Thursday, July 31, 2008

It was sex day at Lambeth Conference ...

... and we had the rainbow ribbons ready to go AND The Lambeth Witness was all printed and folded and ready to go, too -- including a great reflection by Bill Countryman: "Listening to God and to each other." And so we said our prayers and headed off to the University hill to see what the day would bring.

Here's how ENS describes the process that set the context for the conversations the bishops would have in their Indaba groups:
Two questions were suggested to bishops for consideration during the morning's meeting. One centered on how the debate on homosexuality and the divisions it has caused in the communion affects the bishops' mission efforts in their contexts. The second asked what bishops needed from each other -- and are able to give each other -- to help each other be leaders in their dioceses' mission.

The questions posed to the bishops did not involve a reconsideration of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in the day's introductory video shown to bishops after the morning Eucharist is "where the vast majority of the communion still stands." Instead, he encouraged the bishops to deal with what he called "the unfinished business" of the resolution, which he described as being "about how we engaged sensitively with each other in our different readings of scripture and our pastoral approaches to people with gay and lesbian lifestyles."
(Yes, I could have lived without the "lifestyles" part but considering the source ...)

Anyway, wandering about the campus after the Indaba groups concluded for lunch (they break from 1:00 - 2:00 for lunch around here) we ran into a few of our bishops out-and-about and they ALL described their groups conversations as "difficult at times but very good." (+Steve Lane describes his group process in some detail here.)

(Here are the bishops, etc. gathered for lunch on the Rutherford lawn ... the spec in the middle is a rainbow hang-glider ... which I decided to take a good omen.)

There was some consternation about 3:30 when there were rumors of protests about to happen somewhere on campus. We were happily ensconced in our "Lambeth Field Office" outside the Darwin Press Room ...

(AKA "at work in the fields of the Lord.")

From there we watched what turned out to be "dueling press conferences" ... the daily Episcopal Church briefing (with Bishops Smith, Knudsen and Bruno described here) ...

... and this one called by +Keith Ackerman, which included about 1/3 press and 2/3 which I heard the BBC producer call "dissident supporters."

Frankly, I suspect there was not a single thing said by any of them that we haven't heard before. (Jim Naughton had some thoughts on this here.) I thought for a moment this afternoon if we shuffled the deck up and dealt out all the bishops at random they could probably each give their "opponents" speeches as easily as they could their own at this point!

But here's +Jon, looking pretty cute on his Lambeth scooter:

There's not a lot of "news" up yet and I'm heading to bed but I did find these:
A BBC report: Bishops raise homosexuality issue and then this other BBC report: Lambeth Diary: Anglicans in turmoil (it didn't look a lot like "turmoil" up on the hill, but maybe from a British perspective ...)
There are still miles to go before we rest ... both literally and figuratively ... but at the end of "sex day at Lambeth Conference" it looks like [a] there's still an Anglican Communion and [b] we're still in it.
Stay tuned for further developments.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"All the news that's fit to manufacture"

This Lambeth Conference has been a tough event for the press to wrap their brains ... and their deadlines ... around.

Here's the press room where the arduous task of getting the "breaking news" equivalent of blood-out-of-a-turnip out of a two-week conference designed to make as little news as possible happens.

There are the occasional pre-scheduled interview scattered about campus ... here's PBS's Kim Lawton interviewing California Bishop Marc Andrus ...

... and then the daily briefings with various bishops and conference leaders ... here a TEC briefing with Bishops Kirk Smith & Cathy Roskam.

But in between, there's a whole lot of Bible Study, Indaba Reflections and worship services that do NOT breaking news make.
As a result, the media is sometimes reduced to finding SOMETHING to report ... even us blogging and checking our email was news for an ITN crew one afternoon ...

In that context, it's not hard to understand the temptation to manufacture something to report.
Yesterday, there was a great moment up on campus when I spied Riazat Butt and Jim Naughton (UK Guardian and Diocese of Washington respectively) on their cell phones gesturing about.
I went over to see what was "up" and was told "there's going to be a confrontation and we're trying to figure out where it's going to happen!"
Just then, a literal "pack of press" appeared up the path a bit, hurriedly bustling toward the steps in front of Rutherford College. Naturally, we scurried up there, too -- as clearly "something" was about to happen!
Cameras and microphones poised, they waited ... and along came Quincy's Keith Ackerman, pulling a rolling briefcase behind him. "Maybe this is it!" the murmur went up ... and they all moved in closer.

+Keith, from the top of the stair case, appeared non-plussed for a moment, but -- being a prayerful guy -- suggested that perhaps since they were all gathered together at least he could pray over them.

