Monday, March 26, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- The End?

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Kenya-Nevada connection has always struck me as positive and warm-hearted. There are clearly quite a few Nevada Episcopalians who care deeply about Kenya and act on their caring. But the Nevada-Kenya connection is also a little puzzling. For one thing, a lot of folks in Nevada believe we have, or once had, a companion diocese relationship in Kenya. We do not and never have. Bishop Kanuku has visited here and has spoken to our Convention. But we never sealed the deal.

For another thing: There are three or four NGO’s operating in Nevada to support good works in Kenya. These NGO’s are supported, and in some cases, even led by members of the Episcopal Church. They report on what they are doing at Diocesan Convention, and we all come away feeling a bit of virtue-by-association, and many believe the Diocese of Nevada is actually doing good work in Kenya. Not so much. I have given a little discretionary fund money to Kenya. Last year we gave part of the loose plate offering from the Convention Eucharist to combat malaria; but the Episcopal Church in Nevada is not supporting anything in Kenya except on occasion here and there. I am grateful for the NGO’s and the participation of Episcopalians in their efforts. We want to encourage them and support them. But we should not confuse their good works with the Diocese actually doing something ourselves.

So where do we go from here?

I got a glimmer of an idea when Bishop Kanuku took me to the office of Ukamba Christian Community Services. They are the community and economic development arm of three neighboring dioceses in the Ukamba region of Kenya, which includes the Diocese of Machakos. They are actively engaged in Millenium Development Goal projects, building sand dams to help people survive drought, funding small businesses, supporting economic independence and equality for women, forming agricultural cooperatives, shifting agriculture from cattle which are high risk and low profit to goats and chickens which are low risk and higher profit. UCCS is quite an impressive operation. It receives support from multiple faith based sources – but none from two sources – nothing from the Diocese of Nevada and nothing from Episcopal Relief and Development.

So I am wondering these things: Might we invite the Diocese of Machakos into a Companion Diocese relationship? Yes, we are already linked to the Diocese of Santiago, but diocesan partnerships are not monogamous. And this one would be different. Santiago needs to be economically independent of the West. Machakos is headed that direction, but Ukamba Christian Community Services needs seed money (literally and figuratively) to lift people out of poverty.

The Anglican Communion is not a denomination. We are not held together by a centralized authority with a whip to keep us in line. The Anglican Covenant appears to be headed nowhere because we like it like that. We are a spider web of relationships. The Nevada-Machakos relationship is one of those threads. Might we want to mark the demise of the Anglican Covenant by strengthening our bond with Machakos, with a gentler voluntary partnership?

Linda and I committed to sponsor a rescue girl in the Massai Mara; and we expect to contribute to building the Girls Hostel for ACK Kyandote Bulwa. But what might the Diocese of Nevada do? I will be processing that question with the Deacons and the Standing Committee, but ultimately it will be up to the people of our Diocese. It is a question worth praying on.

Something I have been musing over. Since so many Nevadans act on behalf of Kenya, what does it mean that we do not form a partnership with them or do anything as a diocese for Kenya. I wonder if it says something, not about our relationship with Kenya, but our relationship with each other. If we were to make a commitment to Machakos together, what difference might that make in our ties to each other here?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 5

Power & Money

One thing about the Church in Kenya makes me grateful for the way we do Church here; another thing I saw makes me think something in Nevada is off the mark.

Power Analysis Here And There.

If it sounds like I am being critical of how they do it in Kenya, I am – if we cannot honestly criticize each other, how are we to learn from each other? -- but with major, MAJOR qualifications on my criticism. I do not know that it could or should be different in Kenya now.
My criticism is that the power structure is centralized and hierarchical.

Qualification 1: We need to keep in mind that compared to the Episcopal Church, most of the Anglican Communion is centralized and hierarchical. Our democratic structures balancing lay and clergy authority, checks and balances, etc. is born of the American Revolution which in turn was an off-spring of the English Civil War. In England the monarchy, monarchical episcopacy, and hierarchical power structure eventually won (in the Restoration) and has been gentled by democratizing forces ever so slowly. In these colonies, however, we have always been committed to a far more democratic polity, despite the vestments, titles, and other trappings.

