Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 13--Hitting a wall?

The morning started well, but a long and difficult discussion this afternoon changed all that. The Archbishop had called for an additional (optional) meeting of those who wanted to look at some possible plans for a way forward. His question to all of us this morning was: "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." In other words, is there a "compromise solution" in which both sides are willing to give up something so that we can stay together?

Being by nature a pragmatist, I attended this session hoping to hear some concrete suggestions. But none were really forthcoming. The participants keep rehashing the same old positions--liberals stressing full inclusion now (no more moratoriums), conservatives wanting some firm definition of who is in and who is out (the Americans being out).

Two of our bishops (Reeves of Camino Reale and Rivera of Olympia) offered a great plan based on relationship rather than doctrine. They called for a "rule of life" in which we would meet more often, pray for each other, and enter into supportive missionary relationships. But both being women, their proposal did not get very far.
I liked the story they included, even though it failed to get the attention most of of the old men:

Joan Chittester, in speaking of the nature of a Rule of Life, tells the story of someone who visited a huge sheep station in South Australia. After driving the vast expanse of the ranch, the visitor asked the rancher, "I see you have herds of livestock all over your ranch, but you have no fences. How do you keep your sheep on the ranch? The rancher responded simply, "We have wells."

The moral of the story--let's concentrate on offering things that will draw people to church, instead of putting up barriers to keep us apart.

Thank God for women in the church! The women bishops and the spouses who are here understand the importance of relationship, while the men argue about words and doctrine.

But here is the good news: Everyone wants to stay together. We have a much better understanding of each others cultural contexts and there is a real affection for one another. But we seem tonight to be at a kind of an impass as to how to create a structure that will enable us to do just that.

Tomorrow we continue with talks about a possible Covenant. Will we go away with something "robust" as the ABC calls it, or will it be a "we agreed to disagree" document?

By the way, the attached picture has nothing to do with any of this, it just came out well.


It was too late for me last night to redo the text of my blog. If anyone back in the States thinks that we are on some kind of a junket here, they are mistaken. We are up at 6 AM and go until 10 or 11 at night. With the heat and humidity and lack of air conditioning, I am pretty brain dead by the time I get to sit down to do my blog, so I hope you will forgive my technological mistakes at that late hour!

[PS. Go down to "Two Moving Moments" to see a video of Laura that accidently also got left off]

Yesterday we talked a lot about the role of Scripture in the church, and my impression was that most of us are in agreement as to how to study and apply the Bible. I have found few literalists or fundamentalists in this bunch. I sometimes hear it said the our troubles as a church are not over sex but over Scripture. I don't believe that is true. What is true is that we use the same tools to approach Scripture and come away with conflicting understandings. Given our wide range of cultural backgrounds, that is not only to be expected, but is probably a good thing.

One of the insights that came out of our meetings this morning (Thursday) as we turned our attention to sexuality was that whereas inclusion of Gay and Lesbian people is an important part of mission strategy in the first world, just the opposite is true in the third world. We heard stories of how churches have grown in places because of the welcome given to homosexual people, and also stories of how the American churches actions have hindered church growth in other parts of the world.

It made me think, could we say something like
"As the Anglican Communion we affirm a committment to mission above all, and we realize that like St Paul, we need to be 'all things to all people in order that we might win some for Christ.' Might that approach allow us to move the question of sexuality away from a theological debate over who reads the Bible correctly, to a
multifacted missionary stragety where full inclusion could be accepted in one place and not in another?

The good news so far today (and I will write more about this later today) is that the mood of listening and understanding is extra-ordinary good. So far there has not been one hint of rancor or anger. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 13--Two Celebs

Dang! In trying to put two videos on this site at once, I lost my whole text! I will try to recover my musings about the role of Scripture tomorrow. In the meantime, these videos are from my time this afternoon listening to N.T. Wright, the noted New Testament scholar, and from the reception I attended this evening for P.D. James, one of my favorite novelists--she is nearly 90 and ready to come out with a new book!

Video update--where the real work takes place

I've attached a shot of my Bible study group. We meet each morning for 90 minutes, and this is where the real work takes place. We wrestle together with the issues and share each others lives over the passage of the day, all from the Gospel of John. We have a wide range of views, although our group is easy to work in because we are all English speakers. Today I gave my colleagues a copy of the American Book of Common Prayer. I had them shipped here from the States before I came. They were all very appreciative.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 12--Two Moving Moments

Much cooler weather today, after thunderstorms last night, so everyone is in a much better mood. The first moving moment came this morning as both bishops and spouses met together to do a Bible study related to the abuse of women and children in the church. It was the story of the rape of Tamar in II Samuel. The men sat on one side of the tent, the women on the other, so we could discuss it safely. We began with a very moving play about Jesus' healing of women, and then broke up into smaller groups to discuss the questions it raised. The interchanges were very intense. It was noticed that during the morning over 100 of the men left the venue, while not a single woman did. This exercised raised my consciousness on this topic and prompted me to think of more ways this topic could be covered in church, where it certainly goes on, but is almost never mentioned. The other moving moment came this evening as the Archbishop gave an stunning speech on how we could better listen to one another with generosity and "speak life to one another." I don't think the text has been posted yet, but it is certainly worth reading in full. Meanwhile, as we try to work out our disagreements, I came across a quote from another (former) Archbishop of Canterbury on the nature of Anglicanism. A generation ago Michael Ramsey wrote: "Anglicanism is not a system or a Confession but a method, a use, a direction so that its greatest credentials are its incompleteness, with tension and travail in its soul. It is clumsy and untidy; it baffles neatness and logic. For it is sent not to commend itself as the best type of Christianity, but by its very brokenness to point to the universal Church wherein all have died." Tomorrow we talk about different ways to approach Scripture...should be interesting!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 11--Hot, and bothered!