Which he did.

And when he finished and prepared to roll on off to whatever appointment he was heading to, one of the reporters hollered out: "Can you raise up your hands again so we can get a photo???"

The story that there WAS no story was about to become a breaking news story.


This kind of thing happens daily around here ... a basically harmless pursuit of "something" to say for those writing on deadline with editors back home in their ear on their cell phones wanting "something" to print.

What isn't so harmless is the other "MO" of manufacturing a story in order to report on it.

For example, this email from a colleague from Oasis, California who was in the press room this morning:

There's a man telling reporters that the address last night did "not go down well" and only was met with "polite support." He says the only way Rowan can avoid schism is by demanding that Gene resign -- I guess that is why some of the press keep asking people if Gene will resign.

So what we've got inside the Lambeth press corps are those busy planting the seeds of the story they've already written in their heads and trying to get others to "go and do likewise."


My degree is in theology not journalism, but I'm thinking that's not what they teach you in Journalism Ethics 101 ... and -- given I've just verified the identity of the man in question -- that anybody reading anything in The Living Church should -- at this point -- be doing it with a big-old-grain-of-salt handy.


"What word of hope ..."

"What word of hope do you have for LGBT people who are following the events of the Lambeth Conference?" was the question asked to the Bishop of New Hampshire here in Canterbury yesterday.

Click here to hear his answer in this just-posted addition to "The Gene Pool."


It was "Standing Room Only" at last night's screening of "Voices of Witness: Africa" ... a "back by popular demand" event sponsored by bishop of California, +Marc Andrus.

It was another opportunity to give voice to the African LGBT faithful whose very existence is not only ignored but denied by those who have been charged with their pastoral care.

Peter Toscano blogged about the event here ...and you can see VOWA online here.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I got tapped to be "the scribe" for the Inclusive Church Network response to +Rowan's Presidential Address today ... here's what went out:
Asking the bishops gathered at Lambeth Conference, “Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?” the Archbishop of Canterbury answered his own question in his second presidential address delivered Tuesday, July 29 – advocating a discipline of mutual generosity and a call to speak “from the centre,” which he defined as “from the heart of our identity as Anglicans.”

We are much encouraged by this address by the Archbishop. The Inclusive Church Network applauds the recognition that those described as “the not so traditional believers” hold a theological position faithful to both our shared Anglican identity and our Christian witness. Despite extraordinary pressure to expel or expunge our witness from the Anglican Communion, today’s acknowledgment by the Archbishop of the validity and faithfulness of that witness is a source of deep encouragement.

We recognize that there are also faithful Anglicans who hold positions in opposition to our understandings of how we live out our lives of witness to the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus made present in our lives, our vocations, and our relationships. Our witness here at Lambeth Conference has been grounded in our deep desire to build relationships with our Anglican brothers and sisters across the differences that challenge us as we come together for mission and ministry.

We remain convinced that those differences need not inevitably lead to divisions and that the bonds of mutual affection that have knit the global Anglican Communion together are strong enough to include all God’s beloved at the banquet table.

We continue to pray for our bishops as they journey through these final days of the Lambeth Conference, that their witness to the world might be one of inclusion and compassion as we proclaim together God’s justice and live God’s love. § -- The Inclusive Church Network

ABofC Steps Up?????

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a second Presidential Address today ... it was "unscheduled" until this morning and so there was MUCH speculation about what he would say ... and what it would mean.

I'm still working to figure out what I think he meant but here is what he said:


The Archbishop of Canterbury
Second Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008
29 July 2008

‘What is Lambeth ’08 going to say?’ is the question looming larger all the time as this final week unfolds. But before trying out any thoughts on that, I want to touch on the prior question, a question that could be expressed as ‘Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?’. I believe if we can answer that adequately, we shall have laid some firm foundations for whatever content there will be.

And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre. I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ.

We are here at all, surely, because we believe there is an Anglican identity and that it’s worth investing our time and energy in it. I hope that some of the experience of this Conference will have reinforced that sense. And I hope too that we all acknowledge that the only responsible and Christian way of going on engaging with those who aren’t here is by speaking from that centre in Jesus Christ where we all see our lives held and focused.

And, as I suggested in my opening address, speaking from the centre requires habits and practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone — not because something alien is being imposed, but because we know we shall only keep ourselves focused on the centre by attention and respect for each other — checking the natural instinct on all sides to cling to one dimension of the truth revealed. I spoke about council and covenant as the shape of the way forward as I see it. And by this I meant, first, that we needed a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church. While at the moment the focus of this sort of question is sexual ethics, it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church’s formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice — about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

Some of these questions have a pretty clear answer, but others are open for a little more discussion; and it seems obvious that a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised could help us greatly. But the key points are confidence and authority. If we do develop such a capacity in our structures, we need as a Communion to agree what sort of weight its decisions will have; hence, again, the desirability of a covenantal agreement.