Qualification 2: Bishop Kanuku, by comparison to other African bishops I have known, is a true populist, a “man of the people” kind of guy. He spent his early childhood living in a 2-room grass hut. He is so approachable he cannot walk down a street without being constantly button-holed by people who want to talk. He has no running water in his house. He refuses to be wealthy in a land of poverty.

Qualification 3: I know next to nothing about the culture of Kenya. The way power is held and exercised depends on context and I do not begin to understand the context.

Qualification 4: I know full well that our system frustrates people in Nevada and that by keeping my oath to adhere to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church and refusing to exercise authority I don’t canonically have, I frustrate people. I often hear Nevadans say they would rather have an autocratic bishop.

So here’s the difference in how we do things. Nevada parishes pay 25% of their income to the diocese, and then make most of their own decisions with just enough oversight from the diocesan office to keep them identifiable as Episcopal churches. Parishes in Kenya pay 100% of their income to the Diocese and the Diocese has total control of their operations. After sending in all their money to the Diocese, a parish submits a proposed budget which the Diocese approves or not, funds or not. All clergy and lay staff of parishes, are hired, fired, assigned, reassigned, and paid by the Diocese. As you may imagine, the conversations between bishop and priest are different. They go mostly like this: The bishop calls the priest’s name, and the priest says “Yes, Bishop.” Thereupon follows a series of questions to which the answers are “Yes, Bishop,” “No, Bishop,” or “I’ll try, Bishop.”

It is not my place to say how they ought to do Church in Kenya. But the example of hierarchical centralized power intensified my commitment to decentralized, democratic processes – spreading authority and responsibility as much as possible. It is the way our Constitution, Canons, and Prayer Book prescribe. It is the trajectory begun by Bishop Frensdorff and continued in successive Episcopacies – not that we are doing things the same way we did in years past, but that we are continuing the trajectory of democratization of the Church. It is the kind of bishop I promised to be in the election process. I believe in this – not as a leadership style, a management practice, or a strategy, but as an article of faith.

The Church’s job is building people up, growing them into the full stature of Christ, empowering them become fully themselves. A church full of strong, free people may be a pain in the neck but it is also the glory of God. “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” (St. Ireneaus of Lyons). And a strong free Christian, a human being fully alive, does not sit in a submissive position saying “Yes, Bishop” and “No, Bishop.” We want people to think and feel out of their own souls, not to do our bidding.

In Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer says that a free society depends on what Alexis de Tocqueville called certain “habits of the heart”—habits such hospitality, hope, tolerance, open-mindedness – habits which are becoming in short supply in our society today, especially in our government. Those habits of the heart are formed in intermediate social institutions – groups that stand between the solitary individual and the state. Palmer writes:

“The impulses that make democracy possible – and those that threaten it – originate in the heart, with its complex mix of heedless self-interest and yearning for community. From there, these impulses move out into our relations with each other in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, voluntary associations, and the various settings of public life. . . . (F)or those places comprise the vital prepolitical layer of our common life, the social infrastructure on which democracy’s well-being depends.” The church is such a “setting of public life.”

The Brazilian educator Paolo Friere argued in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed that march in line, rote recitation schools train children to become good (i.e., docile) citizens of dictatorships; while schools that encourage creativity and thinking for oneself liberate citizens for freedom, justice, and equality. What Friere said about schools is also true for churches. But for us the stakes are even higher. It is more than politics. It is a matter of empowering human freedom so that we may in our freedom know God, truly in our hearts, a God who calls us to life and liberty, a God who does not dominate us with terror.

So I intend to persist in my bewildering questioning and deferring. Legalist that I am, I will keep in mind that I have a little authority over a few things, but only a little authority and only a few things. That is not and will not be popular. Eric Fromm in Escape From Freedom explained the anxiety-avoidance and responsibility-avoidance psychology of why we hand things over to dictators. “Every woman adores a Fascist, the boot in the face.” (Sylvia Plath) Guys do too. But I will persist in my legacy of the American Revolution democratizing – perhaps out of necessity. For better or worse, I simply lack the capacity to do otherwise. If Palmer, Friere, and de Tocqueville are right, it may be just as well.

Wealth Analysis Here And There.

But when it comes to sharing our resources for the common good and God’s mission, I fear we in Nevada are way short of Kenya, and this is not unrelated to the freedom, equality, and decentralization that I value so highly.