A sweltering gym was the venue for his afternoon's third hearing on the Windsor Continuation Report. The attached video was taken just before we got started. The room was packed, and Laura and I were setting next to the exit, trying to get some cool air. Note Rowan Williams sitting on the floor right in front of Laura.

If you are wondering where this group came from and what its purpose is, you are not alone. It was created by the Archbishop to advise him about the Windsor report, but it has taken on a life and authority of its own. There is only one American Bishop on the Committee, and no one in the group is supportive of Gene Robinson's position--hardly representative. Yet it seems now that this group has assumed the task of plotting the future of the Communion. You can read the whole text of their report on Episcopal Cafe or the Episcopal News Service websites, but its recommendations are briefly these, none of which I feel is helpful: 1. Enforce the moratoria against blessings of same-sex unions, partnered gay bishops, and cross border incursions. 2. Create a "Forum" which would investigate violations and recommend actions, including possible discipline. 3. Halt legal actions, placing those groups who had left their provinces "in trust" until they could be reunited with their rightful bishops.

Again, if you wonder what this all means, so do most of us. The document raises as many questions as it answers. Its pretty clear thought that its purpose is to punish the American (and Canadian) Church. What was even more disappointing than the document was the attitude of some of those at the hearing. The American Church was viewed as the cause of all the problems of the communion, and is even referred to in the document as a "dysfunctional family." I felt this afternoon that TEC had been back into a corner, which is exactly where some would like to see us.

However, the good news is that 1)These are only recommendations, the Conference is not voting or approving anything. That will come later when the Anglican Consultative Council meets in the Spring. 2) We still have a week to make our case to our colleagues, and 3)Many of them are already supportive of American position.

The question now is, can the good will that has been generated over the last week get us through the difficult discussions of the coming week? So there is hope even at the end of this rather depressing day.

We redeemed the evening by having dinner off campus with Chuck Robertson, known to many of you. He is enjoying his role as behind the scenes shuttle diplomat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 10--Sabbath Rest

Sunday was a day off. We had a late breakfast and then headed in buses to the cathedral for the 11 AM worship service. Quite a few bishops attended, but not all. The Archbishop celebrated, and the Dean preached. Before the service we had about an hour of quiet time to wander around in the crypt and in the cloisters. It was very peaceful and relaxing. After church, the Dean put on a very excellent barbecue for about 500 people on the cathedral grounds. The food was fine (I especially liked the strawberries and cream for dessert), but the weather was very hot and humid and people sought out the shady spots rather than talk with one another. We spend the afternoon walking around the town. Our first stop was to hike out from the city about 1/2 mile to the church of St Martin. This is the oldest continually used church in Britain, already in use when St Augustine of Canterbury arrived in 59 I have been here before and find its charm, size, and simplicity a welcome contrast to the splendor of the cathedral. It has been reworked many times, but in the video I point out some sections of the wall from the original church on that sight. Laura and I were joined by Marty Burnett(Nebraska) and Mark Lawrence (S.Carolina). The church warden unlocked the building for us and just before we left a group of young people were arriving for a christening. I wonder just how many baptisms have been done there in 1400 years? After a long recovery stop over at Starbucks(airconditioned!), where we read the excellent London Times interview with Gene Robinson ( RECOMMENDED!), we joined many of our bishop's class and spouses for dinner. We went to the Cafe Belge, noted for the 50 different ways they serve mussels, one of Laura's favorites. We have just now returned from a warm evening stroll around the town and are ready for bed. Given the heat, we are really glad we bought those fans in Woolworth's back in St Alban's! Since there were no business sessions today, there is not much to report as to the progress of the conference. I am feeling more optimistic that we will have some kind of a meaningful statement to make when we get done, some of my friends are feeling less so. The next couple of days will be very important. In the meantime, it was great to take a breather. >

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day Nine--Smile..and Sing!

