LAMBETH: David's Diary - From My Ear to Yours
By David W. Virtue in Canterbury
July 20, 2008
In terms of the Lambeth program, Friday was much the same as Thursday. Worship and Bible Study followed by addresses in the Cathedral. People have begun to settle in. The small groups have met twice and more information is coming to light. Expectations are also beginning to mount. One bishop remarked to the effect: we have come all this way, leaving behind important work. We must be open about the issues here and we must deal with them.
Attention is beginning to focus on the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at the opening service on Sunday. We are told there is no advance text. The development of the conference will have impact on how people view the retreat. Has the welcome time for prayer, worship, bible study and addresses been a softening up process for a presentation that would be very difficult to counter?
In- house media are trying to put as much spin as they can on who is and is not here. If there is even one representative from an African province, they herald it as a victory. One Kenyan and suddenly the whole of Kenya is here. "Nigerian bishop flees!" screamed a headline in the "London Times". It was reported that the only Nigerian bishop to register for Lambeth, Cyril Okorocha, Bishop of Owerri, has fled Britain and gone back home for fear of 'reprisals', acording to a "Times" source. Not true. He never registered at all. He never even made it to Canterbury. He attended his son's graduation in Manchester, the ostensible reason for his being in the country in the first place.He also attended a few local events in the parish of Oxshott in Surrey, which was hosting him. The Archbishop of Nigeria has made it abundantly clear that Lambeth is off limits and that anyone attending from Nigeria would be subject to discipline. Okorocha has no love of Lambeth or the Anglican Communion Office. He is an evangelical who had the pain of working for John Peterson in the ACC and was in charge of evangelism when Peterson was running the Anglican Communion office. Peterson fired him so he went back to Nigeria where they made him a bishop.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has threatened to impose "serious sanctions" on any Nigerian bishop who attends the forthcoming Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. Mr. Abraham Yisa, Registrar of the church, issued the warning which was posted on the front page of the Church of Nigeria's website. Attendance would be contrary to the Nigerian House of Bishops. None have shown up.
Nigerian bishops led by the Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said they were boycotting Lambeth because of the invitation of pro-homosexual bishops to the conference. Among other reasons, the bishops also decided to stay away from the conference, because of the exclusion of Rt. Revd. Martyn Minns, an American, who was consecrated as a bishop by the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
WHAT is clear now is that the Lambeth Conference is just one of several networks in the Anglican Communion which could include GAFCON and Common Cause Partnership. These 600 bishops represent only 15 million Anglicans, while the 303 GAFCON bishops represented 40 million church-going Anglicans around the globe. I wrote a story documenting who is not here which you can read here. http://tinyurl.com/5hokxg
Here at Lambeth, there are multiple Eucharists being held in different parts of the city of Canterbury where participants feel more comfortable than they would at the main event. This is not a united Lambeth, despite the public pretense that it is.
The Lambeth Conference is in financial trouble. VOL ran a story saying so. We have unconfirmed reports since then that the Conference is over $2 million in debt with no angel in sight. The only country capable of pulling it out of the sink hole is, of course, the American Episcopal Church. Trinity Wall Street could write out a check and all would be well. Will they do so? Of course, Mrs. Jefferts Schori now has some leverage for her favorite bishop, Gene Robinson. Could she ride to the rescue, and in exchange for a large check, get Robinson into the Big Tent?
Behind the scenes, VOL has learned that Mrs. Jefferts Schori has approached the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to put pressure on Africans and others to stop sending bishops to the U.S. Overlapping jurisdictions is bothering the Presiding Bishop no end and she wants Rowan to do something about it.
He can't, of course. He can only make a lot of noise and hope for the best. He is not the pope. He can plead for bishops, but he can't actually stop it. He has no power to do so. This apparently is angering The US Presiding Bishop.
At GAFCON, Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables told VOL he won't stop ordaining priests nor will he stop taking over North American dioceses that ask for sanctuary, either. The stalemate continues.
Bishops and their spouses (we don't call them wives) are unable to sleep together. The rooms are too small at the University of Kent, so it is separate bedrooms for the next 20 days. This might be the longest running story about enforced celibacy in modern ecclesiastical history. Who knows, it might be just enough pressure to help them come to a decision about sodomy.
Officials of the Lambeth Conference recently disclosed that 230 of the 880 bishops in the worldwide Communion were staying away from the Lambeth Conference. The entire Anglican provinces of Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria and at least four bishops from the Church of England are boycotting the event. There is a token Kenyan, which the Lambeth conference is trumpeting as a victory for their side. But it's nonsense of course. One bishop out of 34 means only that the Kenyans want a first-hand account of what is happening here, and not the spin from the left. Makes sense to me.
A VOL reader went to Salisbury Cathedral to hear the Primate of TEC, Katharine Jefferts Schori field a forum on the issue of ordaining homosexual bishops. To justify their practicing sodomy, she used the passed-its-sell-by date mantra of "science has shown that homosexuality is as genetic as left handedness and red headedness." And she claims to be a marine biologist! Even Peter Tatchell rejects this pretext.
"The session commenced with Jefferts Schori talking with her usually heavy and seductive drawl, about the word "conversation" and its Latin root (to give gravity to what we were about to listen). She then guided us to the conversations that took place in the Garden of Eden and between Christ and his father at the time of his baptism: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." She then asked us all to close our eyes and meditate on how God "is well pleased with us." Following this getting in touch with our inner selves, she then went round the assembled devotees asking them how they felt. By this time my frustration had become unbearable. I raised my hand and asked permission to ask a question, which seemed momentarily to break the spell.
