Bishops continue their reflections on Tuesday’s powerful session on violence against women, also commenting on Rowans Williams’ Second Address, and what might or might not happen in the waning days of the Lambeth Conference.
We meet each morning for 90 minutes, and this is where the real work takes place. We wrestle together with the issues and share each others lives over the passage of the day, all from the Gospel of John. We have a wide range of views, although our group is easy to work in because we are all English speakers.
+Catherine Roskam, New York, TEC, was impressed with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s grasp of the Episcopal Church point of view:
Two points in particular gave me great hope. The first was the phrase, that we feel traditionalists are “pouring scorn on our witness.” This is the first public acknowledgment that our position is something even larger than an argument for justice, as valid as that might also be. We are witnessing to the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of gay and lesbian Christians both lay and ordiained. It is the same sort of witness that Peter made to the Council of Jerusalem about the full inclusion of the Gentiles in community of faith. (Acts 10 and 11) We understand that not all will agree with us, but the Archbishop has taken our witness seriously, and for that I am grateful.
The second point he made on our behalf is the solidarity of bishops in our house, including those who voted no on the consent to Gene Robinson’s election. I believe that these bishops are setting an example and giving a model for the rest of the Communion about remaining in relationship despite our differences. Their commitment has gone largely unnoticed and unsung by those outside our House until now.
+Larry Benfield, Arkansas, TEC, also found the presentations on violence against women a call to more action by the churches. On the possibilities of a Covenant he writes:
It seems a bit harder to understand the other messages developing at the Lambeth Conference. There seem to be two independent strands at work. On the one hand, there is the conversation among bishops about our individual situations. Operating separately from these conversations is the work of the committees that are preparing a potential covenant documents and some sort of ongoing response to the Windsor Report that dealt the boundary crossings and sexual ethics. The committees are not to make final reports at this conference, so it seems that our conversations—and our getting to know one another better—have little direct impact on the immediate work that is being coordinated by Lambeth Palace. Where it might have an impact is on the eventual reception of those reports.
+Sean Rowe, NW Pennsylvania, TEC, comments on the Covenant he would like to see:
I propose we consider a different kind of covenant whereby we covenant to think and pray more and talk and make statements to world less. This might be just the covenant we need.
+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, CofE, reports that his Bible study and Indaba groups feel the need to begin from where we are now – not in the world of “if only.” He also offers an excellent reflection How Anglicans use the Bible here.
Our group this morning felt we needed to begin with reality. We can all fixate on “if only’s” — if only the US bishops hadn’t proceeded, if only Lambeth 1998 hadn’t been so mismanaged and poorly led, if only the Nigerians had come. All this is fantasy. The Chief Rabbi’s holy pragmatism was a better starting point. Rowan is inviting us to be more humble, to listen, to repent, to enlarge our hearts. This means dying to our fantasy rallying points and hostile preconceptions, so that we attain a state of reality, responding to the call to life of the Lord who called Lazarus to life. If, on the other hand, we just cant let go of that stuff, then we stay in the tomb. The life of Anglicanism does not depend on the institutional wellbeing of Anglican structures, which will plainly have to morph, bend and perhaps even break. It’s a simple spiritual choice, really.
What I hear in Rabbi Sacks’ address is 1) a profound emphasis on unity based in the “fate covenant”—the many shared sufferings in our past and present; 2) the need to forgive each other in order to redeem the past; 3) the need to respect the dignity of each other so that we can come together to share, to be in relationship, to find our emerging identity in Christ, and to be transformed. On that basis, and only then, will we be able to build a “faith covenant,” full of shared dreams, aspirations and hope in order to make commitments for mission. This is where I come back to what I was writing the other day about a covenant which is about invitation, persistently inviting back to the table those who would isolate themselves or ostracize others.
We are in schism. There are those who are not here who will not come back. It has become clear in a few private conversations that a certain number of bishops (4-5) have plans to leave TEC with their dioceses in November. What will a covenant look like for those who remain? Will we engage together?
+Nick Baines, Croydon, CofE, greets everyone coming to read his blog and offers reflections on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s second address:
I am intrigued that Andrew Burnham restricts his greetings to those who are ‘in the club’. So, I offer my prayers and greetings to and for all the doubters, scoffers, questioners, unholy, dodgy people who might read this blog! I always did feel that the Christmas Carol should really do justice to the Gospel and read: ‘O come, all ye unfaithful…’
It was interesting that people responded differently to Rowan’s interim address last night. Some I spoke with today thought he had polarised the positions, whereas others think he articulated clearly positions at the ends of the spectrum of responses to the presenting issues. It was also noted that his address followed video of the horrors of Burma and the slaughter of thousands of people. It makes polite and nitpicking debates about sex seem ridiculous.