80% of the people in Kenya live on less than $1/day – that’s actual buying power. Yet, their contributions enable the Diocese of Machakos to support 90 priests, 30 evangelists, and a significant support staff. They are building a large new Cathedral. They were building churches and schools left and right. Everywhere I turned, I saw construction. They are funding a mission that is spreading the gospel and growing the church at the rate of a range fire in a windstorm. They get very little outside aid these days. The Church in the West doesn’t have it to give anymore. The people of Machakos are the ones making this happen.

How is that possible? I asked Fr. Lloyd Rupp how the church in Kenya raises the money to do such impressive things while we languish, and he gave the incredible answer that appears to be true. He said the people are poor and the poor are generous.

Thinking back to my parish priest days, I know that is true. The folks in the pews with the most money all too often hang onto it pretty tightly. They are not so much possessors of wealth as possessed by wealth. It is the poor who are apt to be most generous. That is what I saw in Kenya. People gave what they had; they brought sacks of maize to the altar as their tithe. Those who had no money worked for the church or made things to sell for the church. Secular critics would say the church is exploiting them. But because they support the church, the church grows and is strong enough to form Ukamba Christian Community Services which does the community and economic development work to lift them out of poverty. Once they are no longer poor, will they still be generous? There will come the spiritual test.

In Nevada, the church is particularly poor. We have organized ourselves in a way that was designed to survive on very little. The church here is like a desert plant that does not grow large or flourish, but it survives, just barely survives, with minimal water and nourishment. I respect that about the church. We are tough and resilient. But I am concerned about two things.

First, I am concerned that we have not formed the habit of the heart called generosity. Instead we have made a virtue of asking as little as possible of our people, and by asking little of each other we have weakened each other in our spirits. Bishop Kanuku said to his flock the same thing they say in several Native American tribes, “Wealth is not measured by what you keep, but by what you give away.” What if our members gave more to their parishes so that the parishes could give more to others? What if every parish did what some dioceses mandate by resolution – what if every parish tithed to the poor by giving away 10% of its income for community ministries? We do not serve each other well by asking as little of each other as possible.

Second, I worry that we are short-changing God’s mission, both monetarily and spiritually – they go together because money expresses what we value in our society. We have been right to organize ourselves for freedom. “For freedom, Christ has set us free,” Paul wrote, but in the same letter he said, “You were called for freedom but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh (self-interest) but in love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) “Each of you must give . . . not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God who is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7-8)

To “give abundantly in every good work” is not a burden laid on us by our religion but a spiritual practice in faith and generosity, an opening of our heart to give and to receive blessing. Generosity is a moral duty; but it is also a spiritual opportunity. In Kenya, I saw that spirituality flourishing like blossoms on the Flame Trees of Thika. At home, I often hear parishes asking “What’s in it for us?” If the parish asks that of the diocese, it bespeaks a spirituality in which the people are saying to the parish “What’s in it for us?” What’s in it is freedom rooted in faith, freedom to “love not with word or tongue but with actions in truth.” 1 John 3:18; “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no compassion . . . ., how can the love of God be in him?” 1 John 4:20 “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’ but does not supply their bodily needs, what good is that?” James 2: 15-16. This is as true if the brother is starving for food or starving for hope and truth.

So I return from Kenya thankful for our freedom but called to uneasy reflection about how we are using it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 4

When we weren’t visiting schools in Kenya, we were visiting churches. They often expressed their gratitude to us for visiting them in “such a remote part of Kenya.” I did not have the context to know it was “remote.” But it reminded me of the appreciation our rural congregations in Nevada express just for my ordinary visits. There is a blessing in having one’s presence and mission acknowledged from the outside. We felt blessed to be so welcomed.

The first thing to impress me about the Diocese of Machakos was the number of congregations. There are 120 parishes, but a parish can include several congregations. There are about 300 congregations. The second thing to impress me is that they are growing, growing, growing. Everywhere I looked, they were building new churches for new congregations or building larger churches for congregations that had outgrown their buildings. Why is that? I suspect the very different process they use for discernment, formation, and ordination may have something to do with it.

Evangelists. While visiting churches, I learned something fascinating about the ordination process in Kenya. While visiting the Philippines, I learned that the discernment and formation process leading to the ordination of a priest can take 8 to 10 years. Well, it is similar in Kenya, though the process is different in a fascinating way.

