LAMBETH: David's Diary - From My Ear to Yours (3)
By David W. Virtue
We are close to the end. Everyone is getting a bit squirrelly and tired. News writing has been constant and relentless. Despite the inaccessibility of bishops, we can buttonhole them as they walk to various events. But once they pass through the wired off fences and into their Indaba groups and plenary sessions, it is hands off. One of the few exceptions has been Archbishop Deng who stormed into the Press/Media room and spoke openly about homosexuality as a communion breaking issue.
A second occasion occurred today when orthodox Episcopal Bishop Peter Beckwith (Springfield) gave an impromptu press conference in front of Darwin House telling us what it is like being a token orthodox bishop in the TEC's HOB and to answer questions about is going on inside. His story can be viewed at VOL's website. http://tinyurl.com/6eyzjw
The whole gay and lesbian presence here is overwhelming and relentless. When you go into the Marketplace, the first booth to hit you as you go through the front door is "Lesbian and Gay Christian and Our Friends". (Who set that up?) Cheery young people dressed in yellow tee shirts hand out literature to all and sundry. From there the push is on. In all, there are five sodomite booths ranging from Integrity, Inclusive Church, Affirming Catholicism (pro gay), Changing Attitude to Sybils (a transgender presence). A Massachusetts priest who had a sex change operation (he now sports a beard) is eager to tell his story. And then there's the Rev. Dr. Christina Beardsley, now a woman who was a man, who functions as a hospital chaplain in the UK. Gay and lesbian literature is everywhere, but most of it seems unread. Last night there was an evening with somebody called Peterson Toscano who has written a play, "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House" in which he tells the story of how he survived the 'ex-gay' movement.
Speaking of ex-gay or post-gay, the Zacchaeus Fellowship is here bearing witness to the transforming power of Christ's love in our lives. "As men and women who have struggled with same-sex attractions, we seek to be a voice of hope to the church and to others who share these struggles. We encourage the Church to stand firm in proclaiming to everyone who experiences same-sex attractions that Christ offers them new life and hope." Not with this crowd. Inclusion means never having to repent or change your life.
Revulsion is everywhere. The Africans find all this public display of homosexual behavior repulsive and in-your-face. They are polite here, except for occasional eruptions in Indaba groups. When they go back to their countries, I have no doubt they will have second thoughts about what they saw and heard. Africans react slowly, but when they do, it will be final and possibly fatal to the long- term future of the Communion.
The spin is endless. Consider the quote of the day from Catherine Roskam, Bishop Suffragan of New York printed in "The Lambeth Witness", a gay/lesbian daily publication put out here in Canterbury. "We have 700 men here. Do you think any of them beat their wives? Chances are they do. The most devout Christians beat their wives...many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife. In that regard, it makes the conversation quite difficult." You can read Martin Beckford's excellent piece on Roskam's stupid, condescending, post- colonial attitude which episcopal bishops continually display while pretending to be inclusive. http://tinyurl.com/5suz36
Throw in the time worn polygamy argument, raised by the Bishop of Europe Pierre Whalon about African bishops, and you get the idea. The sub-text is always the same, how to broker in homosexuality and make it acceptable to the Anglican masses. Well, it won't fly. These liberal and revisionist bishops will say and do almost anything to justify homosexuality as good and right in the eyes of God. When desperation really sets in, the revisionists drag out the "chicken dinner" line from Lambeth 1998. You will recall that some conservative American bishops and priests were accused of providing chicken dinners in order to bribe them for their votes. This was a huge lie. The weekend in question, American bishops made off to France to wine and dine leaving the African bishops literally without food as the university was closed. Had American Evangelicals not fed them, they would have gone hungry.
Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe doesn't seem afraid to speak his mind. He noted on the Lambeth Walk, "If you have seen pictures of that event, you may have noticed an oddity: hanging on the twin pillars outside the entrance to the Palace were banners enunciating two of the three phrases from the day's text, Micah 6:8. One read "Do Justice," the other "Love Mercy." Missing altogether was third piece of the command: "Walk Humbly With Your God." Howe was clearly impressed with Gordon Brown the Prime Minister whom Howe said he could not recall hearing an elected official, serving in anywhere the capacity of a Prime Minister of England; speak so openly about his/her personal faith in Christ and its implications for service. "Today the "revolt" I have been predicting began to surface. It is a very mild one, indeed, but a growing frustration is being expressed in many of the "Indaba" groups about what one senior Bishop called the "jejune" conversations taking place, to the neglect of the truly deep concerns that most people want to talk about. It is also a concern about "process" - breaking into small groups to discuss every specific may provide for "every voice being heard," but the fact is, not every one wishes to speak to every specific issue."