Two major events today worth noting. First, we all got our picture taken. It required an hour to get 700 bishops on a scaffold, and standing up there in the heat was not pleasant, but fortunately we all got through it with no one passing out. Secondly, the American Church had its chance to lead worship at Evening Prayer today. The service was a lively mixture of American music, featuring the Bishops and Spouses choir. The music fit perfectly in the rival tent where we are meeting. Sadly, it was so hot this afternoon (and even hotter in a tent with no windows) that people stayed away. The mood today has been good. The indaba process, which for a while seemed in trouble, has been retuned to be more responsive to our needs, and the meetings are going better. After worship tonight, Rowan Williams commented that the planning committee had decided not to change the schedule for next week, an idea that was floating around a lot. He also indicated that there we could expect to have some kind of document at the end of our time which would be more than simply--"We met,we had a good time, we have many differences yet to be resolved." We should expect something much more substantial and "prophetic" based on the feedback we were giving to the planners. That's good news--I guess. Tomorrow is break day. The only event planned is Sunday worship. We have our choice were to attend and we are opting for the cathedral and its glorious music. The Dean is also providing lunch for those who attend. Then we will probably walk around town for a bit, if it is not too hot. Laura reports that there has been some very deep and powerful sharing in her group. Some of the spouses have suffered terribly, especially in Africa. The stories of the torture, rape, and genocide that they have endured became so intense today, that the group had to stop. It was just too much to hear at one time. It certainly puts our puny problems in perspective.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day Eight--More Chow

It was a fairly quiet day, not without several good conversations. This morning at Bible study, I got some reassurances from the members of my group that that most of them had no desire to see the American Church disciplined in some sort of a Covenant. This was welcomed news because I had been feeling a bit paranoid that this might be the case. This afternoon I also had a chance to talk with our partner bishop in Dar es Salaam, Valentine Mokiwa, now Archbishop of Tanzania. It was good to catch up with him and to clear up a few misunderstandings. This afternoon I took a break from things directly churchy and went to a presentation by the staff of the Lambeth Library. They already have over half of their extensive holdings digitalized and on line, and expect the rest to be shortly. If you are a person with an interest in church history, this is an invaluable resource. If you are a church architecture buff, you might want to take a look at their online collection of hundreds of church plans and drawings. You can find it all at This evening was a dinner (only for one hundred this time!) with the Archbishop and his wife. They have broken the conference up into sections and host a segment each working day. He did not get over to our table, but was sitting across from me (see attached video). Upon leaving they presented each guest with a commemorative plate. I suspect after all this eating that I will have to be on bread and water when I get home. Laura is still attending our late night plenary session on the environmental crisis and the church's response. We heard a great presentation by the head of the national science museum and from the "Tree Lady" of Africa (I've forgotten her name) who just won a Nobel Prize for 30 years of planting trees in Africa. Tomorrow, more meetings and our group picture!

Video catch up number 3--Lunch at Lambeth

Here we are having a very elaborate (and no doubt expensive) lunch. Seemed a bit out of place just having heard a speech about world poverty! It was very hot inside the tent, so it was not very pleasant in spite of the lavish spread.

Video catch up number 2

Here we are walking across the Westminster Bridge towards Lambeth Palace. Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas looks like he is ready to jump off!

Video catch-up number 1

I notice that there are still no photos on line yet of our visit with the Queen. In the meantime, I will post three video's from the first part of our London visit yesterday. This one shows us gathering for the MDG march in London. Note Laura in her Buckingham palace hat!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trip to London—no pictures yet

Today was the "London Day", the day we have all been waiting for, the day that has caused endless speculation among the spouses about what to wear to Buckingham Palace. Sadly, I have no pictures to share right now because all our cameras were confiscated at the Palace and we won't get them back until tomorrow.

It was a warm sunny day--too hot to be wearing a cassock, but that was required dress. We left about 7:30 AM for our first stop, the march in downtown in support of the Millenium Development Goals. Our bus was almost late because we had a minor breakdown on the way into London. Part of the bus' bumper came off and was caught in the wheel, but after about a half hour on the side of the road, we were on our way again.

The march was a bit disappointing. We had hundreds of bishops, but few spectators, even though we went through the heart of London. There were a few who clapped for us, but most looked at us with blank stares--who are these guys in purple dresses? Or with anger for holding up traffic.

We arrived at Lambeth Palace and walked the grounds for a while before hearing a stirring speech from the Prime Minister about world poverty. Then, in an ironic contrast, we were served a very elegant lunch in a huge tent set up on the grounds. I would have been happy with a sandwich and a donation to the MDG funds, but apparently there are many from third world countries who look forward to this lavish event.

It was then back in the bus to Buckingham Palace. Our buses drove right up to the main reception entrance, and we lined up to have our credential checked. We then walked through the ornate reception room out onto the lawn and gardens. The first hour was spent enjoying refreshments and admiring the gardens (remember there were 2000 people there!). Just before 4 PM, the Beefeaters cleared a path through the crowd, and right on schedule the Queen and Prince Philip appeared, she in a light spring dress (and of course hat and gloves) and he in Morning coat and top hat. Assistants pulled various people at random out of line for her or the Prince to meet. We did not get picked, but at one point were only about 8 feet away from her and had a fine view. Prince Philip stopped in front of us to ask where we were from. After about an hour of this, the Queen went in a tented area and had tea with a few select VIPS. At 5:30 it was back down the lawn and into the palace. We all left charmed but exhausted after many hours on our feet sweating through our cassocks.

So it was a day to tell our grandchildren about, but everyone is glad it over. Most everyone went to sleep on the bus on the the
2 hour trip home.

I will do my best to get some pictures up tomorrow, but I am also having some trouble with my computer (I am writing this on Laura's), so there may be a little delay.

Quote of the day--A member of the Church Commissions on spying a huge party had made out of white and black feathers on another young woman guest--"I thought killing swans was illegal in Oxfordshire."