Various proposals are emerging from these thoughtful conversations. There can be no quick fix when it comes to sexuality debates (that would be like thinking you could solve world poverty by having a march and making a statement) – the next decade could be used for education and information and learning through the sharing of experience as it has happened here at Lambeth. This came from an African conservative.
Another African called for an end to what he described as ‘ecclesiastical Mugabes’ – a new way of exercising leadership and authority in African churches.
+Stephen Lane, Maine, TEC, reports on his days via video:
+Gregory Kerr-Wilson, Qu’Appelle, Canada, thinks the days go better begun and ended in prayer. Today the bishops’ topic was “Living Under Scripture: The Bishop and the Bible in Mission”:
I decided to go to Morning Prayer this morning before the main worship event at 7:15. It starts at 6:30am – and given the shortage of sleep for the last number of days it was a bit of a chore to get going. However, once there I knew it was the right decision. The same serene, reflective, prayerful quiet as Night Prayer pervaded as we sang and prayed our way through. It was exactly what was needed.
We were each asked to be prepared to come with a chosen text we might use in preaching on Mission and give an outline of what we might say and why – at least that’s what we ended up doing. Again it was quite enriching to hear what others do or have done. My particular small group for the day included someone from Central America and someone from Western Africa. We talked about a number of strategies from our own contexts, including creating the textual, or homiletic, equivalents of “ear worms” to send people home with a phrase or sentence to “chew on” for a few days. I chose John 20:19-23 – the mission/sending piece is clearly evident, and I find the echoes of creation/new creation as the basis for it to be helpful.
+David Chillingworth, St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Dunblane, Scotland, thinks there is more to add to what the ABC has said in his addresses:
… I couldn’t argue with a word of [the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address]. But, as I listened, it seemed to me that there is more that might be said.
First .. there is another centre in this conference – a significant group which is not identified with either of the main ideological groupings. One of the objectives must surely be to affirm and strengthen that centre in order to balance the strength of the more extreme groups. In effect, that centre group is always in danger of being marginalised.
Second.. it is all very well to appeal to people to move towards each other. But I think you need to set out a sort of roadmap of how that might happen .. words and symbolic actions which might embody the necessary changes. In Northern Ireland, people used to talk about ‘walking towards each other across the rubble.’
Third .. I constantly hear concern about a tendency to assume a sort of moral equivalence across a range of things which have happened. A bishop who happens to be in a committed same-sex relationship is elected and consecrated in TEC in accordance with their polity. To be sure, it raises all sorts of issues about the relationship of TEC with the rest of the Communion. But I still find it hard to see that as being equivalent to the incursions of other Primates across provincial boundaries.
+Wayne Smith, Missouri, TEC, feels a sense of waiting has fallen upon the Conference, waiting for the final reports from the reflection groups and other sources:
During the afternoon, the Reflections Group (those gathering up the strands of conversation from the Indabas) held an open hearing. It was mostly an exercise in nuancing an increasingly large draft report and wordsmithing it. But we are all obviously waiting for that coalescence of ideas from the Reflections Group, as well as the outcomes from the Windsor Continuation Group and the Covenant Design Group. A lot will funnel into the Conference during these last days in Canterbury. Do continue pray for the bishops, as the Conference comes to its end.
Tomorrow is sex day here at Canterbury, so tonight I’m missing any number of receptions being hosted by groups wanting to get the last word to bishops in advance. Meanwhile the work on the “conference document”, whatever that will turn out to be, continues apace; the listeners draft texts which we then meet each afternoon to critique. Today’s session was remarkable only for the fact that hardly any USA bishops spoke, otherwise we made the usual range of strengthening and clarifying amendments that 600 articulate adults are always going to be able to provide. We’re being told that a number of people have responded to Rowan’s question last night about what they might offer in generosity to those of an opposing view. There’ll be more discussion on that tomorrow.
Highlight of the day: a brilliant lecture on scriptural authority by Tom Wright, who combines immense scholarship with a highly engaging style. Unusually for a 4pm slot the room was packed.
Lowlight of the day: my debit card was jammed then swallowed by the ATM. Still, that solves the question as to whether I pay £22 for the official photo. In any case, Dave Walker’s cartoon version gives a far more complete picture of our time here.
UPDATE: 8 p.m. EDT
+Pierre Whalon, Churches in Europe, TEC, awoke feeling that the Conference was a failure:
But the Spirit had some surprises for me. First, I stayed in late, and in some desperation, asked the wife of a Kenyan bishop to pray with me. She is, I had learned, a wise woman and strong Christian. So we prayed, along with my wife Melinda.