The first step toward priesthood is training as an evangelist. The training is very short and simple. But the newly trained evangelist is then put to work building up the church. Only after putting in one’s time in the field as an evangelist can one begin formal training for priesthood. How long? Some had gotten a fast track – 2 years of evangelism work. Others had spent 6 to 9 years doing evangelism.

This evangelism-first process affects the Kenyan Church in two ways. First, it insures they have people in the field with the sole job of church growth. There are 90 stipendiary priests, 30 non-stipendiary priests, and 30 evangelists at work in the Diocese of Machakos today. Second, the priests are formed as evangelists. In the U. S., we still labor under a 1960’s therapeutic model of priesthood. The emphasis is on counseling and pastoral care. That made sense when the society was already churched; but not in a place where 87% of the people have no faith connection. In Machakos, the emphasis is on sharing the gospel truth and bringing unaffiliated people into the community of faith.

Here in the U.S., we talk a lot about division and decline. The church is making plans to retrench, to adapt to the inevitable process of shrinkage. Those who still hope to spread the gospel message are looking for ways to replace the church family with a no-demands individualistic spirituality. I call it Dollar General Christianity – sell more by cutting the cost. But Kenya has a different idea. We go about being the church in different ways to achieve different results. I understand the goal in Kenya far better than I understand whatever it is we are up to in the West.

Exorcism. We visited one congregation where the Bishop’s specially designated team of exorcists does a lot of mano a mano combat with witchcraft, demons, and supernatural evil. I feel fairly sure Bishop Kanuku took me there with a bit of mischief in his mind. I think he figured me for a Western rationalist who would be utterly wierded out by exorcism. I was grateful for three things that had me ready for them – my experience in the charismatic renewal movement, my training in inner healing training where we learned a thing or two about these practices; and some reading I have done in cross-cultural pastoral care. I learned that what happens or is perceived to happen has a lot to do with our assumptions about what is possible, those assumptions are different in different cultures, and what happens here ain’t necessarily the way it works on the other side of the world. So I was able to have a good give and take conversation with the exorcists – a conversation in which we respected without pretending to completely understand each other. I promised to send Bishop Kanuku the prayers for blessing Holy Water I recently shared with the Nevada priests. Water blessed with this prayer will cure what ails ya, including the random demon.

So much can get lost in translation cross culturally. A nice young man in my church in Georgia kept urging his wife to come meet me. He thought she’d like what I had to say. But the one day she finally showed up, I was away and the supply priest was from Nigeria. His sermon was a long tirade against “witchcraft.” Well the poor young woman there for the first time was a practicing tree-hugging Wiccan. The sermon did not leave her heart strangely warmed. Let me just say that the witchcraft African clergy are up against is nothing like the rituals of New Age Americans. It’s about dominating others, often hurting others. The world in which the African Church serves is different. We may not understand it. But we need to respect it.

LGBT Issues. Speaking of respecting what we do not understand, yes I was asked about “gay marriage” (the hot button term for a number of LGBT issues). This was a question on which we simply were not going to agree, but the conversation was honest, authentic, and respectful. Again I felt grateful for prior preparation. The Indaba Group process and Bible Studies from Lambeth Conference 2008 had given me a sense of what Anglicans in Africa fear from decisions we make in the U.S. I explained, albeit only in part, our experience and the theology that influences us, but did not try to persuade them that I was right – only that a person could genuinely believe what I believe and still be a Christian. No one walked off in a huff. We discussed it, moved on, and had continuing friendly conversation about other matters. I don’t think that would have been possible a decade ago. It is today. In God’s time, things sort themselves out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 3

Cowboys, Farmers, And Schools In Kenya

After our first Church service in Kenya and our first experience of Home Bible Church, Bishop and Mrs. Kanuku drove us to their rural home, hours away from Machakos, on a mountain top. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Kenya looking one way and Kilimanjaro looking the other. The stars are amazing. Closer at hand you look down on forested valleys. The Kanuku rural home is a work in progress, but already Bishop Kanuku has designed and implemented all manner of clever engineering devices. He has a system to divert and gather rainwater and another system to generate bio-gas which is pumped up to the house. He is a bit of a Thomas Jefferson and this is his Monticello. On the surrounding land, he keeps a few dairy cows for milk, raises a garden (another garden – there is also one at his Machakos house), and of course, plants trees, many trees! He has plans to make his home a place of service to children which he will run after his retirement from the episcopacy in a few years (which reminds me of the game plan of one of my best friends among the American bishops – “Put in a few years as Bishop, then retire and do something good for the Church.”) 