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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day Six--Happy Bishops

Despite what you may read in the press, the mood here is good. Our indaba groups are positive with some frank and creative discussion. As Rowan Williams said, "If it is true that the Anglican Communion is coming apart, no one has told us." I sometimes get the feeling that the "crisis" we hear so much about has been manufactured by the higher-ups, and that left to our own devices, we are doing just fine. Last night we heard an excellent presentation by Brian McClaren, author of one of my favorite books, A Generous Orthodoxy. He is an expert on the "emergent church" and he exorted us to turn our attention from the internal organizational disputes outward and reach those who are unchurched with the Gospel. My sentiments exactly! Since this afternoon was not very busy, a group of us who like organ music arranged to spend time with the cathedral organist to hear about the instrument, and even to play it. I'll send a picture tomorrow. We then enjoyed a meal in Canterbury--fish and chips and (ahem) that English dessert favorite, "spotted dick." I've posted a video of some spontaneous singing that broke out during lunch at the dining hall. Does this look like a group of angry bishops? (True, they are Australians).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day Five--Getting down to it

First, an apology. I had promised some video today and I had in mind some footage of our first "indaba group." (More on that later) but I pushed the wrong button on the camera and had nothing recorded when I got back to the room, so that will have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, there should be some stock photos coming up in a few hours, so you can have a look on the photo gallery of the official web-site.

I am taking the "movie making" part of my job seriously. One of the press comments was that "many bishops are blogging from Lambeth, but only Bishop Smith from Arizona has movies!"

Two interesting things today: We had a meeting of the American Bishops in the Big Tent this afternoon and one of the topics was the status of Gene Robinson, who you know has not been invited. There is some misinformation I want to clear up: Gene was NOT excluded from the HOB meeting! He was invited to join us and accepted. The problem was that we are in conference facilities and since he has not been invited to the Conference, he was not given security clearance. Know that the American HOB is concerned about this and it is working on a way that Gene can be included. Stay tuned.

The second item is that we began those "indaba" groups I mentioned. They are intended to be intentional conversation groups modeled on a South African method of village meetings in which everyone gets a chance to speak and thus (hopefully) arrive at some consensus. Now,after our small morning Bible study group of 6 people we move into our Indaba groups. Each of these has about 30 people. During the course of those meetings we sometimes divide into smaller groups as well. The theory is good, although so far, my group has pretty much functioned like you would expect any small group to function, namely, most of the talking is done by a few people. But that may change as time goes on and we get more comfortable. The good news is that we got right into some heavy discussions about the nature of Anglican identity. The tone is respectful, although clearly there are some huge differences. At least we are talking...and listening!

I am looking forward to tonights option presentation on evangelism by Brian McClaren, one of my favorite authors on the topic of church growth and "emergent church" phenomena.

And videos tomorrow--I promise!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day Four--Sublime and ??

Today was a combination of the sublime and the, uh, well, not so sublime.

It began with a spectacular service, the likes of which I am sure I will never see again in this life. Several thousand people were packed into nearly every inch of Canterbury Cathedral for the opening Eucharist of the conference. It must have been the world's longest procession with 700 bishops,all in their red and white garb. Civic dignitaries and euchumenical representatives from around the world were also in attendance. There was a great sermon by a bishop of Sri Lanka, and of course the music was great. One highlight was the procession of the Gospel book in a canoe accompanied by Melanesian dancers.

I wish I could show you some video of this, but cameras were banned from the service, so you will have to settle for the offical photos. I urge you to see the slide show at the offical Lambeth conference site. More videos tomorrow!

After the service we bused back up the hill for a late lunch. Some of us walked back down the hill for an Integrity service that was held outdoors in a park. About 200 (including about 10 American Bishops) showed up to give support to Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew. It was very ironic that we sang a hymn in the cathedral about how the church shall be a house for ALL God's people--except of course, Gene, who is not allowed on campus.

It was then back up the hill for our first "serious" meeting of conference. It became clear to me that not everyone is feeling as optimistic as I was, and that this is going to be a lot harder than I first thought. The ABC and those working for him are strongly invested in the idea of a Covenant, which as it stands, looks to me like it could result in the expulsion of the American Church from the Communion, although I doubt this is what the ABC really wants. Anyway, I left that meeting feeling not quite so sunny as I did this morning.

Now it out for some Chinese food with some bishop friends. The food in the cafeteria is good, but we need a change!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day Three--Catching up on housekeeping

Today was not nearly as busy as the last two. We had our usual morning schedule of worship,breakfast,Bible Study, then Rowan Williams did the last segment of our retreat together, this time in the "Big Top" tent rather than the cathedral. Thus far the mood is optimistic and upbeat. Although we have not come near to discussing any of the difficult issues, a lot of relationship building has taken place. More importantly, given the tone of the ABC's reflections, it would be pretty hard for anyone to really make trouble. 80% of the bishops of the Communion are now here, although one who came from Nigeria on his own was forced to return, apparently under threat from his Archbishop. This afternoon Laura and I caught up on email and reading, as well as doing laundry and ironing my vestments for the big service tomorrow. The cathedral will be full, and with 700 bishops in rochet and chimere it should be quite a sight. I promise pictures!

