Thursday, May 25, 2006

Out of Africa

[Kenyan] Archbishop Nzimbi said yesterday: "Those who speak differently from what we adhere to, we are sorry but we cannot continue our companionship with you."

Kenyan hosts abandon bishop due to his liberal views on gays
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent,
The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 25/05/2006)

The Archbishop of Canterbury's official envoy will fly into Kenya today in an attempt to resolve an embarrassing impasse that has left a Church of England bishop and 20 clergy abandoned by their hosts during a visit to Africa. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin (pictured here) has been told that their official programme has been cancelled because the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, has learned of his liberal views on homosexuality.

The bishop, his wife Lydia and 20 curates are halfway through a fortnight's visit to Kenya aimed at strengthening the 20-year links between the dioceses of Embu, Mbeere, Kirinyaga and Meru in Kenya and Chelmsford.

The Rev David Peak, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for International Development, is travelling from Sudan for a meeting with Archbishop Nzimbi in Nairobi at which he will try to smooth sensitivities.

The Rev Christopher Newlands, the chaplain to Bishop Gladwin, said that Mr Peck would use the opportunity to stress that Bishop Gladwin had the full support of Dr Rowan Williams and was "not some sort of maverick".

Bishop Gladwin's trip has been planned for more than a year and began well, with the clergy being warmly received, including at a courtesy meeting with Archbishop Nzimbi. But the archbishop abruptly changed his stance after being informed that Bishop Gladwin last month became one of four patrons of Changing Attitude, a pressure group campaigning for homosexual rights.

Evangelicals in the Chelmsford diocese put out a statement decrying Bishop Gladwin's decision to back the group, which aims at the "full inclusion" of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in the Church of England. The Anglican Church in Kenya is part of the conservative "Global South" group that is implacably opposed to any relaxation of the Anglican Church's traditional teaching about homosexuality.

Archbishop Nzimbi said yesterday: "Those who speak differently from what we adhere to, we are sorry but we cannot continue our companionship with you." The Church of England group was staying yesterday in a hotel in Embu, a diocese to the north-east of Nairobi, and have to stay a further week in the country before they can return to Britain.

They are hoping to continue with those parts of their tour that do not officially involve the diocese of Kenya. Bishop Gladwin is also planning to meet workers from the charity Christian Aid, of which he is chairman. Mr Newlands said that the Bishop had been "shocked" by the episode, especially as Africans are famed for their hospitality. But the dispute is one of the clearest examples yet of the growing rift over homosexuality between conservatives in Africa and Asia and liberals in the West, especially north America, that could end in schism.
Mr Newlands denied that Bishop Gladwin's views on homosexuality were exceptionally liberal, but said that he was keen to listen to the experiences of homosexuals, something called for by the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

He said that difficulties arose because African countries were not so far advanced in this "listening process".

28 comments:

All Along the Watchtower said...

I understand that Bishop John Gladwin is a patron of Changing Attitude and so his visit to Kenya appears to be political. He's not the victim here - he is a political activist. I guess the next step is to have a sit-in at the diocesan offices?

Interesting that he decides to do this two weeks before ECUSA has its General Convention and will vote on the Windsor Report. It's obviously a trip planned to intentionally embarrass the archbishop. How sad.

Again, we see this tactic in American political campaigns, especially by activists. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am to see English bishops behaving like Americans.

aatw

Pisco Sours said...

"Intentionally embarrassed"? No one was asking ++Nzimbi to wholeheartedly endorse gay rights right that second. All that was asked of him was to receive a fellow bishop in the Anglican Communion.

++Nzimbi said no. He refused to uphold even minimal standards of civility or hospitality. If even that tiny concession to one's fellow human being is too much to ask, then... all I can say or do, really, is to pray that his soul once again grows charitable and loving toward others, because there's nothing else left.

All Along the Watchtower said...

You've made the point better than I could, Piski Sours. You're talking about an Archbishop in the Church. He knows exactly why John Gladwin is roaming through his diocese, make no mistake about it. And so does everyone else. The fact that we all know about it tells you something. Gladwin is seeking the publicity, especially so close to ECUSA's General Convention. He wants to make evangelical bishops look like meanies for holding him accountable.

