LAMBETH: American Bishops Furious Over Robinson Exclusion from Lambeth Conference
Central Florida Bishop Blasts Indaba Groups as "asinine"
By David W. Virtue
There is a growing concerted effort by American bishops to find a way to bring Gene Robinson, the homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire, into the Big Tent. America's liberal bishops are furious at the exclusion of Robinson from the Lambeth Conference. On the first full day of the Lambeth Conference, they spent most of their time trying to figure out how to get Robinson in the door.
An Arizona bishop wrote at his blog, "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."
Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe noted that there was talk of possibly organizing another meeting of the American Bishops offsite somewhere so Robinson can be part of it.
The exclusion of Robinson weighs heavily on the American bishops, several of whom are now beginning to question if the cost of Lambeth (nearly $12 million) is worth it when one of their duly elected own is excluded.
Robinson, who is on the Kent University campus, is walking around with a body guard and a press officer to sign him up to speak wherever he can. Robinson is the darling of the liberal media who report his every word and move.
On his blog, Howe was especially critical of the Indaba process calling it "asinine."
"Why combine five Bible Study groups, if you are then going to sub-divide them into four groups? Secondly, what is the point of this discussion of a document we are seeing for the first time? It seemed more appropriate to a junior high Confirmation Class than to a world-wide gathering of Anglican Bishops. And thirdly, why in the world where we having these conversations in the same room at the same time? (At a cost of approximately $8 million just for the Bishops' part of the Conference!)"
Howe described the first days as "less than auspicious".
"We went to the first Indaba meeting, in which the members of five Bible Study groups came together in a large room. Our group had 43 or 44 members. During the first session, about fifteen people introduced themselves and their Dioceses: the non-English speaking Bishops (through interpreters), and the Ecumenical guests, as well as three or four other Bishops. The only American included in that introduction was Jon Bruno from Los Angeles, who spoke glowingly of his being a "totally inclusive" Diocese that has approximately a 20% membership of gay and lesbian people, and in a state that has opened the door to same-sex marriages, "that we are trying to come to grips with."
Howe said they were then asked to answer three questions: 1) what major thought or insight did you come away with from the retreat ? 2) How does your Diocese see itself? 3) What does being an Anglican Bishop mean to you? (They were looking for "convergences" here. What we came up with was: "The Bishop is a leader in mission." Pretty profound, huh?)
"In the afternoon session we were given a two page paper entitled "The Anglican Way: Signposts on a common Journey" (produced by the Anglican Way Consultation meeting in Singapore in 2007), that suggests the Anglican Way is: "Formed by Scripture; Shaped through Worship; Ordered for Communion; and Directed by God's Mission."
"During the break, a picture of each of these signposts had been taped up, one on each of the four walls. We were asked to gather around each of the four pictures in succession, while someone read that section of the paper to us. Then we were asked to "self select" and divide into four groups, each to discuss one of the four sections/Signposts.
"My group had thirteen in it, seven of whom spoke. It was difficult to hear because there were three other conversations going on in the same room simultaneously. The statement itself wasn't bad. If you care to read it you will find it at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/theological/signposts/english.cfm "
Howe said he was hopeful that things might improve. "I remind myself of the Archbishop's comments that, 'A failure in leadership is a failure to hope in Christ'."
Howe described an hour long gathering of the American Bishops in mid-afternoon as "disappointing".
"Presiding Bishop Schori called us together to just to check in with each other and share any concerns. Fully two-thirds of our time was spent discussing Gene Robinson's sadness - and the injustice! - over his not being allowed to be part even of this meeting of "his own House."
The Rt. Rev Stephen Lane Bishop, Coadjutor of Rhode Island said, on a video at his blog, the Indaba process was experiencing "normal growing pains", adding that "we (the HoB) are concerned about the process and some of us won't get to say what we want to say, and some of us are worried that the leadership is trying to manipulate us."
Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith told VOL that the Episcopal Church by its actions is undermining the Archbishop of Canterbury's authority. "The American Church has no integrity. The meeting yesterday was a disaster."
Beckwith asked, "Why do TEC's public affirmations treat so badly those whom we are supposed to get along with? We are arrogant. We pursue our agenda at the expense of everyone else including unity in the communion."
Quincy Bishop Keith Ackerman said the arrogance of the Episcopal Church is so self-evident that they are saying, "We are the Anglican Communion. We are a Communion in our own right. They don't want what we stand for, anyway."
Ackerman described his experience in the Indaba group as good. "We were led by a Sudanese Bishop who was very fair and made sure the orthodox voice got heard. The Global South, the CAPA bishops are united in their stand for the gospel."
Ackerman said that his ecclesiology demands that he stay with the See of Canterbury, but described those relations as "impaired." Conference organizers have responded to objectors by making it clear that this is NOT a meeting of the House of Bishops; it is a gathering of American Bishops at a meeting of the Lambeth Conference, and only those invited to the Conference can be part of the gathering.
There is "a palpable sense of uncertainty about where it is all going" and "a lack of trust under the surface", the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Dromore Right Rev. Harold Miller said about the Lambeth Conference. He also warned that "if there is not a proper place for debate, then that will be exceptionally dangerous for the Anglican Communion".
The Archbishop of Canterbury has the right to include or exclude whom he wishes. However, the exclusion of Robinson might, at the end of the day, prove too much for Mrs. Jefferts Schori and TEC's mostly liberal House of Bishops. The deepening divide might, in the end, prove fatal to the Anglican Communion and Dr. Williams' hopes for unity washed down the Thames.
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