Monday, July 21, 2008

Say what?

At an afternoon press briefing here in Canterbury today the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have generated as many questions as he answered.

We're still listening to the audio of the briefing trying to figure out exactly what he did say, but here's Jim Naughton's report, just posted to Episcopal Cafe:

Asked why ecumenical visitors from churches that have significant theological differences with the Anglican Communion were invited as “full participants” in the conference while Bishop Gene Robinson was excluded, Williams offered an answer I am still trying to parse.

My own notes are readable, but incomprehensible, and even after listening to a taped recording of the press conference, I am still not sure I have it right, but Williams seems to be arguing that bishops not only represent their diocese, but participate in a worldwide “fellowship,” that Gene’s membership in that fellowship is “questionable” for reasons that Williams did not elaborate upon, and that he had been excluded for those unexpressed reasons.

I am left wondering why being a gay bishop in a monogamous relationship calls one’s role in the global fellowship into question, while being a rampaging bigot in the mold of Archbishop Akinola does not.

Maybe Jim can ask THAT question at the next press briefing!


Muthah+ said...

It is the ICK factor, Susan! The ABC can't get close enough to his feelings to acknowledge that there is an ICK factor operating.

Please assure +Gene of our prayers. Even my little Lutheran bunch gladly prayed for him yesterday.

uffda51 said...

We rented “Amazing Grace,” the story of William Wilberforce and the Abolitionists, last night. Lots of similarities to the current situation in the AC.

The main influence on Wilberforce, an evangelical Anglican, was slave ship captain turned preacher John Newton, composer of “Amazing Grace.” At the beginning of his campaign Wilberforce was simply shouted down in Parliament. His bills were defeated year after year. He was subjected to scandalous gossip. But by telling people the truth about the slave ships, after decades of struggle, Great Britain finally banned the slave trade.

If Wilberforce had video technology at his disposal he would surely have used it in his cause to tell the truth, as “Voice of Witness” and “Voices of Witness: Africa” and “For the Bible Tells Me So” are being used today. As one of the DVD commentaries points out, though, there are still an estimated 27 million enslaved persons around the world today.

Interestingly, Newton did not name his hymn “Amazing Doctrine.”

Muthah+ said...

Now that I have gone and read the whole of the ABC's statement, his reasoning is so bizarre that I am TOTALLY convinced that it is the ICK factor!

IT said...

My take: Williams originally threw Robinson overboard in a desperate effort to try to keep the GAFCONites in the fold. It didn't work. However, to then turn around and re-admit Robinson would be to admit that he (Williams) had barred Robinson in the first place not due to principle but due to expediency.

Williams keeps trying to put the gay issue back in the closet as a "don't ask don't tell", but Robinson's simple witness is foiling that effort.


Bruce said...

Is the real answer so painfully obvious that I'm missing something? First, it's always a good thing to invite our "ecumenical" friends and, if there coming, why not give them vouchers for breakfast and the key to the mini-bar.

Second, not inviting the Bishop of New Hampshire was an easy call. If he comes, the Global South crowd stays away and things look bad. If he is excluded, the Americans are offended, but can be counted on to still be there in force.

So, telling +Gene to stay home was the safe bet. Unfortunately, it's one ++Rowan still lost because the Global South crowd chose GAFCON over Lambeth anyway, something which should not have surprised anybody.

FranIAm said...

There really are no words, none at all.

Well there are, but I would not use them here

Nathan Empsall said...

Say what you will about diocesan role vs. global fellowship; the fact of the matter is, as long as Bishop Robinson is excluded, all of New Hampshire's Anglicans are excluded, and that doesn't jive with Christ's message of inclusion and welcoming.

IT and Bruce are correct, we in New Hampshire were left out so that Africa could be brought in. But Africa stayed away anyway. So what this decision led to was an even smaller Conference, not a larger one, but with far more people left out in the cold. The wise path would have been to let Africa and New England all make their own decisions, as opposed to only giving Africa that right.

Maggie said...

I have to say that I'm wondering the same thing you are.

Brian R said...

"as long as Bishop Robinson is excluded, all of New Hampshire's Anglicans are excluded, and that doesn't jive with Christ's message of inclusion and welcoming."
I also feel excluded, not because my Archbishop Jensen chose not to go, he does not represent me in any way, but because +Gene was excluded and he does represent all Glbt people in the Anglican communion.