Then there was the typo faux pas in "The Guardian" newspaper which said that Gene Robinson, the ever popular Bishop of New Hampshire, observes that every trip to a British PUBIC house as an ode to the saying "two nations separated by a common language." Truth is clearly no stranger to typos. The writer was truer than anyone could have possibly thought or imagined.
There was a TEC press conference with Bishops Henry Parsley and Deena Harrison who talked about how discussion on "abuse of power" went. Very little of note, except Harrison said, "The word of hope [for gays and lesbians] is that we are still committed to a community in which everyone can find a place."
And then there was a book in the exhibit hall with the title, "The Christian Handbook of Abuse, Addiction, and Difficult Behavior" with not a mention of The Episcopal Church as a dysfunctional, abusing family.
Ft. Worth Bishop Jack Iker had some choice words to say about the 3rd Windsor Continuation Group Report. In an interview, he said that a number of TEC bishops who spoke at the hearing were quite distraught over the recommendations of the report. California Bishop Marc Andrus stood and said something like "I'm not going to lie to you; we have numerous same-sex blessings occurring in my diocese all the time, and have for years." Bishop Chane stood and commented that he had about 30 same-sex-partnered clergy in his diocese.
"While one can give both bishops points for honesty, they look less stellar when one considers their admissions (and much other evidence) alongside the pledge that TEC bishops made last September. Will Dr. Williams finally acknowledge that the word of TEC bishops cannot be trusted - even if the WCG recommendations were to go forward?" A friend wrote: "This is hardly the first evidence of lying on the part of TEC bishops to Rowan and to the Windsor people and to anyone else involved with potentially disciplining them. I wonder if Rowan will now have to acknowledge the obvious. TEC bishops lied. Katharine Jefferts Schori lied. They can't be trusted. I doubt he can muster the courage to do that. The reputation of Lambeth has sunk even lower, if that's possible."
At the Inclusive Church event this afternoon, Davis Mac Ayalla addressed the media present, saying that recent publications by the conservative Anglican media are potentially harmful to gay and lesbian Africans. Really. He didn't share the lies he told in Nigeria, before he escaped to get asylum in the UK, about how he was allegedly assaulted by GAFCON (Nigerian) bishops. It was such a huge lie that Colin Coward, his sodomite Changing Attitude champion, had to finally back down and admit that it was not true. Does one think for a single moment that evangelical Nigerian bishops, who are busy evangelizing and bringing millions to Christ, are even remotely interested in Ayalla and what he does, where he lives and would send someone after him! He thinks too much of himself to think they are even remotely interested him. Ayalla has used his public pain and notoriety to get everything he wants, including asylum. You can read an alternative opinion on Ayalla here. http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=8749
A "conversation" session with Gene Robinson was by invitation only for Bishops and Spouses. my trusty sidekick Hans Zeiger, who is writing brilliantly here, was told. He tried to get into an open conversation meeting to hear Robinson. He was told "no." One wonders what the bishop is going to say that would possibly exclude the media. Is there something new about homoerotic behavior that we don't already know? The whine is endless.
And then there's this choice morsel from "Guardian" writer Riazat Butt about Lambeth bishops looking for a pint. Gene Robinson, the bishop of New Hampshire, is not the only prelate sampling the delights of Kent's public houses. A source close to Lambeth - a cab driver who has been shuttling purple people around - informs the "Guardian" that delegates are keen to have a pint at The Bishops Finger, a historic 16th century public house in the heart of Canterbury, and to have their photo taken outside the watering hole. The Bishops Finger is where the Canterbury Ghost Tour ends and the final tale of the Black Cat of St Dunstans is told. It also used to be Canterbury's most popular gay pub. Another cab driver remembers the crazy antics from Lambeth 1998, when bishops enjoyed a hot and cold running buffet, normally held on the final weekend to celebrate the end of the conference. "There was lots of holy water," he says. Disaster struck when, during the festivities, there was an accident involving an archbishop, a barbecue skewer and an open-toed sandal. The cabbie, who is also a trained paramedic, was called to the Kent campus to administer first aid to the injured primate.
Considering the theme "Equal in God's sight: when power is abused," a session, which was closed to the public, saw a dramatization by the Riding Lights Theatre Company of Jesus' attitude toward women, Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, principal of the College of St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, told a media briefing. The drama "saw people in tears," she said. The group then heard a dramatic reading of 2 Samuel 13:1-22, in which one of David's sons, Amnon, rapes his sister, Tamar. The passage "opened up major questions of how men behave, how women behave," said Te Paa. The audience was divided along gender lines and reorganized into small groups so both men and women could speak freely.
