last thing in the world such a body attempting to oversee things Anglican needs are more purple shirts, let alone purple shirts who see themselves as "arch purple."

So, this new thing we call the Standing Committee is taking the brave step of being more transparent, and striving to do a better job at communicating. And, out of the gate, they may have taken a stumble or two. I, for one, give them credit for recognizing how important effective communication is. However, I do indeed hope that they also recognize that effective communication involves a two way conversation. They have spoken. Now, are they willing to listen?


Friday, July 23, 2010

Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America Council, 2010

CANA Council 2010 is meeting this week. Who is CANA? Well, that depends on when you asked the question.

We first hear of it in a letter from Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria on April 7, 2005:

...After much prayer and careful discernment with appropriate colleagues and advisors over the last two years, and in full consultation with the Nigerian congregations in America, together with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Episcopal Synod and the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) we announce the formation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.

This Convocation will function as a ministry of the Church of Nigeria in America. Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches... (emphasis added)

Next we have a press release from Nigeria, dated September 15, 2005:

...The Constitutional change also allowed the Church to create Convocations and Chaplaincies of like-minded faithful outside Nigeria. This effectively gives legal teeth to the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA) formed to give a worshiping refuge to thousands in the USA who no longer feel welcomed to worship in the Liberal churches especially with the recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin...(emphasis added)
The "Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America" became the "Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas," which may seem like a subtle change to allow for the catchy acronym "CANA". But note that it is now offered to "thousands in the USA."

The next shift in the name is seen in a letter from Archbishop Akinola dated November 16, 2005:

...Earlier this year we announced CANA - a mission of the Church of Nigeria, a Convocation for Anglicans in North America. We see this as a creative way to provide pastoral and episcopal care for those alienated by the actions of ECUSA. As we said in our letter of April 7th, 2005, “Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada but to provide safe harbour for all those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches.” While CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria it is our desire to welcome all those who share our faith and vision for the Church... (emphasis added)
So now the "Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas" has become the "Convocation for Anglicans in North America," and "welcomes all those who share our faith..." A piece by Mark Harris, written at the time of this subtle metamorphisis of CANA, may provide a bit more clarity as to why this shell game regarding the name of the organization is significant.

So, now, five years later, what will be going on at the 2010 CANA Council? Three events that occurred yesterday afternoon are worth noting:

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM - Clericus with Archbishop Nicholas Okoh & Bishop Minns - for clergy only. His Grace, the Most Rev'd Nicholas Okoh, and the Rt. Rev'd Martyn Minns invite clergy to this time of fellowship.

Who is Abp. Okoh? He replaced Peter Akinola as Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria. Since Nigeria's new Archbishop found no reason to notify anyone in the Diocese of Virginia or in TEC that he intended to be present in the US for this event, it appears he will continue the border crossing and property pillaging campaign launched by his predecessor. As a matter of fact, he has stated that very intention. Here is his justification for establishing a Nigerian beachhead in the US:

...Recently, our Church was classified along with Churches who have broken call for moratorium by the Anglican authorities in Canterbury, in certain areas such as ordination of Gay Bishops, conducting of same sex marriage and border crossing. Our church is said to have crossed borders in its pastoral work in the USA. We reject being put in the same category with churches conducting gay ordination and same sex marriage, and the equating of our evangelical initiative (for which we should be commended) with those who are doing things unbiblical. But for the Nigerian initiative and others like her, many of our faithful Anglican American friends who cannot tolerate the unbiblical practices of the Episcopal Church in America could have gone away to other faiths. The great commission to go in to all the world to save souls is our compelling constitution. The step taken by Canterbury in this regard therefore is ill-advised and does not make any contribution towards the healing of the ailment in the Anglican extended family...
Archbishop, it might be helpful for you to recognize that many Anglicans do not consider what you are doing in Virginia and other places to be offering "pastoral work." It is viewed as an act of attempted theft. I would suggest to you that one Province attempting to steal congregations and dioceses from another province is indeed a very serious ethical matter. Stealing is quite clearly an "unbiblical practise."

So, Abp Okoh is visiting Virginia, contrary to the moratarium regarding boundary crossings found in the Windsor Report. I hope Canon Kearon has taken note of this.

The next noteworthy event at the CANA Council:

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM Anglican Action - Institute on Religion & Democracy - Anglican Action promotes orthodox social witness, teaching, and practice within the worldwide Anglican Communion...
The IRD promotes social witness? Unbelievable. For those who may have forgotten, the IRD used to be a group of radical anti-communists during the Reagan era. When their fanatacism lead to the death of some innocent missionaries in Central America, they recast their image, with their new target being "progressive" (in their mind, "Marxist") leaders in the mainline Christian denominations. They were still able to draw funds from the same small pool of extreme right backers that supported their anti-communist rhetoric. What brought them to light for most Anglicans was their significant role in the creation of the American Anglican Council, which became the Network, which became ACNA. So why are they present at this Council? Because, when it comes to the schismatic Virginia parishes, the IRD has always been around, usually lurking in the shadows. Consider this quote from a 2006 entry on the Casandra Pages:

...The announcement about the Virginia parishes has been directed by the skillful spokespeople at the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), a neo-conservative Washington think-tank that has innumerable connections, through its board of directors and officers, to the conservative Washington area parishes that have recently left the Episcopal Church. These parishes have been home to prominent conservatives such as Oliver North and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as top-level IRD Episcopalians. For instance, Fox News commentator Fred Barnes is a member of the Falls Church congregation, and serves on the Board of the IRD; Fox has covered this story extensively and sympathetically, interviewing Barnes as part of a roundtable discussion, but never mentioning his IRD connection...
One other intereresting event occurred at the CANA Council yesterday afternoon:

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM - Bishop Minns: CANA's Dual Citizenship in the ACNA & Church of Nigeria - Clergy and congregations in CANA carry 2 passports: one that says we're full fledged founding members of the new Anglican province called the Anglican Church in North America, and one that says we're full fledged members of the most vibrant province in Anglicanism, the Church of Nigeria...
Dual citizenship. There is a rather unique concept. Is this an end run attempt in preparation for their appeal of the decision of the Virginia Supreme Court? Good luck with that.

So, what items of interst do you spot in the agenda for the Council of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches...Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in