Front page news

When we arrived a few days ago, Laura and I happened to be standing in the right place at the right time! It appears that we were in the right camera angle for both th BBC nightly TV report as well as the cover of the Church Times, a popular magazine here in England. The downside? Laura looks like she is the Secret Service Agent for Archbishop, and I look in need of a bathroom (which I was).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Day Two--Video!

Today was quite similar to yesterday. After morning Eucharist and breakfast, we continued with our Bible study groups. We are beginning to feel a little more comfortable with each other and opening up more. Then it was back on the bus for the second day of our retreat at the Cathedral. There is a morning and evening address by the Archbishop. I've attached a video of the beginning of the afternoon session. Each address is followed by an hour of silence, during which we wander around in the building until we find a good place to sit or pray. The day ends with a shortened form of Evensong. The cathedral choir sings, and you might imagine, the music is a real treat. The ABC's address this afternoon was the most interesting of the four we have heard so far.. He noted that we were a wounded church and that healing would come not through legalities but through fellowship. He implied that just as "a disciple without a community is no disciple", so a bishop with out a communion is no bishop. This was an impassioned plea to get on with our work of praying for and with each other. After the afternoon session, Laura and I joined Ginger and Rob O'Neill (Colorado) for a pint at the local pub before walking back up the hill for dinner. Tomorrow we continue the retreat, but this time we will be on campus.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day One

We have just finished our first long day. It began with worship together in the "Big Top" at 7:15 AM. After breakfast, we had our first small group Bible study.
There are about six in my group,from England, Australia, the West Indies, and my colleague from Hawaii. Then all the bishops got on buses and for the short trip to Canterbury Cathedral.
We sat "collegiate style" on each side of the nave, and Rowan Williams spoke to us about our ministry as bishops. Each of two meditations was followed by a time for silent reflection in the cathedral. It was closed to the public for this "retreat" so in between being prayerful and still, I wandered around and looked at the building undisturbed. The retreat lasted until about 4 when we finished with Evensong.

It was an awesome feeling to spend quiet time a few feet away from the tomb of Thomas Beckett, and in the chapel of St Anselm, a personal favorite of mine. I mediated, prayed (especially for the folks in Arizona)and read from a little book of poems of George Herbert that I picked up in a used book store in Cambridge--great devotional stuff.

Another highlight was singing together in this great cathedral space with its wonderful resonate acoustics. When 700 of us would say the Lord's Prayer in our own languages, the vast space of the cathedral would sound like the crash of the ocean or a distant thunderstorm.

Laura spend the day with the spouses. They also did Bible study together. She reports an open spirit, but folks are naturally keeping to their group of friends and common language this early one.

So far, a good time is being had by all, we can only complain about the long lines and the drizzly weather, but the accomdations and the food are both top notch.

Tomorrow it is back the Cathedral for our second day of retreat.

Pictures from Lambeth

We are just getting ready for dinner after the first full day. If you would like to look at photo scrapebook on the offical web-site, go to:

Note all of us gathered in the "big top" and also sitting in the cathedral listening to Rowan Williams.

I have put in a request that the 6 minute video that is made each day also be posted on line.

I will write later tonight with my impressions of today's work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We're here!

I missed a report from yesterday (Tuesday). It was really a day off, with a trip to London where we had lunch on a boat cruise that sailed up the Thames. It was warm and sunny and a great way to see the city. After lunch we visited an art gallery and ended up looking for the Church of St Olaf, where a literary favorite of mine, Samuel Pepys, is buried. Then it was home to St. Albans and dinner with our hosts.

Shortly after lunch today we set out from St Albans with a few of the other bishops who had been staying in the St Alban’s area. A rented van transported us all to Canterbury in about 2 hours. We arrived to a scene of some confusion. The communications officer for St Albans had arranged for a “photo-shot” with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but no one seemed to know where it was to take place or what we were supposed to do. We finally arrived at the palace next to the cathedral, and were met by the ABC. He walked us to the lawn of the cathedral where a horde of press people took our picture. Laura got a few herself for you to look at. Although there were scores of photo journalists, only one fellow from the BBC World Service seemed interested in talking to us.

We then drove up to the University of Kent, which is located on a hill overlooking the cathedral which is a couple of miles away. Although the check in procedure was well organized, a computer malfunction meant that most had to wait some time before getting their rooms. We have single rooms next to each other. They are clean and “adequate” although we overlook a fairly busy road, so the traffic noise is annoying. Before we left St Alban’s today, I went to the Woolworth’s store and bought two inexpensive electric fans which will help to create white sound, and also to give us a little ventilation. Although it is only about 70, the humidity makes it feel warm and close.

We had our first welcome by the Archbishop and instructions about the coming days in the “big top” a huge tent in the center of campus. We were also given electronic translators to use, since presentations will be given in 7 or 8 languages.

That meeting was followed by a dinner which took a long time, given the number who had to be served. The food, however, was quite good and worth the wait.

That is the news from here tonight, on the first evening of the conference.