Some have expressed unhappiness about the ‘legalism’ implied in a covenant. But we should be clear that good law is about guaranteeing consistence and fairness in a community; and also that in a community like the Anglican family, it can only work when there is free acceptance. Properly understood, a covenant is an expression of mutual generosity — indeed, ‘generous love’, to borrow the title of the excellent document on Inter-Faith issues which was discussed yesterday. And we might recall that powerful formulation from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks — ‘Covenant is the redemption of solitude’.

Mutual generosity : part of what this means is finding out what the other person or group really means and really needs. The process of this last ten days has been designed to help us to find out something of this — so that when we do address divisive issues, we have created enough of a community for an intelligent generosity to be born. It is by no means a full agreement, but it will, I hope, have strengthened the sense that we have at least a common language, born out of the conviction that Jesus Christ remains the one unique centre.

And within that conviction, what has been heard? I want now to engage in what might be a rather presumptuous exercise — and certainly feels like a risky one. I want to imagine what people on different sides of our most painful current debate hope others have heard or are beginning to hear in our time together. I want to imagine what the main messages would be, within an atmosphere of patience and charity, from those in our Communion who hold to a clear and traditional doctrinal and moral conviction, and also from those who, starting from the same centre, find fewer problems or none with some recent innovations. Although these voices are inevitably rooted in the experience of the developing world and of North America, the division runs through many other provinces internally as well.

So first : what might the traditional believer hope others have heard? ‘What we seek to do in our context is faithfully to pass on what you passed on to us — Holy Scripture, apostolic ministry, sacramental discipline. But what are we to think when all these things seem to be questioned and even overturned? We want to be pastorally caring to all, to be “inclusive” as you like to say. We want to welcome everyone. Yet the gospel and the faith you passed on to us tell us that some kinds of behaviour and relationship are not blessed by God. Our love and our welcome are unreal if we don’t truthfully let others know what has shaped and directed our lives — so along with welcome, we must still challenge people to change their ways. We don’t see why welcoming the gay or lesbian person with love must mean blessing what they do in the Church’s name or accepting them for ordination whatever their lifestyle. We seek to love them — and, all right, we don’t always make a good job of it : but we can’t just say that there is nothing to challenge. Isn’t it like the dilemma of the early Church — welcoming soldiers, yet seeking to get them to lay down their arms?

‘But please remember also that — while you may say that what you do needn’t affect us — your decisions make a vast difference to us. In this world of instant communication, our neighbours know what you do, and they see us as sharing the responsibility. Imagine what that means where those neighbours are passionately traditional Christians — and what it means for our own members, who will be drawn to leave us for a “safer”, more orthodox church. Imagine what it means when those neighbours are non-Christians, delighted to find a stick to beat us with. Imagine what it is to be known as the ‘gay church’ in a context where that spells real contempt and danger.

‘Don’t misunderstand us. We’re not looking for safety and comfort. Some of us know quite a lot about carrying the cross. But when that cross is laid on us by fellow-Christians, it’s quite a lot harder to bear. Don’t be too surprised if some of us want to be at a distance from you — or if we want to support minorities in your midst who seem to us to be suffering.

‘But we are here. We’ve taken a risk in coming, because many who think like us feel we’ve betrayed them just by meeting you. But we value our Communion, we want to understand you and we want you to understand us. Can you find some way of being generous that helps us believe you care about us and about the common language and belief of the Church? Can you — in plain words — step back and let us think and pray about these things without giving us the impression that the debate is over and we’ve lost and that doesn’t matter to you?’

And then : what might the not so traditional believer hope has been heard?

‘What we seek to do in our context is to bring Jesus alive in the minds and hearts of the people of our culture. Trying to speak the language of the culture and relate honestly to where people really are doesn’t have to be a betrayal of Scripture and tradition. We know we’re pushing the boundaries — but don’t some Christians always have to do that? Doesn’t the Bible itself suggest that?

‘We are often hurt, angry and bewildered at the way many others in the Communion see us and treat us these days — as if we were spiritual lepers or traitors to every aspect of Christian belief. We know that no-one is the best judge in their own case, but we see in our church life at least some marks of the Spirit’s gifts. And part of that is acknowledging the gifts we’ve seen in gay and lesbian believers. They will certainly be likely to feel that the restraint you ask for is a betrayal. Please try to see why this is such a dilemma for many of us. You may not see it, but they’re still at risk in our society, still vulnerable to murderous violence. And we have to say to some of you that we long for you to speak up for your gay and lesbian neighbours in situations where they are subject to appalling discrimination. There have been Lambeth Resolutions about that too, remember.