David said...

sorry muthah+ but i would respectfuly disagree, all the while being prfoundly grateful for the prayers of your 'little Lutheran bunch'

ICK factor is only the surface.
What's really going on here is nothing short of the objectification of a gay brother (the denial of his redeemed humanity) prejudice (dare i even suggest passive-aggressive homophobia) in its grossest forms. that it should be by a fellow Christian- even if he doesn't use the violence of the bullies of the patriarchy doesn't sweeten it any.

implicit in ++Rowan's comments, as reported by Jim, is a discounting of the election, confirmation and consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire and by extension, as nathan suggests a discounting of the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people of New Hampshire, and perhaps of the whole American Church.

so are we to have two classes of Bishops now?

and as the 'first among equals' who is ++Rowan to ajudicate this working of the Holy Spirit in another autonimous province. and worse still to express this publicly to the media. Lambeth may be his tea party, but ++Rowan steps way out of bounds when he presumes to make pronouncements like this. it's archbishop you are, Rowan, not pope.

sadly, i would suggest this is the act of a floundering, powerless being, and only brings shame on the Church.

objectification, prejudice- as a gay man of faith i've had enough experience of both to know em when i sees em.

sorry Susan+ for this rant, but you know i'll always call it as I see it.


john said...

Almost as soon as he was "elevated", ++Williams demonstrated an almost uncanny knack for not knowing who his friends were. It has been all downhill for him ever since.

Jane R said...

Careful, Nathan, all of Africa is not the same. The South African bishops are a whole different story from Nigerian ones, and my diocese (North Carolina)'s companion diocese of Botswana is in attendance.

Jane R said...

Do tell +Gene that there were North Carolinians praying for him, too (and for all the bishops, but we mentioned him and his exclusion by name - in a small, inclusive TEC congregation). He won't remember me but I wrote him notes of support during Convention 2003 and met him a few years later when he came to speak in the Bay Area.

I think it's the ICK factor and fear - maybe the expression is "institutional fear," something like that. What's the right word for the fear you have because you are part of an institution and you feel its weight more than the fire of the Spirit? (I sympathize, it's easier than it sounds to emerge from under that pressure, and most of us have had similar fear in one institution or the other and experience with complexity and compromises -- and we know that courage often leads to the Cross.)

TX WaterBird said...

Nathan - You in New Hampshire elected a bishop knowing he would not be accepted by the majority of the communion. Having foisted your choice on the communion, I find it the height of hippocracy that you should now whine about not being represented.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

As far as the ABC is concerned, I think everyone would be relieved if he would simply have the cajones to stand up and give an unequivocal answer to the questions asked of him.

JCF said...

If he comes, the Global South crowd stays away and things look bad.

No, Bruce, if +Gene Robinson is invited, those who choose to stay away for that reason look bad. [As those who stayed away anyway did, and do]

A host, or invitee, NEVER looks bad for extending an invitation, OR accepting it! (See re Luke 14:15-24)

David said...

excuse me tx waterbird, but it would seem to me you're forgetting something here- this wasn't a national or corporate election going on in New Hampshire, but the prayerful, faithful gathering of fellow Christians seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their discernment.
i think even a quick review of Scripture and Church History will show that same Holy Spirit is not in the habit of taking global opinion surveys before moving hearts and minds.
i'd therefore suggest that your 'foisting' is an insult to the brothers and sisters of New Hampshire, and the Holy Spirit who is definaely showing us the New Day the hymn promises
your brother in Christ Jesus


Jim of L-Town said...

just a note: i thought george conger, the guy you all love to dislike, who asked the question, not Jim.

Nathan Empsall said...

TX Waterbird, I was not in New Hampshire when +Gene was elected. I was in the Diocese of Spokane, where the bishop chose to vote in favor of +Gene's consecration because he believes, as David gets at, the Spirit is present in our process and at work in our elections and to tell the people of New Hampshire their election was invalid was to tell them their election is invalid is to say the Spirit is not present in their - and now my - diocese. I don't buy that for one instance. And tell me, why should we have to deal with the Communion's rejection of an evangelical like +Gene, but no its acceptance of a man who refuses to condemn violence, like Archbishop Akinola? But we do agree that the ABC needs to be a little more straightforward.

And speaking of Akinola, Jane R, you make an important distinction. I stand corrected, thank you.

RonF said...