As Bob says, "let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." No one is going to fall for this political stunt. The hour is too late.

aatw

Jeff Martinhauk said...

AATW -

I think that reception of your tin foil hat has gone wacko again. :)

The trip has been planned for over a year, and the structure clearly had nothing to do with gay rights until Nzimbi made it so. Nzimbi made it political-- looks to me like Gladwin was only serving his normal episcopal duties.

I just wonder to what extent one would carry this amazingly limiting statement: "Those who speak differently from what we adhere to, we are sorry but we cannot continue our companionship with you." Speak differently on what? Different cultures? Different experiences? Different tastes, preferences, and personalities?

I can just see it now. Christ died for... all except those who speak differently. Forget the lesson of Pentecost, when everyone spoke differently but understood in community through the grace of the Holy Spirit?

Just doesn't make sense to me.

All Along the Watchtower said...

I do have to tell you, Jeff, that I enjoy reading your comments. I can be a bit pointed (must be my tin foil hats poking into my head as I avoid the black helicopters) and I appreciated your opening comment before you took the opposing view. It makes this discourse enjoyable (when the topic is so tough). Anyway, just wanted to say that. ;-)

aatw

Pisco Sours said...

all along the watchtower:

You're talking about an Archbishop in the Church. He knows exactly why John Gladwin is roaming through his diocese, make no mistake about it. ... He wants to make evangelical bishops look like meanies for holding him accountable.

So, ++Nzimbi knew a year ahead of time that Gladwin was only in Kenya to get him to lash out, and he lashed out anyway with no sense of restraint or discretion? Is that seriously what you're saying? Because we should be able to expect better behavior from that from a parish priest, let alone an archbishop, for whom diplomacy and tact are in the job description.

UNacceptable.

Pisco Sours said...

Just to clarify aatw, I meant that +Nzimbi's comments and actions were unacceptable, certainly not that your comments were. :-)

Hiram said...

Let's look at the time line: the visit was arranged about a year ago. A month ago, Bp Gladwin became a patron of Changing Attitude. So, it is plain that Bp Gladwin did not plan from the start to use this trip to embarass the Kenyans.

If Bp Gladwin, however, had been paying attention to the statements of most of the African bishops, and to the rejection of an English priest as a bishop in Malawi because of his acceptance of same-sex relationships, he would have known that his African hosts take the matter very seriously. He should have either refused (or at least delayed) his position as Patron, or have asked Abp Nzimbe if there were concerns over his assuming that office.

Since the consecration of Bp Robinson, things we might have given people slack over are taken with far greater seriousness. There is an old saying that "straws show which way the wind blows" -- small things can indicate something far larger.

Abp Nzimbe wants to protect his flock from false teaching -- not only about sexual morality, but about the other changes in theology needed to support same-sex sexual activity as acceptable before God. The step he took was drastic -- but he did not want to let Bp Gladwin (or another person advocating the goodness of same-sex sexual activity) later say, "You gave us a welcome, and you know what we beleive, so it must be within the bounds of acceptability."

This was a very serious step. If Bp Gladwin did not think that being a patron of Changing Attitude was all that important, then why did he take the position? If he knew it was an important position, why did he not discuss it with the Kenyans before he left England?

Pisco Sours said...

Or he could say, "I do not agree with your teachings on sexual morality and repudiate them publicly. But while you're here, let us break bread together, my brother, and discuss what we can do together to minister to our flocks."

Just a thought.

Eric Swensson said...

"Speak differently on what?"

The faith whose duty the Archbishop is sworn to uphold. Surely he has a right to exercise his office.

Also,

"But while you're here, let us break bread together, my brother..."

I think that Gladwin and his group of curate's were invited to stay, tour, be in fellowship, so you can take joy that your concern that they cold not break bread with them was not the case.

Read the story, what Gladwin could not do was perform anymore confirmations. He was probably told he would not climb into any pulpits or preside at the table. That surely must be embarrasing, but it is surely within Kenya's rights, and how you come down on the issue, their responsibility.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

AATW -

Thanks! ;)

Eric -

"The faith whose duty the Archbishop is sworn to uphold. Surely he has a right to exercise his office."

