Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Lord Archbishop Giveth and Taketh Away

The invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference have gone out and not everyone is happy.

Read about the news briefing and the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter here, here, here, here, and here.

The big news is that not every Anglican Bishop will be invited, and of course the two who are not invited are the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minn of the Anglican District of Virginia, CANA, Church of Nigeria.

So far the blogs seem to go like this. The blogs on the right are disappointed because invitation to Lambeth was seen as test of orthodoxy. They assumed that only orthodox Anglicans would be invited, and Archbishop Akinola has said that if +Gene or the Episocpal Church was included he and the Global South would gather in Alexandria or someplace else and have their Lambeth conference.

The bloggers on the left are disappointed because of the active and deliberate exclusion of Bishop Robinson, once again placing the burden of division on the back of one man--the open, affirming and partnered gay man. This once again smacks of condescension and avoidance--talking about people instead of to people--and so this solution seems to be a capitulation to conservative pressure. The words in his letter about the limits of inclusivity seem to reinforce this.

My personal preference is that everyone, that is all Anglican bishops, should have been invited with the only comment being the description of the conference as non-synodical and non-legislative. The Archbishop's words about being together even with those who we disagree with would have had real force in that context. Most important, from a systems standpoint, it would have shifted the anxiety back to where it belongs: the people who generate it. It would have been up to individual bishops and primates to decide how they would respond. Attending or not would be their own choice.

Alas, Rowan did not take that tack. He tried to pare down the list by focusing on those who would pose a stumbling block to others. That hairy old "manner of life" thing again. So Robinson is not invited to the main gathering.

But the Lord Archbishop taketh away and he giveth. It turns out that he will invite Robinson as a special guest. It seems that Rowan wants him there but in such a way that at once highlights his legitimacy as a bishop and can allow those of a weaker conscience to come along.

Now Bishop Robinson has already responded and he is not happy. He has not heard anything except through the press, so his reaction is based only on what he and the rest of us have heard. But I sincerely hope that if Rowan does invite him as personal guest that he goes.

Remember, Akinola did not simply demand that Robinson be expelled from the Communion, he wanted all the Bishops who consecrated him expelled and even the whole Episcopal Church for consenting to his election and ordination. He wanted the Episcopal Church out and the conservative parishes under his care and their allies invited instead. Akinola, and many others, began to see Lambeth as the test of true Anglican identity based on a narrow notion of biblical interpretation and confessional orthodoxy.

Williams has rejected that notion, and in terms that the conservatives set up for themselves, has explicitly ruled that CANA is not part of the Anglican Communion. They have no seat at Lambeth because they have no legitimate jurisdiction. That was true of AMiA ten years ago and it is true of CANA today. In short, Akinola's brainchild has been rejected out of hand.

Any hope they may have had that a parellel or replacement jurisdiction would arise out of Lambeth, and that Lambeth would be North America's woodshed has evaporated completely.

So...Robinson is invited as a guest (out of deference to those of weaker conscience) and Minn is not. Robinson is real bishop in a real jurisdiction while Minn may or may not be a real bishop but he is not part of a valid, recognized Anglican jurisdiction. He was enthroned to nothing.

It seems to me that the ball is now in Peter Akinola's court. All eyes are on him to see if he will make good on his threat to organize an alternative Lambeth for Global South bishops. It has been clear that his support was wavering, and while he may have won the day in Dar es Sallem, he lost the war when numerous primates expressed discomfort with the solution and supported the HOB when they rejected the hastily gathered pastoral council. Notice, as the Bishops gather in September with the Archbishop, that rejection of that hastily devised scheme did not mean the Episcopal Church was dis-invited from the Communion.

If Akinola goes to Lambeth, he will be going to a place where he and his bishops would be voices among many. He will go on Canterbury's terms.

If Akinola stays away and forms his own meeting, he frees the rest of the Communion to deal with Bishop Robinson and to take on the listening process without further delay. If he stays away he will have taken himself out of the game.

Those who would disassemble or replace the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, and those who would turn the Communion into a confessional world body, have to realize that their dream of a grand re-alignment has suffered a significant set back.

Canon Kearnon said that Williams would invite Robinson as a special guest. If that invitation should arrive, he should go without hesitation because while the path to full inclusion is still foggy and indirect, the path towards division, exclusion and punishment has been firmly and soundly rejected.


Closed said...

The problem is that now this is reported in The Advocate, PlanetOut and elsewhere is again the Anglican Communion is a stumbling block to the gospel for lgbt persons--our witness again looks piss poor, and I have to wonder long and hard about telling lgbt people I know about defending that there is Good News here.

Andrew Gerns said...

Christopher, you are correct in the implications. It does look again as the church throwing another obstacle in front of lgbt persons. I have no doubt about that. I really would have preferred for the ABC to just open wide the doors and allow everyone in, and letting each Bishop decide for him/herself.

Given that this was not the choice, we have to ask what this means for us and how do we respond to what have been given.

At the same time, I also agree that this has complicated our witness. Thanks!

Muthah+ said...

That "manner of life" thing doesn't take into account the bishops who have second wives or misstresses does it? It doesn't take into account the bishops who are know to be gay but have wives they deceive. This doesn't take into account Jesus's statement "he who is without sin cast the first stone."