As Bishop Kanuku showed me his garden, he explained that he is of the Kamba tribe, and they are farmers. The Masai have traditionally not thought well of the Kamba and have various derogatory terms for the things they do to the soil – a Bantu equivalent of “sodbusters.” It reminded me of the range wars and other farmer-cattleman hostilities in our history – and of course the Oklahoma classic “The Cowboy And The Farmer Can Be Friends.” It's an old conflict. It goes back to Abel and Cain and persisted all through the Hebrew Scriptures.

The next morning we began visiting schools. I honestly lost track of how many schools we visited. We had brought pens, rulers, calculators, and markers for 6 schools, but did not have enough gifts for all of them, so it was more than 6. At least 3 were the first day in the mountainous rural part of the diocese. Three were on the savannah of the Masai Mara. I think the others were closer in to Machakos or perhaps Nairobi. It blurs.

At the first school, ACK Kyandote Bulwa, the teachers and children were assembled outside to greet us with song. We then processed up a hill to the site of the Girls Hostel (which will be a combination Rescue House for girls escaping circumcision and forced marriage, a group home for girls escaping abuse and neglect at home, and a dormitory for boarding students). There Bishop Kanuku and I dedicated the foundation stone inscribed with Linda’s and my names. Then we gathered inside for a school assembly where Linda and I spoke to the students.

Then it was on to Maknonga where once again the children and teachers were waiting for us outside with song, dance, and a hearty welcome. Bishop Kanuku and I each planted a tree and I blessed them. Then came another assembly, where they gave us gifts. Mine was a walking stick with African wildlife carved on it.

And so it went, school after school, where we gave gifts and spoke with students. Bishop Kanuku encouraged hard work. I held forth on God’s call to be true Kenyans, not accepting unquestioningly the ways of the West or of China, but staying rooted in the chaste, humble, and communal morality of their own land. Linda encouraged girls to achieve equal educations and professional status.

One of the best schools we visited had a classroom named for the late wife of Fr. Lloyd Rupp. The teachers were grateful for Fr. Lloyd’s gifts of a computer (their only computer) and a photocopier. Gratitude to and affection for Fr. Lloyd was expressed at numerous schools and churches. At schools both in the Diocese of Machakos, in the Karen district outside Nairobi, and in the Masai Mara, people were also grateful for the support to individual students from Melvin Stringer and Kenya Keep. Melvin’s program is a scholarship rather than sponsorship program. They support kids who are in dire straits but they have to be more than needy. They must have the talent and the will to become leaders for a better Kenya tomorrow.

We also visited one of five schools which had malaria bearing mosquitoes eradicated with a gift from the Diocese of Nevada.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 2

Cathedrals And House Churches -- Lessons Learned.

Our week in Kenya began with worship at All Saints Cathedral where I was to give the sermon for Sunday worship. At this point you may be expecting me to marvel at the joy and enthusiasm of African worship. Actually not so much. The service was clearly designed with that in mind. At times a worship leader tried mightily to get the group energized, but frankly it fell flat. The music was intended to be lively, but the people just didn’t feel it. My sermon was well-enough-received by those who stayed awake, but some dozed on the front row. It seemed altogether like a frozen chosen assembly.

Only later did I find out what was really afoot. It was the first day that the new Provost (similar to a Dean) was at the Cathedral. He is appointed by the Bishop – not called by the congregation. So it was his first day and he wasn’t preaching. I was. In addition, they normally worship in a quaint old English style church building – one that had been Whites-only until 1962 when the Whites exited in the wake of independence and the present congregation moved in. But now they are constructing a large modern Cathedral that will hold hundreds more people than the old building. It is far from complete. Beams and rafters are still exposed. The windows have no panes. This was their first day in the new building and they had not been warned in advance that they would be worshiping in there that day. They just arrived at Church and were directed into the new intimidatingly large unfinished structure. So: surprise! New Provost. New building. Musungu preacher. (They may have thougth I was the new Provost!)

What I had taken for boredom was a state of shock. How many Anglicans does it take to change a diaper? You can’t change that diaper. It was given in memory of my grandfather. Same thing would have happened here. Still I felt privileged to give the inaugural sermon in the new All Souls Cathedral and the people, though discombobulated, were gracious and devout.