No word on the abuse of power by Episcopal Church leaders towards the diminishing Anglo-Catholics in TEC and those evangelicals who cannot get DEPO and would like to leave TEC with the properties their parishioners built and paid for. Mrs. Jefferts Schori could write a whole book, along with her attorney David Booth Beers, on the abuse of power: Chapter 1: Diocese of Virginia; Chapter 2: Diocese of San Diego; Chapter 3: Diocese of Los Angeles; Chapter 4: Diocese of California; Chapter 5: Diocese of Nthn. California; Chapter 6: Diocese of San Joaquin; Chapter 7: Diocese of Pittsburgh; Chapter 8: How I Plan to Ruin Bishop Bob Duncan's life...permanently. Chapter 9: The thrill I Got Deposing Aging, Retired Bishops. To be continued.
The Episcopal News Service is churning out the news in impressive quantities. Oddly enough, none of it is controversial. It's as though the whole controversy about homosexuality that is simmering just beneath the surface and which occasionally erupts in Indaba groups is not newsworthy!
Rowan Williams spoke to the bishops at Lambeth yesterday and had this to say. "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?'"
There are some problems with this "Covenant" talk statement. First of all, there will be no covenant that all will sign off on. Whatever is cooked up here will be so weak as to offend no one, in which case it isn't worth the paper it is printed on. As far as "growing towards each other" is concerned, it is a fiction in The Episcopal Church. The orthodox and revisionists are further apart than ever and at one another's throats. It is going to get a whole lot worse with more fleeing dioceses, more depositions and with millions of dollars more spent on lawsuits. "Generous initiative" is called who wins the lawsuit and who takes home the jackpot.
Had drinks with the Communications Director for the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. The Rev. Arun Arora came into the media office and asked to see me. He turned out to be a thoroughly agreeable, born again (he was a Baptist) Christian before he became an Anglican. Raised in a Sikh/Hindu household, he became a Christian at an early age. He later studied law and got drawn into the ministry in quite a remarkable way. He is married to a curate and sees his future doing inner-city ministry!
Durham Bishop Tom Wright is backing himself into a corner. The open evangelical gave a Q & A to "Christian Today" and said this:
CT: Even some of the ecumenical partners here have admitted that if they were in the Archbishop of Canterbury's shoes, they also wouldn't know what to do. How do you deal with the polar opposites in the Communion?
TW: Well, there are some polar opposites, but there are also lots of people in the shades of grey in between who are genuinely trying to listen to each other and it is frustrating because we would have thought they could have been listening for the last five years but in some cases they just seem genuinely not to have been able to do that, and if this Lambeth Conference helps people who thought they were in these polar opposite camps to listen to each other and see there are ways forward...
There are no ways forward taking the two polar opposites with us, but it isn't a case of 'either you are all the way there' or 'you are all the way here'. Nor is it a soggy, fuzzy compromise in the middle. There are some definite things that have to be said and done and the Archbishop has said Windsor and the Covenant are the way to go and that's why he's invited us to Lambeth, to help him take that path.
If we follow that through, we will find a way of keeping the great majority of the Communion on board and raising a standard to say to those who don't want to go there, look, this is actually where the rest of us are, please can't you see your way to join us. We don't want to lose people. We are not in the business of getting a big stick or whatever. We are saying this is authentic Anglicanism and we do hope you will see that with us.
The only problem with this scenario is that we already have a de facto split with GAFCON speaking for 75% of the Anglican Communion! (40 out of 55 million) If this Lambeth (Network) Conference fails to come up with anything substantive, then Wright will have mud all over his face and may be forced to either join GAFCON or the liberals...a humbling experience indeed.
Walter Cardinal Kasper addressed the Lambeth Conference bishops today. VOL was favored with a translation from the Italian by Andrea Galli of the National Catholic Daily in Italy. In the press room, he told me that Kasper was deeply concerned that dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church was seriously compromised over women's ordination and homosexuality.
"The ordination of women to the episcopate blocks substantial and definite recognition of Anglican orders with the Catholic Church. We want to go on the dialogue in a theological way but this development of this situation changes directly our purpose. It changes the level of what we are aiming for. Our dialogue will be less definitive and the character of the dialogue will be changed. It won't be sustained by the dynamic that derives from the realistic possibility for the unity which Christ wants to ask from us."
About homosexuality, Kasper quoted the catechism from the Roman Catholic Church. "We are convinced of the fact that this teaching is founded in the Old and New Testament and the fidelity to Scripture and to Apostolic tradition is absolute." Kasper cited ARCIC documents called Life in Christ. "Homosexuality is a disordered behavior. The (homosexual) activity must be condemned;, the traditional approach to homosexuality is comprehensive. A clear declaration about this theme must come from the Anglican Communion. It would give us more possibilities to offer a common witness about human sexuality and marriage and to be a witness in this painful world in which we live."
IN THEIR DREAMS. The Episcopal Church said they are going to bring out a joint memo with the Sudanese in an effort to find "reconciliation" on homosexuality. Not a chance. The Sudanese scotched the idea after their archbishop came out declaratively against the behavior. The Episcopal Church, looking for middle ground, will apparently find none.
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