Touching Anglican History

The Bishop touches history On Monday Laura and I joined the some of the other St Alban’s guest bishops on an excursion to Cambridge, about 90 minutes by car (at 80mph!). A lay canon of the cathedral had arranged a visit to his college (Trinity Hall) and, because is a large donor to manuscript restoration work, a behind the scenes visit to the manuscript collection of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College. This was a real highlight for me—I might even say one of the most exciting days of my life! I knew that we were going to see some important medieval manuscripts. What I did not know was that our guide was Christopher De Hamel, author of one of the definitive books on the history of the Bible. He sat us around a table in the rare book room, and brought out numerous documents related to the history of the English church. He let us not only look at them, but also touch them (this is almost unheard of!). Here is a list of just some of the items he let us handle: --Handwritten letters by Anne Bolynn, Henry VIII, Thomas Cramer, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. --The original draft version of the 39 articles with annotations by Archbishop Parker and Queen Elizabeth I. --The Gospel book given by Pope Gregory to St Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th Century when he came to England. This is a national treasure—on the order of the Declaration of Independence for us. It is the oldest non-archelogical object in Britain and is the Gospel that every Archbishop of Canterbury uses at their consecration. When it travels is does so in an armored car under guard. --An Irish Psalter similar to the Book of Kels from the 7th Century. --A political tractate owned and used by St Thomas Becket. --The bill for the execution of Thomas Cramner, what he had for lunch the day he was killed, how much for the wood cost for the fire, etc. (In the video this is what I am looking at). And many other historical items. I don’t think my collegues realized that they were being granted an opportunity that even most scholars have never had. It was truly a once in a life-time moment for me. We also visited the manuscript room of the Fitzwilliam Museum and there got to look at the recently discovered and restored Macklesfield Psalter, described as the “the most important illuminated medieval manuscript found in living memory.” It was discovered on a back shelf of a private library, bought by the Getty Museum, but the British Government prevented it being sent to the US. So today was a day of “touching Anglican history” in a way that few will ever experience. I felt very blessed. Returning to St Alban’s, the Bishop hosted our group for an outdoors cookout in his lovely garden. Today (Tuesday) is our last day before we travel to Canterbury tomorrow. We are getting ready to go to London for a boatride on the Thames, if the weather holds.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Preaching at the Cathedral