I stumbled in late (for the first time) to my Bible study. Each bishop was talking about the same thing: death and resurrection. That we could not stay stuck like this. Said the Tanzanians. Said the Barundis. And the Sudanese, and the English bishop. I felt comforted. It seemed that the Spirit was moving among us in an identical way. When it came my turn to speak, I remembered the following story, told me by members of our African refugee congregation in Rennes, Brittany, France:
During the height of the genocide in Rwanda, a Hutu militia patrol stopped at a village, populated mostly by Hutus but with several Tutsi families as well. “Bring out your Tutsis,” said the militia commander. “We know from others that you have Tutsis living among you.” The Hutu villagers refused. “If you do not give them up, you will die with them.” “How can we give them up?” they asked. “We are one in Christ.”
You can imagine what happened next.
As I told this story, I finished by saying, “There are many here who say, ‘I am Tutsi, you are Hutu,’ ‘I am for gays, you are against gays.’ But we must first be one with those martyred sisters and brothers, one in Christ first, or we cannot be his disciples.
I repeated the story to our first plenary on the draft of our Reflections document, that will be the large report from this Conference. No one moved, expressions were unchanged, and I walked away thinking that I had not made my point.
Later, many told me that people were in fact stunned by the story.
+Stephen Lane, Maine, TEC, reports on hosting a reception for +Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, TEC:
I’m just back from the reception that several bishops of Province I hosted to introduce the Bishop of New Hampshire. About 20 bishops from around the church, including several from England, Australia, Latin America and India, attended. The reception began with hors d’ouvres in an outdoor courtyard. The program moved indoors for a brief presentation by three bishops about the process of electing, confirming and consecrating bishops in the Episcopal Church. Then two bishops spoke about why they voted for and against Bishop Robinson’s consecration. There followed a brief DVD introduction by the Diocese of New Hampshire, and then Gene spoke. After his talk, people asked questions or made statements. Bishop Robinson was his usual warm, passionate and articulate self. Two of our guests spoke about how difficult this matter is in their context, and Gene empathized with their concerns and shared their hopes. The gathering ended with prayer.
+Rob O’Neill, Colorado, TEC finds out how difficult Bible translation and conveying of Biblical concepts can be:
Not surprisingly, in today’s Indaba Group, the foundational issue of language showed itself once again to be one of the greatest challenges.
A bishop from the Democratic Republic of Congo informed us that in his language there is no word for “resurrection.” A bishop from Burma said that there were no words for either “shepherd” or “sheep.” Something as basic as that—the lack of a concept and the lack of a single word—he observed, makes it difficult to teach people that Jesus is the good shepherd let alone one who has risen from the dead.
+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, CofE, writes another post for today on the testimony of the Bishop of Malaita, Solomon Islands, +Terry Brown:
Still searching for the pick of original voices to inform our thinking, I came across an engaging and interesting contribtion by Terry Brown, Bishop of Malaita, Province of Melanesia, to the Hearing on Lambeth Reflections Draft, yesterday…. +Terry says:
I was confirmed in The Episcopal Church, by a black bishop of Massachusetts. I was made deacon and ordained a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, in the diocese of Fredericton, a Loyalist diocese, by a bishop whose ancestors ran away from the American Revolution because they distrusted liberalism, political and otherwise.
I was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Province of Melanesia, a global south diocese, where all the Millennium Development Goals score about 3 out of 10, even though we are great dancers.
And to make matters worse, my own sexuality is “dodgy”. I live in and am a part of all four worlds — The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Melanesia and the pained world of gay and lesbian laity, deacons, priests and bishops.
Yet I am a bishop of a diocese that is full of life and has had much growth. In my last 12 years as bishop, I have confirmed 10,000 candidates. The diocese is deeply involved in evangelism, education, medical work, liturgy and peace and reconciliation.
My life as a bishop in all four worlds is possible only because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I had a conversion experience in which I felt deeply loved by God. That, the Eucharist, the life of Christian friendship and community, and Scripture, have sustained me through thick and thin.
From my perspective, do I have any suggestions for the text of the final Reflection?
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” There are many other competing kingdoms, do not bow to them.
As much as is in you, try to maintain communion and friendship with all, whether inside or outside the church, however deep the disagreement.
Reject the Puritan option. We are Anglicans, not Puritans.
Exercise restraint and urge others to do so, whether locally or globally. Not everything has to be said or written about.
Be very careful in using typologies to classify people, theologies and churches. We are all the children of God, redeemed, with all of creation, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If you have not done so, accept all the gay and lesbian people in your midst, in all their complexity, pain and celebration.
Finally, let the conversations (even debate) continue. Television has finally come to the Solomon Islands, so we now have the privilege of seeing BBC interview both Gene Robinson and Greg Venables. In our case, I do not think the church will thereby collapse. But in other situations, that may not be the case, and the endless talking to the media of both may be destructive. That is my final suggestion — remember that whatever you say publicly in this wired age, will go to every corner of the world. Honesty and prudence are both Christian virtues. We need to learn to balance them.