"Talking of conversations I reminded her of the promises she had made in Dar el Salaam not to confiscate the church properties of those ECUSA congregations who realigned with African bishops and how she had reneged on this promise. For example, in the case of the Falls Church, Virginia (George Washington was on its building committee, decades before the diocese existed) who had made an agreement with their bishop, Peter Lee, in exchange for a substantial sum of money, to realign to the Province of Nigeria, she acting beyond her authority, had overturned this protocol, suing the congregation for trespassing on their own property. Was this the kind of conversation she was going advocate in Britain for those congregations wanting to take refuge with GAFCON?
"She gave a rational explanation as to why those churches and their assets should be repossessed (and I suppose left empty, to be sold as Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets and carpet warehouses). This explanation was warmly received by the assembled grey, silver-haired and bald worshippers and I briefly wondered how the bishops and medieval knights lying in their tombs, just a few feet away, would view Salisbury Cathedral being turned into a Mosque?
"There was one other person, a clergyman who challenged her on her assertion that there are many routes to God, in spite of clearly biblical passages to the contrary. Again, we had the extraordinary flim flam, with references to the Christ like Dalai Lama and again with the enthusiastic applause from the damned."
SUDAN and SODOMY. The Episcopal Church is doing its best to shore up as much support as it can from Africa. To that end it has been squiring around (and paying for) the Sudanese delegation in the hope of obtaining a bigger and better foothold in that country and on the African continent. Word has it that when they were sent to Wales, before the opening of Lambeth, the bishops were put up in the private homes of homosexuals. A number went with Mrs. Jefferets Schori to Salisbury.
BUT their strategy has apparently failed. VOL has learned that tomorrow (Monday) the Sudanese will issue a statement at Lambeth publicly condemning homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture and communion breaking. Score one for the Global South. The liberals should be careful how they go here at Lambeth. The one sleeper group that no one has talked about is the CAPA (African) bishops. Even though Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are not represented here, there is a sizeable contingent of orthodox Africans. If they feel manipulated or pushed, then watch out, they might just have a word or two to say to Rowan and the much bally-hoed Indaba enterprise might just fall apart.
Physical set up at Lambeth. Yes, there is an 8-10 foot fence around the Big Tent that is guarded by university guards and local police. Press can only get into the Marquee by written invitation which is rare. I got my first glimpse inside the Big Tent at an ecumenical worship. I was surprised to see how sparse it was of Christian symbols. The only thing that gave it any appearance of being Christian was a photo reproduction of a large cross (no one knew which tradition it is from, but probably Celtic) thrown up on a screen behind the podium. By contrast, GAFCON had a large visible cross, despite orthodox Jewish opposition. No such opposition exists here.
So, there are no crosses and no visible Eucharistic symbols. Switch off the lighted cross screen and it could be a Kiwanis Club social gathering with some people wearing funny hats!
The first major Eucharist was held at Canterbury Cathedral, today. Your scribe found himself among 20 or so journalists with a ticket to the inner sanctum. It was a colorful affair complete with Melanesian drums and dancers, a typical English Boys Choir and a solemn procession of bishops looking terribly self-important.
The first hymn set the tone for the 3-hour long event. Here are some choice verses:
We sing a love that sets all people free,
That blows like wind, that burns like scorching flame,
Enfolds like earth, springs up like water clear;
Come, living love, live in our hearts today.
Does sentimental twaddle come to mind? Or perhaps, a Naturist Beach in the Caribbean? No God, Christ or Holy Spirit. It gets better (or maybe worse).
We sing a love that seeks another's good
That longs to serve and not to count the cost.
A love that, yielding, finds itself made new:
Come, caring love, live in our hearts today.
Or this verse:
We sing a love, that, wandering, will not rest
Until it finds its way, its home, its source,
Through joy and sadness pressing on refreshed:
Come, pilgrim love, live in our hearts today.
Listen, any Hindu or Unitarian could sing this rubbish. There were no great hymns of the church, No "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," or "The Church's One Foundation", God forbid.
It was pretty well downhill from there, with the preacher doing a Buddhist chant as a bridge from his dreadful sermon into the Eucharist. No, I did not partake of the Eucharist, I wasn't sure that what I was experiencing had much to do with the Christian Faith! I sat next to the Muslim reporter for The Guardian and she didn't think too highly of the whole event either. Can't blame her really.
On a positive note, we concluded the service by singing, "O FOR a thousand tongues to sing..." a glorious moment indeed.
Popped in for drinks at the Roman Catholic Chaplaincy, part of the University of Kent and talked with a group of Forward in Faith bishops and clergy. They are still pretty raw about the huge voting loss on Women Bishops at the last synod and expressed themselves pretty volubly about it. There are several strategies being considered, but one they said I could run with is to put financial pressure on the various dioceses which are most opposed to their position on women's ordination.
The first diocese they plan to hit is the Diocese of Southwark, the ecclesiastical home of the Left Rev. Tom Butler. T'was he who found himself sitting in the back of a Volvo drunk as a skunk, but managed to talk his way out of being disciplined. This is the same bishop who has a reputation for coming down hard on drunken priests in his diocese. Well, some 16 Anglo-Catholic and two large evangelical parishes plan to withhold several hundred thousand pounds (double that for dollars) from diocesan coffers and force the diocese into bankruptcy. The Anglo-Catholics finally realize they have their backs to the wall and are not going down without a fight. Not all of their priests are planning to flee to Rome. Those staying are planning a blitzkrieg of their own. Withholding money is only the beginning of their retribution. The games have only just begun. Other dioceses will be punished similarly they say.
In the upcoming Indaba groups VOL has learned that a Rwandan bishop at Lambeth is attending the same small group as Michael Ingham the revisionist Bishop of New Westminster. A Kenyan Bishop Eliud Wabukala, Bishop of Bungoma, is leading this small group. Oh to be a fly on the wall.
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