“Ubuntu” is 2009 General Convention Theme

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“I will work on educating the church specifically about General Convention, our bicameral system, and our theology of governance,” ...[Bonnie Anderson] said in an address to the annual Episcopal Communicators’ Conference in Seattle recently. “The circular model of ministry – clergy, laity, bishops working together, using their gifts to be the ministers of the church that attracted me to The Episcopal Church over 35 years ago – has somewhat morphed itself into a pyramidal structure with the largest order, the laity, being at the bottom of a top-down approach to ministry.”

Mrs. Anderson, who is also chairwoman of the 17-member Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements, said the theme of the 76th General Convention will be Ubuntu, a Zulu word that describes humaneness encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation, according to an article in Episcopal Life, which noted that finding an exact translation for the word in English is difficult.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told Episcopal Life that she suggested Ubuntu as the convention theme for a variety of reasons.

“Because it is unfamiliar, it may be able to invite us into a larger and more expansive way of understanding identity in community,” she said.

In comments to Episcopal Life, Mrs. Anderson said Episcopalians often struggle to describe the identity of The Episcopal Church and relationships within it. She and other planners envision a deeper understanding of the church’s identity and relationships by having convention engage in a process known as public narrative.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention

Posted April 28, 2008 at 6:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. robroy wrote:

This has about the same level of meaning as having “reconciliation” as the theme for the spring meeting of the HoB. Now we have Bp Lamb talking about reconciliation and lawsuits in the same sentence. (I wonder if lawsuits were part of Brian Cox’s lectures on the subject?)

Does Ubuntu mean manipulation of the system to quash dissent and carry on with the disastrous course that has led to the denomination being the fastest declining? Or perhaps Ubuntu means changing the canons so that even laity can be “inhibited” for voicing concerns about the present state of the church. Or perhaps Ubuntu means sign over those deeds…NOW.

April 28, 8:13 am | [comment link]
2. Just Passing By wrote:

“Because it is unfamiliar, it may be able to invite us into a larger and more expansive way of understanding identity in community, ...”

Because it is unfamiliar (and does not translate well into English), it can mean anything and everything, while resonating diversity and hipness.

Should be perfect.



PS: *nix geeks may find this amusing; others may ignore: when I was experimenting with the Linux software distribution called Ubuntu, I could not make the dialup feature work (this was some months ago; it may be fixed now). While searching the forums for a possible fix, I found a comment from someone in a developing nation who was trying to get his friends to quit using their illegal copies of Windows and switch to Ubuntu ... but where he was, dialup was what most people had, and they just couldn’t get it to work.

A different comment said that the dialup problem probably wouldn’t get fixed, because it wasn’t “interesting” to the (I suspect very developed-world) programmers working on Ubuntu. Maybe, maybe not; it’s just what the comment said.

Of course, I don’t claim that software with a hip “let’s help each other!” theme that can’t be used by those who need it most has anything to do with a church convention, it’s just something that came to mind.

April 28, 8:20 am | [comment link]
3. Rick in Louisiana wrote:

Ubuntu Linux is da bomb ftw.

April 28, 9:56 am | [comment link]
4. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Ubuntu - difficult to translate so it fulfills the first prerequisite of words in the ECUSA/TC/GCC/EO-PAC: it means what we say it means on any given day with no continuity of meaning desired or required.

Ubuntu = U-Punt-(t)u (you-punt-too)

Perfect for its intended use… .  Wanna bet it comes to mean waging reconciliation by deliberate misuse of canons and assertion of non-existent canons in an allegedly hierarchal church whose bishops cannot bind the church without the consent of the General Convention?  Dollars to donuts.

April 28, 10:20 am | [comment link]
5. William Witt wrote:

I use OpenSuse on my laptop.  I tried Ubuntu, and just couldn’t get it to load.  OpenSuse is something like the “Windsor bishop” equivalent of Linux.  OpenSuse is a Novell product, and Novell has an arrangement with Microsoft whereby Microsoft promises not to sue for any Linux patent infringements on Microsoft intellectual property (which Linux says do not exist anyway) if Novell pays Microsoft protection money.

I am not happy about using a version of Linux that has anything to do with Microsoft, but OpenSuse works for me, and Ubuntu doesn’t. So for now, it’s OpenSuse (with a Microsoft “arrangement”) or just capitulating to Microsoft by using Windows.  Perhaps “OpenSuse” could be the theme of General Convention 2009.

April 28, 10:26 am | [comment link]
6. ElaineF. wrote:

When I first heard of the Ubunto theme on another site, I laughed out loud because it seemed to rank right up there with the colorful ovenmit mitre on the mirth-o-meter.  #‘s 2 and 4, you have captured my thoughts pretty well.

April 28, 10:41 am | [comment link]
7. Ed the Roman wrote:

The Übergeeken use OpenBSD anyway.

April 28, 10:44 am | [comment link]
8. tired wrote:

“ubuntu” is simply a Tolkein Orkish language acronym:

Uk burz Uruk, Nazgul thrak ul

Which translates literally to: All dark orcs, Nazgul brings them [together].