Here is the text of my Evensong sermon preached yesterday at St Alban's Cathedral. It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you this evening, and I am thankful to your Dean for asking me to preach. He has been several times to parishes that I served in the States and has preached there on several occasions, but up until now, I have never had the chance to return the favor. A word about your Dean. He and I have been friends for over thirty years. I count him not only as a wise colleague and mentor, but also as practically a member of our family. He is my son’s god-father, and he was one of the very first people to welcome me to England when I came to study here in the 1970’s. He taught me two important things about the English (even though he is a Welshman), first is that despite the stereotypes we in America might have about you and tea drinking, most of you actually much prefer to drink coffee. And if you are an English academic, you would rather drink coffee than do anything else--especially study. When we were at St. Stephen’s house together in Oxford, we spent a lot of time drinking coffee—after breakfast someone would say, come to my room for coffee, and it was the same after lunch and after dinner, come to my room for coffee. In those days it was Nescafe—I suspect it has been replaced by Starbucks. But I learned a lot about the Bible and Christian in those coffee conversations in Jeffrey’s room, as I know you have from his leadership here. In case you haven’t realized it already, you have as your dean one of the greatest theologians and preachers in the Anglican Communion. And speaking of the Anglican Communion…that’s my main reason for being here in England, to join with my Colleagues from around the world at the Lambeth Conference which begins in Canterbury on Wednesday. There will be about 800 of us present—a bunch are boycotting, and a couple were made to stand in the corner—gathered to take mutual counsel together about the problems of the communion. Now I don’t know if Jeffrey did this on purpose, or whether or not it is the luck of the draw in the English lectionary, but the Gospel reading appointed for tonight couldn’t come at a better time—it includes the story of Jesus driving the money changers from the temple. Now I doubt much cash will be exchanged at Canterbury, except perhaps in the bookstore, and it is unlikely that the Archbishop will give us all a lashing with a whip of cords—as much as he might like to, still, this passage to me reminds us that any religious institution, whether than be the temple in Jerusalem, the Diocese or local parish, yes even the Anglican Communion is continue need of reformation, of purifying, of being called back by God to the purpose for which it was founded. The medieval scholars used to say, Ecclesia semper reformanda, the church is always being reformed. In Jesus’ day the Temple worship had become big business, with a complex and expensive bureaucracy of sacrifice, it needed a through housecleaning and reminder that its purpose was to be the house of God, not a currency exchange or a shopping mall. I would suggest that in the case of the Anglican Communion we have become equally derailed by at least a decade of power politics and bickering about structures which have little relevance to the needs of our parishioners, and have for at least a decade distracted the wider church from its Gospel mission. We too are need of a reformation, of a cleansing and purification. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the issues we have dealt with are not important. As practitioners of an incarnational faith, it is right and proper for us to enter into discussions about human sexuality. As members of a body which was founded by Jesus to be radically inclusive. It is essential that we be a place which is totally welcoming and affirming to all sorts and conditions of people, especially those who have been historically excluded from society and the life of the church, women, gay and lesbian folk, children, and those marginalized because of race or class. I am very proud of what the American Episcopal Church has done to include all people. To me, our prayerfully early inclusion of women as priests and bishops, our outspoken involvement in the fight against AIDs/HIV, and our ordination of monogamous gay lesbian people as priests and bishop. All of this is mandated by our baptismal vows. To put it bluntly, if we disqualify certain groups of people from ordination, then why baptize them? For me there can be no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Where the Church needs reformation is not in the area of belief, but the way we treat each other. Our problem is not purity of doctrine but lack of Christian charity. Our divisions not only distract us from our real mission, but thy make us a laughing stock to the rest of the world. It breaks my heart to see the time and money we have wasted fighting with one another. I have watched many of my conservative friend’s leave the church because they feel there is no place for them, while many gay and lesbian people have turned their backs because we have not moved fast enough. And now in the latest development, a group of very conservative Anglicans meeting in Jerusalem last week has defacto declared itself to be a church within a church. They have separated themselves, in spite of the rhetoric to the contrary, not because of theology, but because in their eyes certain of God’s children can never be loveable to God, even though one member of the conference claimed, “just because we think gay people should be in jail doesn’t mean we are homophobic.” So what we have left this summer is the Anglican Communion, meeting in Canterbury, and the Anti-gay-lican Communion meeting in Jerusalem. The real tragedy is that while we as bishops attack each other’s orthodoxy, a hurting world goes unheeded. It seems downright demonic to me that while Africa implodes in starvation, epidemic, corruption and genocide, so many of its bishops felt that the best use of their time and money was to travel to Jerusalem to help a small group of a handful of fat cat white churches in suburban Virginia separate from the American Church. The result of the preoccupation with doctrinal purity has resulted first of all in neglect of the desperate physical and needs of the rest of the world. When former Archbishop of Ireland Robin Eames spoke on this topic a while back, he used an image that I will never forget. A starving small child sits in the middle of the world stage, holding a begging bowl. She watches as well dressed clerics cross back and forth in front of her carrying the latest proclamation, covenant, or committee report. So busy are they, that they don’t even notice her stares of supplications. After a while, the child dies, but the clerics, we Christians, keep walking. And we are not only ignoring physical needs, we are failing to meet spiritual hunger as well. I come from a country where 90% of the populations say they believe in God, but only 30% goes to church. 11,000 people a week move to the Diocese of Arizona, most of them unchurched—but who wants to join a church where its leaders lie and steal from one another, and where the air is heavy with insults when the only name we should be calling one other is brother and sister. The former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said, the church that lives for itself dies by itself, and we are very close to seeing that happen. Yes my brothers and sisters we are a temple very much in need of cleansing, and church very much in need of reformation, of confession, and renewal. And here is the good news-- that reformation is already underway — in fact one of your British journalists last week said that what is happening now in the Anglican Communion is the biggest reformation to affect it since the 16th century. Like any period of reformation, the times we face are extremely painful and confused, and yet the more we recommit to our mission and ministry, the more a new communion can emerge, one that is based on personal relationship rather than doctrinal documents. There is hope. I’ve seen that new spirit at work. I experienced it last spring when I meet informally with many African bishops in Spain. We didn’t get together to argue, but to get to know each other over prayer and bible study. What I experienced was a surprise to me. I thought I would hear criticism, what I heard was, “we don’t always agree with what you Americans may be doing, but you are part of our family of faith, we will never leave you. My other surprise was this: My brother bishops in the third world are not just recipients of my money and charity. From their experience of being faithful with little or no resources, with their daily struggle for physical and spiritual survival, they are my teachers. My wholeness, my salvation as an Anglican Christian is inextricably tied with them. Jesus’ actions in the temple of Jerusalem seem to imply that the reformation we are going through may be inevitable, not something to be avoided at all costs, but to be welcomed as a time when we can recommit to our faith and to our mission. We do that, not be winning the wars of rhetoric, but by focusing on Christ, in other words when Jesus needs to crack the whip, its best to be standing close to him. It’s not all that hard to do. Timothy Keller in his best selling book The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skeptics puts it like this: Here is the test: Which side in a church conflict is open and caring, and which side is narrow and oppressive? Which side has beliefs that lead it to treat persons in other communities with love and respect? Which side demonizes and attacks its opponents? Think of people you consider fanatical. They are overbearing, self-righteous and harsh, Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They may be fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, loving, forgiving and understanding—As Christ was. They forget that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” Next week the ongoing reformation of the church will continue, as it always has. You and I are part of it. Like it or not, Christ is continuing renewing his church, retooling us, his disciples for the new challenges the world faces. You and I are part of that reformation, that birthing of a new church and new communion. By your ministry in this place, and by the witness of your Dean, you have continued in that courage witness of your patron St Alban himself, who stood firm against the powers of the world. There will be many who are not up to this challenge, who will use their faith to buttress their own fears and prejudices, who will retreat behind walls of dogma and authority, rather than face the world with the promise of Christ that he is with us always, even to the end of the ages. And so let us hold fast to Jesus during this time of reformation. Let us recommit to the mission he has called us do, and let us never forget to treat our brothers and sisters in this great church with humility, compassion and respect. For Jesus overcame his enemies with love, and before cleansed the temple, he wept.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday church bells