Yes, he does. My point is this-- at what point does speaking differently denigrate to not being able to "continue in companionship"?

How major or minor a disagreement does it have to be before you can be companions, or acquiantenances, or friends, or "in communion"? The idea to me is silly. We are all different. We all have our own distinct relationship with God. Just as we all know different things about each other due to our personal relationship with each other, we must therefore have a slightly different experience of God. To say that we can not be "companions" because we speak of that openly is just a foreign concept to me. Why would anyone, archbishop or not, presume to have exclusive ownership of the "truth"? Aren't multiple points of view always healthy, if not to at least stimulate thought and discussion?

Catherine + said...

I am thankful that God knows my heart and I rest in the knowledge that He alone will judge me when it really counts. That whatever a Bishop here or an Archbishop there says, Christ IS my Savior, and no mortal can take THAT away from me.

Beyond Reconciliation said...

Just answer me this....what is Christ-like in that ArchBishop's stance?

Laura said...

Even Jesus rebuked in love. Just because the Archbishop took a stand that opposes the viewpoints here, doesn't mean he acted un-Christ-like. He did not resort to name calling or condeming. He just said what was and was not accepted in his diocese. Honestly, I think the other bishop acted in an uncharitable manner, choosing to take a position that he knew would cause conflict with his up-coming trip. It would have been a lot more Christ-like, loving and inclusive for him to contact the Archbishop and talk out his options/ disagreements/ possible conflicts before making a decision. That would have shown that regardless of what their differences of opinions may have been, he respected to office of the Archbishop of Kenya. Something that both sides need to do more.

revsusan said...

So out of "respect for the Archbishop of Kenya" Bishop Gladwin fails to advocate for the fuller inclusion of the gay and lesbian baptized in the UK???? Help me understand how that "respects the dignity of every human being."

Joe G. said...

I'm not an Episcopalian/Anglican, but honestly, if a liberal Bishop had done the same to, let's say a conservative Bishop from Africa, the cries of racism, of first world oppression, rejection and rage from western conservatives/fundamentalists (i.e. the IRD) would have gone up as cries to heaven.

You all are in my thoughts and prayers especially as your Conference comes up. Boy, I appreciate those who stand for human rights within the Church! Good work in promoting the loving gospel of Christ!

revsusan said...

joe g -- [a] GREAT point and [b] thanks lots!

Laura said...

Where is the respect for the Archbishop? I didn't say that the bishop needed to not advocate anything, but to be "inclusive" as you like to say, in regards to other people's thoughts and opinions. All I said was that, rather than acting unalaterally, before he accepted the post, it would have been a sign of respect to discuss their differences with the Archbishop.
You say you want everyone to accept differing opinions, but do not seem tolerant of anyone who, with respect, chooses to disagree with your position. How is it ok for you to be ugly toward a man who disagrees with you and that be classified as inclusive? By your actions, you seem no more willing to include him (unless he agrees with you)than he is of including you (unless you agree with him).

There is the Crossroads (pun intended)of this debate.

Eric Swensson said...

"Why would anyone, archbishop or not, presume to have exclusive ownership of the "truth"? Aren't multiple points of view always healthy, if not to at least stimulate thought and discussion?"

There is nothing in the story that says that he thought he did. He is merely exercising his right to what is said and done in the churches for which he is responsible.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Laura -

I think there is a big difference between acting in tolerance for other's opinions and acting in a way that let's the intolerance of others guide one's own actions.

That is what you seem to suggest that Gladwin should have done. Surely we don't need to check our calendars and making sure that our appointments tonight don't have anything in conflict with those we visit tomorrow night? That is what you seem to suggest, and is intolerant, in my view.

j

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Eric - I do agree that the archbishop had the right to do what he did. I am just suggesting that it was not a wise action because more debate rather than less is always healthy, and a wise archbishop would be aware of this. Thought stimulates the brains God gave us; it is fear of thought which prevents those who want to stifle debate from allowing it to move forward.

j

Laura said...