‘A lot of the time, we feel we’re being made scapegoats. Other provinces have acute moral and disciplinary problems, or else they more or less successfully refuse to admit the realities in their midst. But those of us who have faced the complex issues around gay relationships in what we feel to be an open and prayerful way are stigmatised and demonised.

‘Not all of us, of course, supported or took part in the actions that have caused so much trouble. Some of us remain strongly opposed, many of us want to find ways of strengthening our bonds with you. But even those who don’t stand with the majority on innovations will often feel that the life of a whole church, a life that is varied and complex but often deeply and creatively faithful to Christ and the Scriptures, is being wrongly and unjustly seen by you and some of your friends.

‘We want to be generous, and we are hurt that some throw back in our faces both the experience and the resources we long to share. Can you try and see us as fellow-believers struggling to proclaim the same Christ, and to be patient with us?’

Two sets of feelings and perceptions, two appeals for generosity. For the first speaker, the cost of generosity may be accusation of compromise : you’ve been bought, you’ve been deceived by airy talk into tolerating unscriptural and unfaithful policies. For the second speaker, the cost of generosity may be accusations of sacrificing the needs of an oppressed group for the sake of a false or delusional unity, giving up a precious Anglican principle for the sake of a dangerous centralisation. But there is the challenge. If both were able to hear and to respond generously, perhaps we could have something more like a conversation of equals — even something more like a Church.

At Dar-es-Salaam, the primates tried to find a way of inviting different groups to take a step forward simultaneously towards each other. It didn’t happen, and each group was content to blame the other. But the last 18 months don’t suggest that this was a good outcome. Can this Conference now put the same kind of challenge? To the innovator, can we say, ‘Don’t isolate yourself; don’t create facts on the ground that make the invitation to debate ring a bit hollow’? Can we say to the traditionalist, ‘Don’t invest everything in a church of pure and likeminded souls; try to understand the pastoral and human and theological issues that are urgent for those you are opposing, even if you think them deeply wrong’?

I think we perhaps can, if and only if we are captured by the vision of the true Centre, the heart of God out of which flows the impulse of an eternal generosity which creates and heals and promises. It is this generosity which sustains our mission and service in Our Lord’s name. And it is this we are called to show to each other.

At the moment, we seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life. What some see as confused or reckless innovation in some provinces is felt as a body-blow to the integrity of mission and a matter of literal physical risk to Christians. The reaction to this is in turn felt as an annihilating judgement on a whole local church, undermining its legitimacy and pouring scorn on its witness. We need to speak life to each other; and that means change.

I’ve made no secret of what I think that change should be — a Covenant that recognizes the need to grow towards each other (and also recognizes that not all may choose that way). I find it hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration. But whatever your views on this, at least ask the question : ‘Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?’

Morning has broken ...

... and in the bright light of a quite lovely day in Canterbury (it rained like crazy last night and today it's blue and clear and breezy) here are a few observations about yesterday's Lambeth Happenings: .

The 3rd section of the report of observations and recommendations from the Windsor Continuation Group -- released at a 5:30 p.m. press briefing -- was the source of much consternation here in Kent.

Its "hard-line" on moratoria on blessings and consecrations is patently unacceptable to a significant percentage of the bishops present here at Lambeth Conference [ENS has a good survey of reactions here] ... and I particularly liked that Michael Ingham "called the paper "an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence."

Meanwhile, it does not go far enough in "disciplining" those who differ with the Gafconistas, at least according to blogger Sarah Hey, who Ruth Gledhill reports dismissed the document as 'purple-shirted flatulence.'

Ruth makes another interesting point in her reflection in yesterday's Times:

On the Windsor group there were no bishops who approve same-sex blessings or gay ordinations of priests or bishops.

Knowing that, why would we expect anything different than what was handed out yesterday? Jenny Te Paa, a member of the original Windsor Report group, had this to say:

Te Paa said that the Windsor Continuation Group is "a curious title to give a group" that has no members of the original commission. She and the other 15 members of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the formal name of the group that produced the Windsor Report, share an important and "unique historical memory" of the process, she said, adding that none of the WCG members have talked to her or the people with whom she was most closely aligned on the commission.

"Relationality was at the heart of the success of the Windsor Report and one would hope that there might be some recognition of that in the on-going work that needs to be done," she said.

