Jenny Te Paa uses the phrase which I have made the title of this post in the course of her speech to the Anaheim convention (full text available here). Her speech is interesting in certain ways.
First, it has been noticed and has attracted approbation and criticism
Secondly, Jenny rightly draws attention to the gifts to world Anglicanism through which TEC has supported the working of the Communion, and offered opportunity for development of ministry and mission through theological education opportunities and the like.
Thirdly, Jenny offers a strong critique of the Convention on one point, it's appropriation of 'ubuntu' from a culture not indigenous to America:
"And so I come to what I trust will be received as a word of loving advice from your indigenous sister.
I come from a cultural context characterized still by the absolute urgency of cultural, linguistic, artistic, traditional survival. We indigenous peoples are in many ways understandably very protective of our culturally unique traditions, we are very conscious of the ways in which aspects of our traditions have become such beacons of light and hope in a world increasingly bereft of strong kinship networks, of strong familial identity, of meaningful spiritual regard for all of God’s creation. We have seen how attractive indigenous spirituality; in fact indigenous tradition in its many forms has suddenly assumed a level of contemporary interests and attractiveness. We have in all of this become desperately afraid of cultural appropriation and so as this intensely beautiful and endlessly complex concept of ‘ubuntu’ is uttered and claimed, explained and proclaimed I cannot help but wonder if all the necessary precautions against even unwitting appropriation have been taken?"
But, to return to my opening sentence, the 'contextual spiritual conscience' by which one seeks to live is, on closer examination, a fraught idea. According to what context are we to be shaped? Much of the Communion is saying to TEC, your 'context' is the global context of the Communion, not the local context of the USA? TEC's response largely seems to be, 'No, local context, in the end, is more important than global context'. The inadequacy of 'contextual spiritual conscience' as an idea is actually highlighted by Jenny's speech because in her critique of this convention she draws attention to the ability of TEC to draw from the global context when it wishes ('ubuntu') and to deny it when it wishes. Would it be more accurate to talk about 'spiritual conscience' leaving context out?
In our church I do not believe we live by 'contextual spiritual conscience' because we constantly play one context against another, our three tikanga life meaning that we always take account of the larger picture, the life of the other tikanga. What Jenny's speech does not offer from our church to TEC are possible analogies to how TEC and ACNA might live together on one continent!