A traditional Maori ceremony called a powhiri opened the 8th Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN) gathering in Aotearoa (New Zealand) in April. Near the shores of Lake Rotorua, a young Maori man in warriors clothing came forward to test the guests intentions. Malcolm Naea Chun, the Secretary-General of AIN, picked up a green fern leaf branch from the ground to announce that the delegations came in peace.
Participants included delegates from the Torres Strait Islands of Australia, the indigenous peoples of Canada, and native Americans of the U.S. and Hawaii, as well as Maori delegates and observers. Five bishops from the U.S. and Aotearoa were among them.
"The Maoris were very welcoming I cant even begin to describe their generosity," said Carol Gallagher, Suffragan Bishop of Southern Virginia and a member of the Cherokee nation, who took part in the gathering. "They were incredible hosts and also shared their culture in a very inviting and gentle fashion."
Host bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe of Aotearoa preached at the Eucharist on the morning of the first day of business, calling on delegates to be "storytellers, value bearers, community builders and spiritual journeyers" within the Anglican Communion.
For most of the week, delegates met in groups representing various concerns of AIN constituents, including youth, women, elders, clergy and theological educators.
"It was very powerful to gather with other native women living very different lives in very different cultures, and yet sharing some real complex issues," said Gallagher, who met with the group focusing on women. "Some of us come from very matriarchal cultures and some of us come from very patriarchal cultures, and yet most of our leadership folks that stand up for us are men. We honor where we come from and we honor the men in leadership and at the same time I think theres a real awakening of women recognizing the need for more indigenous women clergy, more women in leadership to get the variety of voices heard."
Gallagher added that "there was a lot of excitement about having the first Anglican indigenous woman bishop in their midst."
Robert McGhee from the Poarch Creek tribe in Alabama, a member of the Episcopal Council on Indigenous Ministries, also noted common concerns among delegates focusing on youth.
"It was amazing, when I was talking to the Maoris, to find a somewhat similar culture, but also similar issues that they face," McGhee said. "Alcohol and substance abuse, the suicide rate, educational levels and things like that, I felt were pretty much the same."
The youth focus group began exploring the possibility of developing "a paper or proposal on the issues that impact indigenous youth worldwide" to take to the church with program ideas and funding requests, McGhee said. They are setting up a web page and considering an international youth conference.
Among eight resolutions passed by AIN, the most encompassing one called for the creation of a non-geographic province of the Anglican Communion for the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Rim.
"These are people of the land who rarely get their voice heard in the midst of larger gatherings," Gallagher explained. "A non-geographic province is a way to be present at provincial gatherings worldwide at which there is no representation or voices from the indigenous people in that part of the world."
Other resolutions pledged support for the position of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples on the settlement agreement between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Canadian government stemming from abuse in government- and church-run schools; support for the Gwichin Nation and for the establishment of a permanent natural reserve and refuge from the exploitation of natural resources; and support for the development of the Anglican Indigenous Youth Network.
But for participants, the experience of community among the delegates was one of the greatest benefits of the gathering.
"We had an opportunity to worship together regularly in a variety of different languages," Gallagher says. "Sometimes some of the hymns were sung in different languages. And one of the great joys for me was to be in the midst of people whose faith is expressive. There was a genuine joyful curiosity in each others ways, and constant learning from one another."
"Just the relationships that were made were a great outcome," McGhee says.
The next AIN gathering will be held in the U.S. in early spring of 2005 in either Southern California or Oklahoma.
[Parts of this report were based on an AIN press release from Malcolm Chun.]
Paul Moore Jr., a lifelong advocate of social and economic justice and peace, died May 1 at the age of 83. Moore, who served as Bishop of New York from 1972 until 1989, was a decorated World War II hero who became an outspoken opponent of war. Just weeks before he died, he condemned the war in Iraq from the pulpit of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at an Evensong for Peace on March 23.
"Over and against that force of millions of people of all faiths is one solitary man named George W. Bush, alone in a room, telling his staff he needed to be there alone for a few minutes of prayer," Moore said. "This has to do with two different kinds of religion, it seems to me. The religion that says I talk to Jesus and therefore I am right, and millions and millions of people of all faiths who disagree."
Moores involvement in the civil rights struggle was recounted by one of his sons, Paul Moore, at his May 10 funeral service.
"We overheard the hate calls and the threats of violence against him, but we never saw him back down," Paul Moore said. "In Mississippi, the danger was so acute that he was given an alias so those wiretapping the phones wouldnt know his identity. They called him The Big Fisherman."
Ledlie Laughlin, Jr., who gave the funeral homily, told a different story about Moore the fisherman.
"After he told his children and a few of his friends about his cancer, he went fly fishing for a week on the Amazon," Laughlin reported. "Who else in this church would do that?"
Moore, a longtime friend and advisor to The Witness, was the author of three books: a study on the urban work of the church, The Church Reclaims the City in 1964; Take a Bishop Like Me in 1979, on his ordination of a lesbian woman and the struggle for womens ordination and gay rights in the church; and a memoir, Presences: A Bishops Life in the City in 1997.
"He was thrilled by that edge of politics and moral theology," his son, Paul Moore, said. "He excited us and made religion seem adventurous. He was teaching us the satisfactions of pursuing work that was meaningful to us, even if others didnt understand or agree."
Four of Moores other children also spoke at the funeral service.
Rosemary Moore, a daughter, told of a lunch conversation with him near the end of his life.
"We talked about mystery and the unknowable," she said. "I talked about transformation, that irresistible thing that happens in my playwriting. Without skipping a beat he described transformation in his work. The Word made flesh and how humanity, Jesus and the Eucharist are one."
[Based on an obituary by Neva Rae Fox of the Diocese of New York and transcripts from Paul Moores funeral service, online at www.dioceseny.org.]