"The spirit of Windsor was very much, I believe, an encouragement towards a respect for mutuality," Te Paa said.

Important points to note -- coming from one who helped craft the report -- that the Windsor Report was indeed intended to be a bridge and has instead been hijacked and forged into a bludgeon.

Our Inclusive Communion collective response to yesterday's document is online here ... I commend it all to you and want to highlight this important point:

The Windsor Report and draft Covenants, while in some places acknowledging the value of the more open Anglican tradition, are in their main recommendations all too heavily influenced by an intolerant demand for uniformity. The implication is that because Lambeth 1998 described homosexuality as ‘contrary to Scripture’ all Anglicans ought to consider it immoral.

Such a naive notion is contrary to the Anglican tradition. Neither Lambeth 1998 nor the sparse remarks on the matter in the Bible establish an Anglican consensus on the ethics of homosexuality.

Instead of continuing to pretend that there is one, and generating one proposal after another for policing it, what is needed is to face the fact that Anglicans disagree about it.

Instead of threatening pro-gay provinces with expulsion we should insist that differences of opinion are normal.

Today our bishops discuss the Windsor Continuation issues in their Indaba groups and at provincial meetings. Keep them in your prayers as they go about their work and witness.

More later from Lambeth ...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

News on marriage equality in California from the L.A. Times:

Supporters of Proposition 8, the proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, said they would file suit today to block a change made by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to the language of the measure's ballot title and summary.
Petitions circulated to qualify the initiative for the ballot said the measure would amend the state Constitution "to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
In a move made public last week and applauded by same-sex marriage proponents, the attorney general's office changed the language to say that Proposition 8 seeks to "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry."

Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Protect Marriage coalition, called the new language "inherently argumentative" and said it could "prejudice voters against the initiative."Proponents of the measure said they want voters to see ballot language similar to what was on the petitions that began circulating last fall.

"This is a complete about-face from the ballot title that was assigned" when the measure was being circulated for signatures, Kerns said.

On the other side, Steve Smith, campaign manager for No on Proposition 8, applauded the language change.

"What Proposition 8 would do is eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, which is exactly what the attorney general put in the title of the measure," he said. "It will be very difficult for them to win the case."

Political analysts on both sides suggest that the language change will make passage of the initiative more difficult, noting that voters might be more reluctant to pass a measure that makes clear it is taking away existing rights.

Monday, July 28, 2008


From the Press Release I just sent out responding to today's release of Part Three of the Windsor Continuation Group's Preliminary Observations:


"LGBT Anglicans are back on the chopping block based on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group. While we recognize that this is a long-term process, sadly, what was continued today was the process of institutionalizing bigotry and marginalizing the LGBT baptized. Acceptance of these recommendations would result in de facto sacramental apartheid."

"We applaud the strong testimony in today's hearings from TEC bishops who are committed to be pastoral to all the sheep in their flock, not just the straight ones. We call on them to take that witness to their Indaba groups. We ask them to remember the 1976 commitment of the Episcopal Church to 'full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church' for the LGBT baptized."

"It is a sad thing indeed that the message today's report sends out from the Anglican Communion to the world is that homosexuals getting married in California are of more concern to the church than are homosexuals being mugged in Nigeria."

"As Integrity continues to offer our witness here at Lambeth Conference, we demonstrate our deep commitment to our ongoing relationship with the rest of the global Anglican Communion. At the same time, we will witness to our conviction that the vocations and relationships of the LGBT baptized are not for sale as bargaining chips in this game of global Anglican politics. At the end of the day, too high a price to pay for institutional unity."


And the beat goes on.

Family Feud: The Anglican Episode

It struck me this morning that there are some who are eagerly awaiting the Lambeth Conference equivalent to that moment on the television game show "Family Feud" when the host would turn to the scoreboard and announce ... with great drama ...

AND THE SURVEY SAID ...!!! [fill in the blank]

And one family would win and go onto the bonus round and the other would slink off with a case of Rice-a-Roni amongst their consolation prizes.

But I'm thinking this morning that what made for a long running game show does NOT necessarily make for a life-giving communion of faith.

Here's the "survey" that prompted my Monday Morning Musings: Ruth Gledhill's report in today's TIMES that (a survey says) "Four in five protestants believe gay sex is a sin and that practising gays should not be ordained."

Goodness. Forgive me if I'm not shocked, surprised, horrified or otherwise convinced that what this "survey says" has any value for the work our bishops are about at this Lambeth Conference.

For one, I cannot help but imagine if such a survey was taken in 1950's Topeka, four in five residents would have believed that segregation was perfectly OK and that the Brown v. Board of Education decision to integrate public schools was in error.