Attend GC2009 at your peril…


April 28, 10:48 am | [comment link]
9. Brian from T19 wrote:

Hardly original.  This was a theme from ++Tutu.


The Lutherans also used this as a theme for their 2003 National Youth Event


It also plays into themes of reconciliation and forgiveness.  In The Gift of Grace: The Future of Lutheran Theology, the author quotes:

Ubuntu is, as observed by McLean, “The African functional equivalent of the traditional Christian concept of imago dei.”  The concept emphasizes our common humanity and our common responsibility as essential parts of our being Christian.


April 28, 11:02 am | [comment link]
10. David Hein wrote:

Yes, as Abp Tutu has said, ubuntu means that

“A person ... is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

In politics, it means focusing on unity and consensus.

But isn’t the timing of this ubuntu deal at GC just a little off? Where was the emphasis on unity and consensus (including the worldwide Anglican Communion) at the last two GCs? Now, having torn the fabric of Communion, TEC wants everyone to just get along? Well, sure.

I suggest that, instead of ubuntu, they get a really good argument going. But it’s a little late for that too.

April 28, 11:23 am | [comment link]
11. Larry Morse wrote:

Elves: This isn’t a propos of anything.

  At our annual meeting yesterday, we were working on the budget and eating dessert, when the Deacon’s wife had an idea and spoke up. She started by saying, “Deacon, honey,....” The congregation came unglued. We like to have broken the windows upstairs.  Larry

April 28, 11:42 am | [comment link]
12. Brian of Maryland wrote:

Someone already beat me to it, but yes, Ubuntu was the theme of our 2003 ELCA national youth gathering.  Well, technically, it was known as:  “Do Life!  Ubuntu.”  Perhaps our ecumenical partnership is bringing “new” ideas to TEC.  I thought at the time it was an attempt to be trendy with our youth.  Uh, to me it just seemed silly.

Here’s from our Seeds for the Parish of the time:

This theme is centered in the
concept of reconciliation and assumes
God’s intention for the interconnectedness
of the cosmos.
What does ubuntu (“oo-boon’-too”)
mean? Ubuntu comes from the Nguni
group of languages spoken in sub-Saharan
Africa. It literally means “humanity.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu developed a
theology around ubuntu in light of the
South African system of apartheid. His
sense of ubuntu derives from a Xhosa
expression which, translated roughly,
means “a person depends on other people
to be a human” or “I am because we are.”

April 28, 12:08 pm | [comment link]
13. Choir Stall wrote:

“Because it is unfamiliar, it may be able to invite us into a larger and more expansive way of understanding identity in community, ...”

So: since it’s going to be hard to grasp, how about THE theme of creating CHRISTIAN identity like Jesus talked about instead:

“Make disciples of all nations (nah, too pushy - insensitive), teaching them (ooopps, osmosis faith only - experience before didactics) to observe all I have commanded you (enough! WE are democratic - what about those who object to the commands?). Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (no, we’re thinking more like Parent, Sibling, and Wisdom/Ruach). 

“Well. forget it. This is casting your pearls before the swine.”
                                          - Jesus

GC 2009 will be the devil’s brickyard, full of his work, and little glory for Jesus Christ. Delegates are too sophisticated and are ashamed of Jesus Christ except He be contained in stained glass. Seems Paul had the same problem with the very religious & educated leaders of Greece. Only a few got his point then. Only a few ever will.

April 28, 12:45 pm | [comment link]
14. David Hein wrote:

I really wish that someone would bring me up to date on where everything stands. Is anything useful expected out of Lambeth 2008 or GC 2009? Is anything really still being discussed? What is going to happen to Windsor-affirming, mainstream Anglican parishes, still in TEC, but lodged in TEC-affirming dioceses? Are there no viable plans left to enable them to carve out their own distinct identity? Is the abp of Canterbury working on any new ecclesiopolitical arrangement to accommodate Windsor-affirming parishes and dioceses?

I confess that the more time goes by, the more I am being turned off by the whole shebang—meaning TEC and the AC, both of ‘em. Is there any chance that the Lambeth process over the next few months will result in a real and helpful sorting out of Windsor-compliant and non-compliant dioceses?

April 28, 12:57 pm | [comment link]
15. Peré Phil wrote:

Here’s an idea for a theme:

“Serving Christ together”

Do we really need to have a non-translatable word for the GC theme?

April 28, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
16. Echolord wrote:

See this from wikipedia

An attempt at a longer definition has been made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1999):
“    A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.    ”

Louw (1998) suggests that the concept of ubuntu defines the individual in terms of their several relationships with others, and stresses the importance of ubuntu as a religious concept. He states that while the Zulu maxim umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (“a person is a person through (other) persons”) may have no apparent religious connotations in the context of Western society, in an African context it suggests that the person one is to become by behaving with humanity is an ancestor worthy of respect or veneration. Those who uphold the principle of ubuntu throughout their lives will, in death, achieve a unity with those still living.