Nathan said:

TX Waterbird, I was not in New Hampshire when +Gene was elected. I was in the Diocese of Spokane, where the bishop chose to vote in favor of +Gene's consecration because he believes, as David gets at, the Spirit is present in our process and at work in our elections and to tell the people of New Hampshire their election was invalid was to tell them their election is invalid is to say the Spirit is not present in their - and now my - diocese.

The Holy Spirit hopefully is present in your Diocese and in the Diocese of New Hampshire. But the very crux of the matter is whether or not it was in fact the Holy Spirit or some OTHER spirit that influenced the Diocese of New Hampshire to elect Gene Robinson and led other Dioceses to affirm his election.

Presuming that the Holy Spirit was the spirit that did this may well be hubris on the part of the Dioceses involved. We ask for the Holy Spirit to inspire us with our mouths. But what do our hearts ask? Do they want to follow God's will? Or do they want to follow what we feel God's will should be? Or what will seem to lead to less conflict?

When I was on my parish's most recent search committee in the Diocese of Chicago, all we saw were what would be considered "liberal" (please forgive me for the use of a label) candidates. I asked the candidates "We hear much these days in the discussions of controversies that the Holy Spirit has led people one way or another. How can we tell if it's the Holy Spirit and not some other spirit that has lead us?" The answer I was given by the candidates was that we can tell when we are being led by the Holy Spirit when the direction we are being led in is consistent with Holy Scripture.

On that basis, then, yes: a great many people believe that the Holy Spirit did NOT lead the Diocese of New Hampshire to elect Gene Robinson, nor was it the spirit that led other Dioceses to affirm him. The fact that their mouths said prayers invoking the Holy Spirit is no guarantee that this is what their hearts wished for and that this is what actually happened.

Nathan Empsall said...

Ronf, the Bishop of Spokane, whom I was quoting, would say the same thing about the Holy Spirit moving in conservative dioceses and their elections that he said about New Hampshire.

Beyond that, all I can say is that when I sit in a nave and listen to Bishop Robinson preach, my heart is very much filled with the kind of both joy and challenge that only the Holy Spirit can bring. Members of the Diocese of NH did not elect +Gene Bishop because he was gay. They elected him because he had been a rector in their diocese for many years, and they knew the ministry he was capable of bringing them. They had been watching it unfold for many years, and felt it was time to elevate it to an ecclesiastical leadership role. A former campus minister of mine used to wonder, amidst all the hubub, "Why would they elect this guy bishop? What is all the fuss about?" After moving to NH and meeting him, that thought changed to, "OF COURSE they elected him bishop! What is all the fuss about?????"

uffda51 said...

God gave us brains and intended that we use them. We can continue thousands of years of demonization and exclusion of the LGBT faithful based on ignorance and stereotypes - or we can stop.

Nathan has explained beautifully why Gene Robinson is now the Bishop of New Hampshire. I don't think any of us have special powers to determine who is acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Some would say George Bush is a good Christian. I would not.

Yellow said...

It sounds like your accusing the ABC of obfuscating Susan....

I don't think he is. Most of what he says is utterly incomprehensible.

That's just Rowan.

cangunner said...

This thing about the Holy Spirit giving diffrent directions in diffrent dioceses depending on whether they are liberal or conservative beats me. The truth my friends is that you are trying too hard to fuse more than 2 diffrent churches together....can 2 walk together except they are agreed?

john said...

Just a word for tx waterbird; I was born in Texas; I grew up in Texas; I have a degree from The University of Texas and when you scratch me, I bleed burnt orange. But you, madam, are a prime example of why I wouldn't go back to Texas if someone gave me clear title to the whole state and everyone in it. It is too polluted with people like you.

And you're welcome to stay the hell out of California, too.

TX WaterBird said...

Nathan, when you belong to a group (or communion), the things you do have an effect on others in that group. New Hampshire's election of V. Gene Robinson has had commuion-wide implications. Had New Hampshire been less ego-centric, they might have elected someone in keeping with the official teaching of the Church. Their willingness to simply overlook criteria they did not like is the reason they are now experiencing problems in having their bishop recognized by the majority of Anglicans.

And John, what a temper you have! Why is it that you are free to express your feelings and thoughts while I must "muzzle" myself? Your post to me was downright hateful, most un-christian. Why is it that many of you who do not agree with me resort to ugly speech? Can we not disagree with civility? I am sure I feel as strongly as you do about this issue. I am still looking for the Church into which I was born. It has disappeared.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that the ABC needs to learn to speak straight forward English.