For another, I do not remember "Blessed are you who have complied with the will of the majority to exclude the minority" in any of the Beatitudes.

The American Episcopal Church has never maintained that it holds anything other than a minority opinion on full inclusion of the LBGT baptized in the life and witness of the church.

If the point of the Lambeth Conference 2008 game show unfolding on the Kentian campus is to come up with a "And the survey says ..." moment on Lambeth 1.10 or +Gene Robinson or the blessing of same sex unions in order to send the Americans off with their case of Rice-a-Roni, then we might all have save ourselves a lot of time and our respective churches a lot of money and stayed home.

The focus of the work -- so far -- at Lambeth Conference has been on how we are going to work together into God's future in SPITE of our differences ... not how we're going to vote some members of the Body of Christ off the Anglican Island BECAUSE of them. (I'm mixing my game-show metaphors but I think you get my point.)

Finally, just for fun, we've done our own survey. It wasn't of 517 "Protestant Christians" like the ComRes survey in Gledhill's TIMES article ... it was of 21 random folks wandering about the streets of Cantebury.

And OUR "survey said" that three-in-four people-on-the-street did not believe being gay should be a bar to ordination AND a significant percentage believed the church would grow and benefit from being more inclusive.

So here's MY survey question for the day:

If the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, why is it that those who talk the loudest and jump up and down the most about evangelism are busier surveying those in the pews about who should be kept OUT of the church than they are getting out into the streets and taking to those who need to be gathered IN?

What does "the survey" have to say about that???? .

Sunday Morning on BBC

Sunday morning we were up early to do a series of local BBC radio interviews on what's up here at the Lambeth Conference. (Here's me in the radio studio on campus at the University of Kent.)

Here was the schedule:
  • 0700 Stoke
  • 0710 Oxford
  • 0720 Bristol
  • 0730 Sheffield
  • 0740 Shropshire
  • 0750 Coventry & Warwickshire
  • 0810 Northamptonshire
  • 0820 Derby
  • 0840 Cumbria
And here was the intro that the local radio hosts read ... pretty much verbatim ... to begin our 5-6 minute segments:

There's been further signs this week that the bitter conflict in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality is dominating the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. The Most Rev Daniel Deng Bull, Archbishop of Sudan, told the conference Bishop Gene Robinson -- the openly gay Bishop -- must go, to save the church from schism.
Just under a quarter of bishops in the Anglican Communion have boycotted the Conference in protest of the attendance of pro-gay clergy. The absent bishops, largely conservative church leaders from the Global South, held an alternative summit in Jerusalem last month, the GAFCON conference. Well despite attempts by liberals at the conference to steer debate away from the controversy over gay clergy it still appears to be dominating the agenda.
Well, I'm joined now by the Rev Susan Russell, President of Integrity, the organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Episcopalians. Susan is a parish priest in California, and is herself gay and was "banned" from the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem. Good morning, Reverend Russell ...

And off we went. Nine times.

It was not surprising to me that the questions started with the "schism thing" ... after all, "vast majority of Anglican bishops meet for prayer, study and reflection" doesn't have the same headline quality as "Sudanese Bishop calls for Robinson's ouster!" does.

It did, however, give me the opportunity to say that the conference I heard being reported in the media bore very little resemblance to the one I saw unfolding around me -- where bishops were working hard to hear and listen to each other and settling in to a process that called for both recognizing and respecting differences.
AND to say -- again -- that the Archbishop of the Sudan expressing his disapproval of the American Church was hardly news ... there have been calls for +Gene's resignation since before he was even CONSECRATED. What was news was the fact that on the second day of a two week conference the conservative hardliners were already re-drawing their line in the sand.

And it gave me the chance to point out -- once again -- that if sexuality is dominating anything at Lambeth Conference, it's dominating the agenda of those determined to use our differences and exploit them into divisions.

It WAS surprising to me that not ONCE in any of the nine different interviews did ANYONE ask me anything that began "And what do you say to those who say, 'But the Bible says ...'" The kind of biblical proof-text questions I'm so accustomed to answer from the U.S. media just didn't seem to part of the British lexicon of questions to ask.

Rather, the questions were about holding the communion together, did I think there WOULD be "a split," and how did it feel to be both gay AND a woman in a church where there was so much controversy about both "issues."
I had the chance to say that Jesus called us to "let our light so shine" and that's what the LGBT witness was doing here at Lambeth Conference -- letting the light of our witness to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus present in our lives our vocations and our relationships shine in our encounters with brothers and sisters from around the communion.
I had the chance to say that Jesus promised us "the truth would set us free" and we were blessed by the opportunity to witness to the Anglican Communion the truth that there were indeed LGBT Anglicans all OVER the communion serving God and the church and it was time for the church to recognize that.

