Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day Seven--Less Happy Bishops

I've just finished an afternoon hearing on the Windsor Continuation Report. I've attached a video in which the American bishop on that committee, Gary Lillebridge of West Texas, is introducing the report. You can see from the large turn-out, that many of us were VERY interested in what was being said here. This little committee was set up by the ABC as a way to monitor the progress being made in implementing the Windsor report (a document which technically has no authority in first place). The existence of this group is regarded by many in the American House as suspect, and it became clear that the majority who spoke at today's hearing were opposed to it and to its conclusions that we needed to strengthen the authority of the "instruments of communion" namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference. The thesis of the report is that the old description of the Anglican Communion as being made of provinces with "autonomy-in-communion," was no longer enough to hold things together, and that what we need is "communion with autonomy and accountability." That seems to me to be coded language for "communion with discipline and exclusion" for those who don't toe the line set down by the instruments of communion. The vast majority of the bishops who came to the microphone seemed to agree with me. Out of about 20 who spoke, only one approved of the Committee's report. There is suspicion on the part of some, including me, that this report and the Covenant it calls for (at is stands in its current draft form) are attempts to invest power in the ABC and Primates and centralize authority with them. This seems to me to be a very un-Anglican thing to do! I suspect that we will have to come up with some kind of a Covenant, but one which is far less exclusive and authoritarian than what has been suggested so far. So you can see, we are getting a bit more feisty, although the mood in our small groups continues to be open and friendly.

Some upset was provided last night by the Archbishop of the Sudan who suggested that Gene Robinson should resign for the good of the Communion. The church in the Sudan has close ties to many American dioceses (including ours), and this remark has caused a fair amount of dismay. And the TEC had planned a reception for the Sudanese bishops on Saturday! There is bound to be some interesting conversation over white wine!

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY when we travel to London. We leave at 7 in the morning, and (some of us) will first take part in a march downtown in support of the Millennium Development Goals. We will walk from Westminster to Lambeth Palace on the other side of the Thames. There we will have lunch before getting on buses for tea at Buckingham Palace. No cameras or phones are allowed on the grounds, so I you will have to settle for a verbal account. The weather is supposed to be partly cloudy and warm. My guess is I will be wishing my purple cassock was air-conditioned.


mother karen said...

Dear Bishop Smith,

I send warm greetings to you and your wife at Lambeth. It was not so long ago that you were my Anglican history professor. Now, you get to live Anglican history in the making of it. My parish, St. Paul’s in Pomona, a thriving, renewing, and inclusive parish sends our greetings and prayers to all of the bishops at Lambeth. I am prompted to respond to your blog regarding the statement of the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. It seems to me that this would be an important time for the Bishops of TEC to consider crafting a statement to the Archbishop of the Sudan, and to the many bishops who have endorsed his statement, on behalf of the HOB and our Church. The Archbishop of the Sudan has publicly challenged Bishop Robinson, a duly elected and consecrated bishop of our Church, to resign his office “for the sake of the Communion”. He has also called for the bishops who consecrated Bishop Robinson to ask for forgiveness at Lambeth. Of course, these demands will not be met. However, this seems like an important opportunity for our bishops to make an elegant and charitable statement that supports the Canons of the Episcopal Church and the decision of our General Convention to consent to the consecration of Bishop Robinson, while affirming the non-exclusionary position of our Church towards those provinces that disagree with our actions. It is tragic that +Gene is being excluded form the Lambeth proceedings, and cannot even meet with his fellow bishops as a group. I understand that some of the bishops wanted to go on record objecting to this, but decided to refrain from taking action that might exacerbate tensions at the Conference. But, as of yesterday, circumstances have changed. Our bishops have gone as far as they could in meeting the demands of the Primates, while maintaining their unity and respecting the role of General Convention. I believe that is time for our bishops to speak at Lambeth on behalf of themselves and our Church. To let this new demand go without a response, would, I fear, contribute greatly to bad feelings and dissension at the next General Convention. And on its own merits, it seems to me that it is exactly the right moment for our bishops to act in a non-anxious manner to state clearly that the demands for +Gene’s resignation and the public repentance of many of our bishops are unacceptable and do not contribute to dialogue. Perhaps it is time for our bishops to make history. Karen MacQueen+

Cany said...

Thank you Bishop Smith for your words and video.

Like Mother Karen, I am concerned (as a Los Angeles Diocese pewsitter) about our as of yet nonresponse to Sudan, though I fully realize those of you there on the ground have a different sense of this than those that received the news here at home.

Other call(s) for Bishops that voted for +Robinsons to leave the conference were unsurprising and I am hoping that less of this type of thing occurs, not more.

What seems clear as a bell in reading Archbishop Bul's answers to questions from the press, particularly his answer to the question of whether he had met +Robinson (no... and wouldn't) suggest that while some of us are, indeed, trying to listen to their point of view, we are on a one way street.

I think what causes we Americans to often have such a knee-jerk reaction (and I am admittedly one of these) is our fierce sense of justice. That is, we do not base justice wholly on God's law, but on secular law as well though they are unquestionably the weeds/wheat, not to be torn apart.

Looking, for instance, at the Sudanese laws on homosexuality, it involves jailing, lashing, and upon a third offense, death.

HOW any Anglican could support such measures is beyond me. These are cultures, laws and penalties worlds apart, issues of human rights notwithstanding.

Cultural norms are vastly different around the world, and this has always been true, but, seemingly becomes "truer" daily. There appear to be so many vast impediments before us, I can only hope that somehow the Holy Spirit leads the way because it sure doesn't appear we mortals can find out way out off the battlefield on our own.

Peace be with you, Bishop Smith. Our prayers are with you all.

kitty said...

Bishop Smith,

Thank you for taking the time to write about your experiences at Lambeth. It means a lot to us here at home to know what is happening and how you see it.

Since so many have now heard of Archbishop Den Bul's comments to the press, is anyone speaking in the groups about how this seems to be an end-run around the spirit of collegiality and a bid for fame (or notoriety)? We keep hearing from those who refuse to acknowledge that New Hampshire chose their bishop based not on his sexuality but his spirituality and his leadership qualities which they had observed over the course of many years? Does anyone else ever get to speak and actually be heard by the nay-sayers? Is anything ever said about the Eucharist being used as a political statement or a weapon? It seems most un-Christian to me, especially given that some of the bishops have less-than-clean hands in a number of respects. But then, it is so much easier to point a finger if one forgets that three are pointing backward.

God's blessing on you and Laura and all the others who are participating in Lambeth. Thank you again for keeping us informed. And when you see Bishop Robinson, please assure him of the support of many, many Episcopalians both gay and straight. Thank you too for your support of a man who has obviously been touched by the hand of God and who preaches always, sometimes using words.

L. Ryan in Arizona