Jeff- If my friend, who is unmarried but living with her boyfriend, comes to stay at our house for a holiday, we have every right to welcome her, AND to say that she and her boyfriend are unable to share a bedroom while they are here. Do I love her less? Is she less welcome? No, of course not. But it is not something we think is acceptable, and it is not a message we wish to send to our children that that would be acceptable. If she was my friend, she would respect our rules for our household, contact me ahead of time if there were concerns on her part, and then make a decision for herself. I would hope that she would decide that our friendship was worth more than that principle, but if they could not abide ssperately for their time here, they would be welcome to go to a hotel. Either way, our friendship is built on our respect for each other, even when we disagree on life choices. That is what I was talking about.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Laura -

I see your point. But I think this is rather like the friend living with her boyfriend in her own home, then getting to your home without her boyfriend, and then you saying that you don't want your children to even see your friend because of the fact that at home she does something you don't like. She didn't bring the boyfriend with her.

I don't think she owes it to you to first clear with you moving in with the boyfriend just because she has a trip to your house penciled in on your calendar. That was my point.

(Also, I don't like the "living with boyfriend" metaphor, which was your choosing, because so many associate that with something that is a sin.)

j

revsusan said...

laura ... [a] help me understand where it is that I have been "ugly" toward the Archbishop by pointing out that requiring agreement before engaging in conversation is not a characteristic of classical Anglicanism and [b] let me try this one more time: I am ready, willing and able to be in conversation AND communion with anyone who does not make their criteria for inclusion my agreement with their perspective.

Period.

Eric Swensson said...

"Thought stimulates the brains God gave us; it is fear of thought which prevents those who want to stifle debate from allowing it to move forward."

1-Do you actually think that anyone is afraid of thinking?

2-Are you aware that while it was an insult thrown in a general direction it may not cruel but it is still an insult.

3-"Moving forward" is in the eye of the beholder!

Laura said...

Jeff-
That was why I chose it...many think that living together is a sin, and many do not. In the same way that many feel that any physical relationship outside marriage, regardless of gender issues, is a sin, while many do not. There is as much conflict over that as there is over the other.

I also see your point, and all I am saying is that it may not have been required for the bishop to "check" with the archbishop, but it would have been, as they say in the UK, "good form", and showed a great deal of class. Something which is still missing on both sides of the fence.

Susan- I read sarcasm in your quotes and statements, and if I have "put emotions in your mouth" so to speak, that were not yours, I am sorry. I still think that the Archbishop was respecting the rights of the human beings he has been given guidence over, and was watching out for their welfare, as he sees it. Again a point of disagreement for us.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Eric-

I'm trying to appreciate your position, but I'm not sure I agree.

I don't think that exposure to a diversity of thoughts and ideas is ever a bad thing. I am not afraid of exposing people to thoughts and ideas that I do not agree with. I believe that they stimulate thought which makes people reason.

This situation, and the statement of the Archbishop of Kenya, makes it seem to me that his position is such that debate and discussion, and "companionship" is not a good thing unless everyone is in agreement.

At All Saints Pasadena, we once tried to initiate a series of small groups with conservative churches in an effort to "talk across the divide". We found that with one church we approached with this idea that they had set up all small groups in their congregation to be focused on the message preached the Sunday before to ensure that all minds were focused on the message preached from the pulpit to limit outside influence. They were not interested in this "across the divide" project because they were afraid it would distract from the message being preached on Sunday mornings. That is rather what the message of the Archbishop seems like to me. It seems like more of trying to control the congregation and less of trying to stimulate them to work on their own to develop a well-rounded, well-thought-out relationship with God based on experience both with those that agree with them and those that disagree with them.

If that seems like an insult then I'm sure I don't know how else to explain it. It is an insult to me not to be engaged in the discussion. To be shut out, turned away, to have this man expelled from the church of Kenya simply for associating with my community.

That is an insult not only to me, but to Jesus Christ, who associated with the communities of the outcast, the marginalized, those whom nobody else would associate with.

That is not the Christian way.

revsusan said...

"I still think that the Archbishop was respecting the rights of the human beings he has been given guidence over ..."

And I still think until the gay and lesbian people in his diocese are safe from being imprisoned merely because they are gay or lesbian there's not much respect being given their rights.