Most of the segments were preceded by a musical intro and so -- given that it was a VERY eclectic repertoire -- my interview followed everything from "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "Out of Africa," and ... (ironically) "Can't Get No Satisfaction." (I worked references to the first two into the interview ... couldn't quite manage the third!)

It was a great opportunity and well worth getting up for early on a Sunday morning.
Happily, the rest of the day had some GENUINE R&R as we ventured out for a drive through the English countryside ...

... for a visit to Sissinghurst Castle Garden ...

... followed by a stop at a place called "Froggies" ...

... where we had -- arguably -- one of the best dinners in the history of food.

And now, it's onward to Week Two of Lambeth Conference 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

NOT so breaking news from the Lambeth Conference

As reported in The Anglican Journal:

Robinson will not be asked to resign by presiding bishop

There ... now you can all sleep tonight without worrying about THAT one!

(Stay tuned to this site for more news as it happens -- or not -- from Canterbury!)

Class Photo Day at Canterbury

Saturday was "photo op" day at the Lambeth Conference ... and at 2:00 p.m the hill was a sea of vested bishops heading to the bleachers for their portrait sitting.
As the official photographer gave instructions through a bullhorn herding the bishops into rows, the "unofficial" photographers gathered, as well, to document the scene ...

... while the Archbishop of Canterbury waited patiently.

It was interesting, after a week of being kept at a distance from the bishops by fences and stewards and Lambeth Conference staff to be so close to "the action" for a change. Here's me ... just a stone's throw from my own bishop, Jon Bruno ...

... who scored an aisle seat and seemed to be enjoying himself VERY much.

A couple of shots of the "long view" ...

... of very many bishops ...

... and yet, not all of them, is it? Sad to think of the ones who chose not to come because others were included and sadder still to remember that +Gene was excluded because of who he is.

After the "official" shot there was lots of impromptu photography going on, including this one of me with my bishop and Davis MacIyalla ... who was celebrating having just gotten word that his request for asylum in Great Britain from Nigeria had been granted.

Then there was the "other" official photo sitting ...

... of the 18 women bishops participating in Lambeth Conference 2008. (There are actually 24 women bishops in the Anglican Communion but the others are either retired or currently between jurisdictions.)

And here's was this picture of the American women ...

... and of Cynthia Black who orchestrated the "women 's photo" with extraordinary grace and efficiency. (Her official photos are online here.)

One of my favorite parts of the day ...

... were the men bishops lining up to get their own photos. And best of all were these two Korean bishops ...

... who after taking pictures of the women came over and asked if please, they would do them the honor of allowing them to be photographed together to be part of this historic occasion.

Then the opportunity for a few more shots ... this one of Richard Schori and his charming wife Katharine ...

And finally, having screwed up my courage to ask the Presiding Bishop if she was willing to have her picture taken with me, was overwhelmed when she said she'd be honored.
This is me ... being overwhelmed!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Deepest thanks ...

... to all who've sent messages of condolence via notes, emails, "comments" and flowers.

Your prayers and good wishes from all around this "Big Fat Anglican Family" of ours have been of great comfort to me and my family in this time of loss.

For those who've inquired, services for my mother will be on August 12th at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Minnesota.

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate her life with friends and family and am VERY grateful for the ease of communication across the miles that the internet and mobile phones provide -- giving new depth and meaning to those prayers about "those whose lives are closely linked with ours!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

On a personal note

It is Friday morning in Canterbury and I'm taking some time-out from focusing on things Anglican to focus on things personal.

Yesterday my brother Bill called from California with the news of the sudden and most unexpected death of my mother -- Betty Lou (Bundy) Brown -- who died in her sleep in her Minnesota home on Thursday, July 24th.

She would have been 83 on August 19th and while she had a history of heart problems was well enough on her last week on earth to do one of the things she loved best: playing Bingo at the Elks Lodge.

We were blessed to have her as long as we did (she had triple bypass surgery in 1992) and I am feeling particularly grateful today that we had a good, long visit with her over the holidays last year. (Here's Betty surrounded by kids and grandkids last November on Thanksgiving Day.)

It was another particular delight to me that she and Louise had the opportunity to form a close, loving relationship ...

... and my sons will both be blessed throughout their lives to have had a Grandma who loved them and challenged them to be all they could be. Here she is with my younger son, Brian, also on Thanksgiving ...

... and here with Jamie, home on leave from the Army in 2006.