In the promotional video for the Ubuntu Linux distribution (above), based around the same principles, Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows;
“    A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you be able to improve?

See Ubuntu ideology from Wikipedia

Seems that it is defined by liberal relativists, for use by liberal relativists.

April 28, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
17. midwestnorwegian wrote:

Rearranging deck chairs my friends….thats all this is.
Whatever happened to themes like:  “Christ is Lord”?

April 28, 3:44 pm | [comment link]
18. Larry Morse wrote:

I think the real point is that they chose a word from Africa, not Bulgaria or or China (which incidentally has a word that fits this description). The spirit of the sixties folk singers lives! I can’t bear it. Larry

April 28, 4:32 pm | [comment link]
19. RomeAnglican wrote:

David Hein (14):  It’s pretty easy to bring you up to speed, because in truth not much has changed, save the depth of sand into which bishops have inserted their craniums. 

As to your specific questions:

1.  Nothing useful is expected out of Lambeth at all.  Some danger of a revisionist push to undo 110, because so many orthodox will be missing.  About 40-50 percent of the world’s Anglicans will not be represented, perhaps more.  It will be quite a white gathering.
2.  Those Windsor parishes in Windsor dioceses have about as much chance for success now as a guy on life support when the generators are shut off.  And they will be, as soon as the orthodox bishop in place dies or is deposed or gives up.  GC will change the property rules so no one can leave with property, and they will subject the laity to discipline making it all even harder.  In short, there is no future for those parishes, even though from their vantage point things vis-a-vis most of the orthodox Anglican world seem pretty good.  It’s a mirage.
3.  No chance the Archbishop will do anything to help the orthodox, since he is constitutionally (his own constitution, that is) incapable of decision or action.  The only thing he could do is disinvite the revisionists because they don’t like his Anglican Covenant.  But he’ll do that also to the orthodox, and he’ll leave it to everyone to disinvite themselves.
4.  Best hope for the orthodox, David, IMHO, is for GC 2009 make plain that this was all a grand lie to get to Lambeth, and so anger the primates that they act to effectively eject TEC, by recognizing another Anglican entity.  The Archbishop can’t stop this, but this would pretty much mean schism in the Communion.  He actually seems resigned to this.  (He actually seems resigned to whatever happens, such is his aversion to actually doing anything.)

April 28, 5:42 pm | [comment link]
20. Cennydd wrote:

Too bad that “Christ and His Church” isn’t the theme…..just like it should ALWAYS have been!

April 28, 5:49 pm | [comment link]
21. RevK wrote:

#18 Larry,
Ironic that they use an African term/expression/idea while alienating the vast majority of Africans in the Anglican Communion.

April 28, 9:58 pm | [comment link]
22. yohanelejos wrote:

Ah, but note where the new term is coming from—South Africa, the foothold for liberal Anglican-think within Africa. If I’m not mistaken, Nigeria is about as far from South Africa as southern Alaska is from New York

April 28, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
23. BabyBlue wrote:

Ubantu?  I’m with Bill Witt.  Ubantu enthusiasts will hear their is an entire Convention in Anaheim devoted to Ubantu and show up looking for the latest game releases.  Wow, will they be in for a surprise. 



April 28, 10:49 pm | [comment link]
24. Choir Stall wrote:

In case you didn’t know what kind of delegates will show up to “experience” each other, just note Susan Russell’s often self-illuminating comments on her blog. Noteworthy of late, she has posts like:  +Katharine “Does Dallas” (of course a reference to a famous film) , and uses phrases like a “kick butt sermon”.  Aren’t you glad that you were elected? Aren’t you glad that your GC ‘09 goal is to experience ill-bred secularists?

April 28, 11:03 pm | [comment link]
25. Ed the Roman wrote:

Tired, you’re scaring me.  Or I’m scaring me, when I realized that I knew your translation was correct.

April 28, 11:31 pm | [comment link]
26. Brian from T19 wrote:

In case you didn’t know what kind of delegates will show up to “experience” each other

Isn’t our list moderator a delegate?;-) [Not casting aspersions, just a reminder that good people still represent their Diocese]

April 28, 11:33 pm | [comment link]
27. Choir Stall wrote:

True that, Brian.
But, the opposite is glaringly true. Especially when one’s point of reference is lewdness and a tag line from a porn flick. Ordination sure ain’t what it used to be.

April 29, 12:20 am | [comment link]
28. Larry Morse wrote:

If there were an equal word in American, the Cutting Edge Crowd would not use it because it is so… bourgeois, so lacking in ambience.
Ubuntu is useful as a catch phrase because it can be made to stand for everything vague, liberal, wishful, - what we have come to call touchy-feely. To be part of the In-Crowd is such a warm, comfortable feeling, belonging as bathos. But it is a fad, a bumper sticker for the weak minded.  Larry

April 29, 1:03 am | [comment link]
29. evan miller wrote:

Your #28 was spot on.  Very perceptive and beautifully put.

April 29, 11:58 am | [comment link]
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