Sunday, March 10, 2019

A picture does not tell the whole story

It has been my privilege to be in Suva, Fiji this weekend, for the ordination of Fereimi Cama as bishop and for his installation as Bishop of Polynesia and thus his formal recognition as Archbishop of Polynesia and thus one of our three Primates. All three events took place within a single, two and a quarter hour service.

Here is a photo I nicked off Facebook of the bishops gathered around Fereimi, just before the laying on of hands:

I am in that circle (left hand bottom corner of the circle). There are a lot of bishops - it was a very good turnout of our bishops, along with a bishop from Australia.

What does the photo not tell us?

1. It was a very warm and humid in the cathedral - notwithstanding a great array of electric fans. I needed a shower between the service and the festivities which followed.
2. This was an event in the life of our church with international interest: the service began with greetings from the Anglican Church of Australia, the Diocese of Lincoln (a companion diocese) and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
3. Archbishop Fereimi is the first Fijian Bishop of Polynesia which has its cathedral and diocesan headquarters in Suva, Fiji. His six predecessors have been of European descent (the first four), then respectively Samoan and Tongan.


Taonga article here.

Fiji Sun article here. (The photo used above may have its source with the Fiji Sun)


David Wilson said...

Dear Peter,

From joy to sorrow. You must be too preoccupied to blog. Praying for you and all in Christchurch and NZ.


Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, in the light of recent happenings in Christchurch - and remembering my 3-years of secular life in Fiji in the late 1960s - I have only wonderful memories of the place of the Anglican Church in the South Pacific Province, of which the newly-ordained Bishop of ACANZP has so recently become Pasifika co-Primate.

Yesterday, in the City of Christchurch, a White-Supremacist gunman - with the help of at least two other people - took the lives of 49 Islamic worshippers during their observation of 'Friday Prayers'. These were prayers offered by fellow children of Abraham who, in their tradition, were following their faith by honouring the God of Abram, Isaac and Jacob. They were innocent.

At the time I lived in Fiji, in the late 1960s, we had Muslims, Hindus and Christians living in harmony together in a place where racial and ethnic differences were respected and not feared. There was no obvious sign of Islamophobia - such as has been evident in the perpetration of this recent outrage in Christchurch. The government of Fiji at that time was concerned with keeping the community together - very much like our communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand have, up to this time, managed to bring about - with respect to our Maori/Pakeha convergence around the Treaty of Waitangi and other legislation that has given common human rights to our many ethnic groups now present in our land. We are 'One People'.

The sad emergence of both political and religious polarity that was the underlying motivation of yesterday's attack in our City by an Australian citizen is not a 'home-grown' phenomenon, so much as an international cause-celebre, brought about by perceived (and in some places experienced) acts of extremism wrought by the angry and disaffected among us who have an irrational fear of 'The Other' - a phobia - whether it be Islamophobia (as in this case), homophobia, or a misplaced sense of entitlement contained in the misplaced theory of 'White-Supremacy'. Phobias are the problem.

At Mass at SMAA this (Sat.) morning, we were led by the Scripture (and by a reading from today's homily from Henri Nouwen's Lenten Reflections) to consider Jesus' reaction to hatred and opposition that was to be the cause of his own death: his amazing proposition that we should "Love those who hate us", rather than demand revenge.
His word from the Cross was truly amazing: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!"

This is the most difficult direction in the New Testament, but today we prayed for the souls of our departed sisters and brothers; their grieving families and all those affected by the tragedy; and also for the perpetrators, in the hope of turning around the tide of hatred by the sheer force of the love that is located in our common Creator; the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of the Franciscan Prayer that is my constant resource: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is darkness, let me shed light; where there is sadness, joy. God help us all in this time of our need!

Anonymous said...

"... Jesus' reaction to hatred and opposition that was to be the cause of his own death: his amazing proposition that we should "Love those who hate us", rather than demand revenge."

Thank you, Father Ron, this was helpful.

