Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ubuntu revisited

This theme is rich indeed. A couple of days ago, I shared Bishop Desmond Tutu's explication of this African concept as well as some musings of my own. Here at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we've heard much more.

Jenny Te Paa, the "ahorangi" or dean of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand, addressed the House of Deputies here on July 11. A portion of her remarks that deals with the inevitable question of cultural appropriation by the rich and strong that arises when one culture enthuses over the core values of another follows.

... one of the markers which we indigenous peoples have found most helpful in these matters is to ask of those seeking to enter more fully into the very different socio, politico, spiritual, cultural worlds of ‘the constructed other’, are you intent on becoming one with or one of ‘the other’?

The most respectful of these options is of course the former. In this way we are each freed to become fully whom God created us to be and to flourish into that God given identity. The actions of one seeking to become ‘one with’ are those of selfless, sacrificial and loving solidarity whereas the actions of one seeking to become ‘one of’, are likely to be characterized by unashamed self-interest! The former option is thus more likely to be true ubuntu, but then I would not be so bold to determine such a thing! I simply raise a respectful cautionary flag.

Episcopal Life Online

[my emphasis]

The Very Reverend Rowan Smith, the Dean the St. George's Anglican Cathedral at
Cape Town, South Africa, shared an additional African perspective in the first few minutes of this video.

If anything is "unAfrican" it is to exclude anybody from community. Ubuntu speaks about our togetherness, about our sharing a common cup ... [F]or the Episcopal Church to take a stand around this [for full inclusion of all] ... is to give hope to particularly Black gays and lesbians in Africa.

If curious about the folks I'm working with, you can watch the rest of the video. The lovely clerical gay man in the piece, Jon Richardson, is my comrade and friend in the legislative monitoring operation. So far so good in this effort -- the Episcopal Church continues to grope toward full inclusion of all, including its gays and even its transpeople. More here.

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