When asked how she handled my "coming out," Betty famously said that she was a lot less surprised to find out I was a lesbian than she was that I was called to be a priest. She was both proud and supportive of my work and ministry -- even when we sang those dreadful "unfamiliar hymns."

My feelings today are that the best tribute I can pay to her life and love and support is to continue with the work we are doing here at Lambeth Conference -- to continue to challenge our Anglican family live up to the Christian Family Values my mother didn't just talk about but lived.

[The Brown family ... circa 1959]
Arrangements are, as they say, "pending" -- but we anticipate a Memorial Service in early August in her hometown of Alexandria, Minnesota. Thanks to all who have sent prayers and messages of condolence. I feel very embraced and enfolded not only by your love and care but by God's -- and by the promise we claim in our Lord Jesus Christ that life is changed, not ended.
Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The bishops go to London today ...

... for a march for social justice across Lambeth Bridge, etc. to draw attention to the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals). That makes it a quiet day for us here in Canterbury ... a welcome respite to the busy schedule we've been keeping.
Trying to get some laundry caught up we've got the telly on, hoping they'll cover the bishops in London but so far SkyNews is more interested in the sex orgy scandal trial of someone named Max Mosely than they are in 690 Anglican bishops marching to end world poverty. (This would be one of the things that is NOT different on this side of the pond!)
Last night was our Voices of Witness "Fringe Event" ... an opportunity to screen both "Voices of Witness 2006" and to preview "Voices of Witness: Africa" -- the two compelling records of the voices of LGBT Anglicans the Communion seems to keep forgetting it has committed to listen to.
Here are a few pictures from last night. And now we're off to figure out the laundry thing. More later from Canterbury!

Photographers shoot the discussion panel following the DVD screening.

[From left to right Louise Brooks, +Christopher Senyonjo,
Davis Mac-Iyalla, Mia Nikasimo, Michael Kimindu,
Katie Sherrod and Cynthia Black.]

Our intrepid Integrity team recording the event for posterity.
(Jon Richardson and Michael Bell)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Links from Lambeth

Before I head up the hill for another wander-about the campus and a chance to get last minute details in order for our preview of "Voices of Witness: Africa" I thought I'd post up these links to some sites with interesting pieces on what's up here Canterbury.

First of all, don't miss today's "Gene Pool" video ... an interview with +Gene just before last Sunday's Changing Attitude/Integrity Eucharist.
DO check out the ENS story on the Sudanese Primate's press conference yesterday ... which includes a video of the whole Q&A with the press. (Listen to the end where the Archbishop assures the questioner his intent is not to exclude anybody ... just to keep Gene Robinson out.)
A few folks have emailed or commented wanting to hear the sermon from Sunday at the Changing Attitude/Integrity Eucharist. There's not a direct link (that I can figure out) but ENS has it online ... go to their Multimedia pages which are sorted by date. Our service is on 7/20/08 and entitled "Susan Russell preaches ..."
On the ground here in Canterbury, we've been dealing with vandalised newsstands for our Lambeth Witnesss newsletter this morning ... info on that over at Walking With Integrity.
Finally, not to be missed is Jim Naughton's reflection on Episcopal Cafe today ... TEC-Sudan Relations: What happens now?

Speaking of the Bible ...

I always pay attention when I wake up with a particular text of scripture in my head first-thing-in-the-morning. When I'm working on a sermon, it's likely the gospel I'm mulling ahead of the pulpit. But this morning ... with no sermon-in-sight ... it was a story in the 15th Chapter of Matthew.
It was the one about the Syrophoenician (or, some versions say "Canaanite") woman whose faith empowered her to "speak truth to power" and challenge Jesus himself about whether his Good News was good for some or for all.
We know the end of the story, of course. The punchline is ...
"Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
... and the result is a Gospel which is a light not just to the people of Israel but to the nations.
My wondering this morning is if the LGBT witness at this Lambeth Conference is not playing the same role for the Anglican Communion that the Syrophoenician woman played for Jesus.
They are willing to stand here in Canterbury to speak the truth of their lives, their relationships and their vocations to the Communion and plead for the church to be willing to be healed of its homophobia. There are certainly those -- like the disciples -- saying "Send them away, for they keep crying after us." (Some of them on the Lambeth Conference organizing team.)
But at the end of the day, it IS our faith that is the source of health and healing and wholeness.
May we, like the Syrophoenician woman, be given the grace to "stay the course" of our witness. And may the Anglican Communion, at it lives out its high calling to BE the Body of Christ in the world, follow the example of the Lord whose quality is always to have mercy and whose Good News IS intended to be for all people.