Although it is all from the Adversary, there is a different path to the forgiveness of each personal enemy for each singular evil, and many such paths transform those who walk-- or climb-- them. When the call to forgive comes from God, there is no need to look for spirituality-- the spiritual journey to forgiveness is itself our participation in the Creator's renewal of the world. What can the Body there do to support that spiritual journey and manifest that participation in Christchurch? When the facts are clear, the shock has abated, and the story can be told, this will be an urgent question.

In five reasonable policy reflections on the attack--

--Brookings's terrorism scholar Daniel Byman does not reflect on that question. But this is a postmodern challenge-- no sole response of the merely secular state to an interfaith attack on its society can contain or reverse the effects of such attacks, let alone regenerate a contemporary society that is free of them. Politicians can appeal to the best of mass sentiment, but they can do little to inspire it, shape it, or give it practical form. Always and everywhere, the *totus Christus* does all of this.

Roman emperors found that they could not govern their great cities without the bishops of the Church whose deacons were in fact reorganizing life in the streets, especially in the most difficult urban quarters. But then, if the emperors had not been holding anarchy at bay, the deacons would not have been so effective. Nor probably would priests like St John Chrysostom have been free to scold the rich and powerful to their faces as fearlessly as he did.

Similarly, although the modern state cannot do it all, neither it nor the mass of post-religious citizens who still believe only in it is quite dispensible. Western societies have many of these citizens who believe that they have outgrown the piety of say the CoE but still rely on its social values. They are the people to whom Christian Atheism was important in the 1960s and the New Atheism important in the 1990s. In a society where such citizens hold the balance of power, the gunman killed Muslims but his objective was to polarise those secular citizens against them. Suddenly, the significance of their motivation to rebuild your cathedral is even more ambiguous yet important than it was before. What relationship with them are you building? And how does it include Muslims?


Glen Young said...

Hi Ron,

As tragic as the Christchurch incident is; my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of the Inkirimu,Dogonnoma and Uiongwan Gora villages in the Kajuru Local Government Area of Nigeria; where Fulani jihadists burnt 143 homes,killing 52 and wounding dozens more;bringing the total deaths of Christians, to 120 in the last 3 weeks. I have not seen the world wide condemnation of this; but perhaps they were just GAFCON members.

Anonymous said...

Alas, Glen, thanks for the bad news. We all should-- and probably do-- pray in at least a general way for members of the Body endangered for their faith in Christ. The details you supply help.

Worldwide condemnation of anything is quite rare. People have consciences everywhere, of course, but the habit of thinking for the whole planet, either from presumption or from responsibility, is only commonplace in societies with some experience of global empire. As you know, these are uncomfortable with abrasive piety, and afraid of civilians who stockpile military-grade guns.

My particular country has unusual problems with mass shootings, violence in houses of worship, and alienated young men who turn to killing others, themselves, or both. And it is one of several countries with reason to worry about the emergence of a self-aware tradition of manifesto violence spread globally through social media-- Lincoln (Kaczynski), Ut√łya (Breivik), Pittsburgh (Bowers), Christchurch (Tarrant). My inbox was filling with news and expert analyses within two hours of the last of these. I wish that I could say that I was surprised that night, but I was not. There are killers in the global village to which we all belong. We pay attention to that.

Jesus taught his followers non-violent love of enemies and practiced it himself. Although capable of passionate argument with those with whom he disagreed, he refused even during his trial and execution to treat his mortal enemies as less than human. For a few generations, political scientists have studied the social process of *polarisation*, and security professionals today covertly monitor it as a precursor of genocide or ethnicide in more than 23 countries at serious risk. They've learned a thing or two about how extremists use polarisation to engineer the dehumanisarion of others in which violence becomes probable. I cannot say much about what they know or how, but I can say this: pragmatic professionals who are not notably religious have learned that Jesus was right.

Anglicans, because they are not just a quiet sect for devotion and are building ancient/modern social structures capable of doing big things, are more dangerous to monopolies of power than many other Christians. Anglicans themselves can forget that; those who want all power to themselves never do. The more Anglican GAFCONians are in such places, the more danger they are in. Yes, all Anglicans should pray that they will have the courage and blessings of their calling from God.


Anonymous said...

Town governance is a proud New England tradition, especially in Vermont, but to be honest, this mayor is really a goat!