After the Eucharist, we went to the Bishop’s house for Home Bible Church. This is one of the main things Fr. Lloyd had wanted me to see. It was like a house church or a cell group. It was a Bible Study with prayer and songs. The topic was the role of Godparents. People were challenged to find scriptures that informed the question of how to be a good Godparent. Generally, Kenyans have the same challenges we do in choosing and preparing Godparents. The discussion was intelligent and their ability to connect scriptures to the topic was impressive.

This is what I took away from Home Bible Church: We need our Sunday morning worship services alright. We need public worship in God’s house, a sacred space. I could not disagree more with the Emergent Church Movement more on that point. We need that basic gathering to publicly constitute us as a community of faith. Most of us will not go deeper than what happens there. But the large scale public worship of the Church draws its life from those who do go deeper in small groups meeting to study and pray in more intimate settings, especially homes. That is where the spiritual bonds are forged; the heart of the church, strengthened.

If a Church is medium to large, it needs several small church groups gathering at other times in other places to sustain its intimacy. But what if a congregation is already small – say 12 people gathered for Sunday morning worship? I believe even small churches need that gathering of a few to go deeper. Maybe it will only be two or three meeting to pray and study, but their gathering will provide the energy that will sustain and perhaps grow the larger group. Look back on my previous blog post about 80/20 rule in which I argue that we cannot build the church by extending its circumference; we have to grow the core within and the circumference will expand to keep the balance. Home Bible Church is a way to grow the core.

Each church could create its own format. It can be a spiritual book club meeting at an Indian restaurant, or a Bible and Brew class engaging scripture at a bar, or it can be a meeting for contemplative prayer and spiritual story telling. The key is the small group gathering – somewhere away from the church property – to connect with each other on the basis of our common bond in Christ.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 1

“Musungu” is the Bantu word for a white person. It comes from a longer word meaning someone who travels around.

First Surprises and Learnings.

Thanks to the moral encouragement and financial support of Fr. Lloyd Rupp and the hospitality of Melvin Stringer (St. Tim’s/ Kenya Keep) who squired us around the country and the fellowship and grace of the Rt. Rev. Joseph Kanuku, 2nd Bishop of Machakos, we have experienced an eye-opener of an African sojourn.

After an arduous flight – Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Amsterdam to Nairobi – and a drive from Nairobi to Machakos, we met Bishop Kanuku and his wife Josephine. That is when the surprises began.

Relations with Islam.

The first surprise was the relationship between Anglicans and Muslims in Kenya. Interfaith hostility is at the heart of violence and discord along the 10th Parallel to the North – running through Nigeria in West Africa and dividing Northern and Southern Sudan in the East. (See Griswold, The 10th Parallel) Things I had heard here and there led me to believe similar tensions beset Kenya.

So we were quite surprised to learn that Josephine Kanuku (the Bishop’s wife) teaches Christian Education as a faculty member at the Islamic School in Machakos. It turns out Bishop Kanuku and the local Imam are good friends. During times of drought, the Anglicans have come to the aid of Muslims. When I sent money for crop seed during a drought, the Anglicans shared the seed with the Muslims. Bishop Kanuku and the Imam talk about the “fundamentalist” Muslims and Christians who are each other’s enemies, each disavowing the hostility of either brand of religious intolerance. The Anglicans and most Muslims are friends. Since building bridges across the religious divide is essential to peace and prosperity in Africa (and in much of the world), I was just delighted to find that our Anglican Communion partners are at work for harmony and understanding. Well done Diocese of Machakos.

Status of Women.

I came away from Lambeth Conference (2008) with the impression that women are not doing well in Africa. I still know that is often true. The struggle for equality has not yet been completed in Kenya as it has not been completed here. But I was quite surprised to find how much Kenyan women have achieved both inside and outside the Church.

Understanding the place of women in Kenyan society has to begin with Wangari Muta Mary Jo Maathai who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.” A member of the Kikuyu tribe, Mrs. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement and linked women’s rights to environmental sustainability.