On Saturday Evening, I joined with seven other bishops who be attending Lambeth at a special evensong at the St Alban’s Cathedral. There was one other American bishop, Bruce Caldwell from Wyoming, along with me. The bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, gave the sermon in which he reminded us that God used three kinds of language to speak to us: prose, poetry, and silence. We need to listen more to poetry and silence than to prose (especially in pronouncements of doctrine and theology) if we are as a church to discern the will of God for the church. There was a good congregation, with many local area clergy with us for the occasion. Afterwards, Laura and I joined our hosts for at a thirtieth birthday party for the newest member of the cathedral staff, Anna Matthews. She was very gracious is allowing us to crash her party, which was held at a local pub/restaurant. The food was excellent, I had Wild boar sausages (a first for me) washed down with a pint of the local “Black Sheep” beers. Both Laura and I were very impressed with this young woman, attractive, articulate and with two Cambridge degrees! With people like her in the leadership of the Church of England, the future looks bright. This morning we relaxed until the 11:15 AM solemn high mass. We were summoned to the abbey church by change ringing of the bells. I love this distinctly English Sunday morning sound, and I have attempted to record it bit of it here for you. It was a beautiful liturgy, simply and profoundly done, with Anna giving an excellent sermon on the cost of Christian witness. Afterwards, Grant Holmes, Jeffrey’s partner gave us a tour of the cathedral. I had a chance to pray at the shrine of St Alban, England’s first martyr. I especially remembered the two parishes in our own Diocese named after him, in Tucson and Wickenburg. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the St. Michael’s Club with the newest warden of the Cathedral. It was a perfect setting, sunny weather, a view across a very green lawn to a pond. The menu? Why roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, of course! Coming up tomorrow---the sermon at the Cathedral.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Women bishops

The English Church right now seems more interested in the topic of women bishops than it does in the upcoming Lambeth conference. There are a large number of "traditonalist" clergy threating to leave, as well as those in training--the seminary I lived in England in the 1970's, St Stephen's House, is a good example.
Yet another controversy for the CofE!

Oddly, for most the connection between gay clergy and women clergy has not been made, so that those who are accepting of women bishops are not always accepting of gay bishops.

This leads me to this picture of St Mary Magdelene taken from the St Alban's Psalter.
This work was done here at the Abbey sometime before 1123. It is one of the finest English medieval manuscripts. I realized this morning, that it was created just a few feet outside my bedroom window almost 1000 years ago! (Whenever I am in England my medievalist juices get flowing!).

The connection between this picture and the issue of women bishops is pretty clear. The early church had no trouble with women in leadership, why should we?

Tucson Star's article

Yesterday the Tucson Star ran a long article about me and my trip to Lambeth. The reporter actually got most of the quotes right! You can read it all, along with the readers comments at

This morning Laura and I took a walk through the outdoor Saturday morning market in St. Albans. There were a variety of great looking fresh foods, but we noticed the high prices for manufactured goods in the shops. Our host reports that England is beginning to feel the "credit crunch" that affects us in the US. However in St Alban's housing is hard to find and very expensive.

This afternoon about seven other visiting bishops will be here for Evensong, so I will be spending a lot of time today ironing my very wrinkled vestments.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Safe Arrival

Laura and I arrived safely in rainy ol' England about 11 AM local time this morning. We were met by a Lambeth Conference welcoming committee at Heathrow who could not believe that we did not need their services (since our friend was picking us up at the airport).
We are now in the Deanery at St Alban's Cathedral, catching up with old friends and thinking about getting something to eat for dinner. We did stop in the cathedral to listen to the girls' choir sing Evensong--lovely! We are both a bit jet-lagged, but doing fine.

More later...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

First stop--St Albans

Our first stop in England will be the town of St Albans located about 50 miles north of London. The Dean there is the Vy Rev.Jeffrey John whom I have known since I studied in Oxford back in the 1970's. Jeffrey has very graciously invited me to preach at Sunday Evensong.

St Alban's is a wonderful cathedral, much loved and supported by the local town. Over a thousand people attend on a given Sunday morning. Nothing moribund about the Church of England here!

You may remember the story of St Alban, the first English martyr who was executed in the 3rd Century on this site for giving refuge to a Christian fleeing from Roman persecution. In the middle ages, St Albans became a noted pilgrimage destination and site of a large and influencial Benedictine monastery. In the last century, some of St Alban's bones which had been scattered at the the time of the reformation in the 16th century, were rediscovered and returned to a shrine in the cathedral.

St Alban is one of the patron saints of England. We have two churches named after him in Arizona, in Tucson and in Wickenburg.

This will be a good place to begin my own Lambeth pilgrimage!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ten Days and Counting

Are you excited? That is a question I hear a lot these days. The answer is yes and no. I look forward to meeting my brothers and sisters from around the world, but I also am a bit weary of being attacked by those who might find themselves at odds with the American Church.

As for accommadations--living in a dorm room with the bathroom down the hall will no doubt take some getting used to!

This weekend Laura and I "practiced packed" and tried to get our luggage down to a minimum given the new airline weight restrictions. The biggest challenge will be finding room for the vestments I will need--purple cassock for the trip to Buckingham Palace, rochete and chimere for photo-ops and for my preaching gig at St Alban's Cathedral.

I am sure that with all our check-lists we will forget something!