Bible plenary illustrates struggles of faith
by Katie Sherrod
Ancient texts of the Bible were interpreted through the modern medium of video, and via the historic arts of drama and teaching, as the Conference plenary on the Bible, World and Church unfolded Tuesday. Study of the scriptures will bracket the Conference. The last plenary, scheduled for August 8, also will feature a video based on scriptural discussion.
The question facing plenary planners was not whether the Bible is important but whether the Lambeth Conference "had the courage to tackle the significance of the Bible head on," Bishop Stephen Sykes (Ely, England) told the plenary.
The plenary began with 'A Living Letter', a video by Angela Tilby, featuring interviews with Anglican bishops and their spouses from five countries. This tape tackled difficult points at which scripture intersects with the world: through power, poverty, sexuality, war. But Bishop Herft also pointed out that scripture guides the Church in the ministry of reconciliation, a point powerfully underscored by Bishop Macleord Ochola (Kitgum, Uganda).
"My wife was killed by a landmine last May, and many of our clergy children have been abducted," he said. "They have done bad to us but we have to forgive in order to overcome the evil way of the world."
The Riding Lights Theatre Company presented 'Wrestling With Angels', a drama specially commissioned for Lambeth and written by Nigel Forde and Paul Burbridge. The dramatic interpretation of Jacob's encounter with God and with his brother Esau moved many in the audience to tears. The troupe recreated the Old Testament story with dramatic music and lighting on a platform stacked with a dozen 6#foot pine#box coffins and bathed in an eerie
"The play was terrific," said Samuel K.Arap Ng'eny, a member of the Anglican Consultative Council from Kenya. The play's depiction of Jacob wrestling with God "was a fantastic representation of what really happens . . . that is what we do." Sara Mani, wife of Bishop Emmanuel Mani (Maiduguri, Northern Nigeria) called the play "inspiring" for people from a place like Nigeria."We have Muslims that discriminate about Christian religious knowledge right from primary school," she said. "I am encouraged. The drama really brought it out."
David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, who headed up the planning committee for the plenary, said after the play: "We have just been reading a living letter.
"Between Jacob and Esau there is a division about something apparently non-negotiable... (Jacob) grapples with the mysterious wrestler who knows him only too well.
"But even more astonishing is the mysterious complexity of God's action," Professor Ford added. "He both challenges Jacob's tangled, wrongly complex identity and heals it, opening a way for him and all his people."
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