It took me awhile to figure out why Bishop Kanuku is obsessed with planting trees. He goes about doing it himself all the time. And when he meets with his clergy, he wants to know “how many trees have you planted?” The answer had better be in the thousands! I cannot count how many trees he showed me that he had planted with his own hands. He and I each planted a tree at the second school we visited. It turns out planting trees was Maathai’s signature symbolic political act as weaving cloth was Gandhi’s. So as not to sugar coat the truth, Maathai’s efforts were vehemently resisted by the single party government of Jomo Kenyata and even her own family. But her courage has opened doors to Kenyan women in politics and the economy.

The Diocese of Machakos has been ordaining women since 1998. We met a good number of women clergy and other women in the ordination process. At meals and other times in the home and church, women often lead the prayers. Women are active participants and sometimes leaders in Bible Study. Many a school or community service project traces its beginnings to The Mothers Union.

As important as the status of women in the Church may be, what matters more is what the Church is doing about the status of women in society. Problem one: female genital mutilation and forced marriage. In traditional Kenyan culture, girls of 12 or 13 are “circumcised” and married off to older men. The government now opposes this practice, but people still do it. I saw no evidence of Child Protective Services stepping in to protect these girls. But the church funded schools do. They operate “Rescue Houses” on the school campuses where the girls receive sanctuary. It was my privilege to dedicate the cornerstone of the ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya) Kyandote Bulwa Girls’ Hostel in a remote mountain area – where there are no foster placements, group homes, or other government facilities to protect girls from FGM and forced marriage or other abuse – but the Diocese of Machakos is building a home where they will be safe, nourished, and educated. We met rescue girls sponsored by Kenya Keep and saw several rescue houses on school campuses. Yes, we have decided to sponsor a rescue girl ourselves. It cost $250 per year and can be easily arranged through Kenya Keep in Henderson.

Problem two: economic independence. Those engaged in economic development as part of the Millenium Development Goals have learned through experience that the key is equipping women to operate small businesses to support their families. In Kenya, 80% of the population subsists on less than $1 per day (that is in actual buying power). So this is where the rubber meets the road for MDGs. The gender factor exacerbates poverty everywhere, but it is most obvious with the Masai tribe. The Masai are the cowboys of Kenya – only they are on foot, not horseback. They are nomadic herders of sheep, goats, and cattle. But changes in agriculture and the climate have compelled Masai families to settle. The problem is that the family settles, but the dad doesn’t. Men tend to marry, father children, then just wander off on a walk-about that could be a year or a lifetime – and they do not mail back a child support check. Equipping women to earn a living for themselves and their children is essential to alleviating poverty. More on this later. For now, let me just say, the Church is in that struggle up to its elbows.

More than anything else we did in Kenya, we visited schools. I spoke to lots of children, but the lights really turned on when Linda spoke to them. The girls were transfixed by the sight of a woman who is a lawyer, a professor, and an author. It was amazing to see how excited they were by her example. The church women were pretty taken with her as well. One young transitional deacon couldn’t get a word in edgewise in the clergy conversations – the Church is doing better than I expected, but it does have a way to go. I tried to open up space for her to speak, but it was Linda who really brought out her smile and her voice.

Security and Stability.
Our trip to Kenya had been planned for last November but was delayed by a terrorist threat. So a number of folks were worried about us going now. I don’t mean to say there was nothing to worry about. The day we arrived, there was a fatal grenade incident in Nairobi. And the crime rate in the slums is bad; hence, the local habit of referring to the capital as “Nairobbery.” But on the whole, I felt safer in Kenya than in any developing nation I have visited. Kenya is the anchor of political stability in East Africa. That is why it got so much press and caused so much international concern when there were riots and ethnic violence after the contested elections in 2008. That is not the norm in Kenya. There is corruption and the politics are not what the people would hope. The rich few live behind barbed wire crowned fences protecting them from the poor. But Kenya is not a violent place. There are neighborhoods in Nairobi that it is better not to go. But outside those neighborhoods, there is not much risk from criminals – and more importantly, not much risk from the police or military who are sometimes the more serious danger in some developing nations.

The threat in Kenya is not homegrown. It is a spill-over from the failed government in Somalia. Just as there are Somali pirates on the seas, there are gangs that adopt a political pretext for what is really just lawless hooliganism. Operating out of Somalia, they cause problems in Kenya and other neighboring countries as well. The military of several East African states is at work fighting the gang known as Al Shebab. The people in Kenya hope to see a stable government in Somalia so that the whole region can experience security.