TEC BISHOP GENE ROBINSON IS NOT INVITED TO LAMBETH 2008
CANA AND AMIA BISHOPS ALSO EXCLUDED
By David W. Virtue
The non-celibate homosexual Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, V. Gene Robinson is not invited to Lambeth 2008 and neither is the recently installed U.S. Nigerian Bishop Martyn Minns of Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Bishops of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) are also not invited nor are any bishops from the Reformed Episcopal Church, even though this branch of Anglicanism has entered into a formal concordat with the Anglican Province of Nigeria. Apparently, invitations to the churches of the Porvoo Agreement will come later.
Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, said today that Bishop Martyn Minns is not receiving an invitation, not because he is not regarded as a bishop - he is - but because CANA, the body within which his ministry is being exercised, is not a recognized body of the Anglican Communion.
"The question of Bishop Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, has exercised the Archbishop's mind for quite some time. The Primates in 2003 and again 2005 recognized that the Bishop of New Hampshire had been duly elected and consecrated according to the proper procedures of The Episcopal Church (TEC) USA. However, for the Archbishop simply to give full recognition at this Conference would be to ignore the very substantial and widespread objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and his ministry," Kearon said.
"That was expressed in the Windsor Report (in paragraph 133) which urges the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise 'very considerable' caution in inviting him to the councils of the Communion. Because of that Bishop Robinson has not been issued with an invitation, but I know that the Archbishop intends to explore the possibility of inviting him as a guest to the conference."
When asked if The Rt. Rev. Charles H. (Chuck) Murphy III, a Missionary Bishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and a Bishop and Chairman of AMiA, as well his fellow AMiA bishops have been invited, James Rosenthal, Communications Director of the Anglican Consultative Council in London simply said no with no explanation. AMiA bishops are formally under the ecclesiastical authority of Rwanda Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.
From his headquarters in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Murphy issued the following response, "I believe this decision is an indication that Archbishop Williams is distancing himself from the Primates' wishes as stated in the Communique issued in Tanzania earlier this year in which the leaders identified specific conditions The Episcopal Church (TEC) must meet by September 30, 2007. The Archbishop appears to be preemptively supporting TEC regardless of their response. This issue illustrates the continued crisis of faith and leadership that exists in this Communion."
Murphy re-echoed his mission's position stating, "The Anglican Mission will maintain our consistent focus on the 130 million who have yet to respond to the Gospel of Christ and to planting churches. For seven years, God has faithfully added to our numbers on average a new church every three weeks without recognition from Lambeth. We continue with thanksgiving to receive our authority and recognition from the Province of Rwanda." "I believe this will have a significant impact on the Communion, and I anticipate that Archbishop Kolini and other Global South leaders will address this matter in a decisive way at their upcoming meetings this fall."
In a statement issued by Bishop Minns, he said, "I have read the statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury's office regarding next year's Lambeth Conference. While the immediate attention is focused on the invitation list, it should be remembered that this crisis in the Anglican Communion is not about a few individual bishops but about a worldwide Communion that is torn at its deepest level. This point was made repeatedly at the Primates' meeting in Dar es Salaam. Depending on the response of The Episcopal Church to the Primates' communique by September 30, the situation may become even more complex. One thing is clear, a great deal can and will happen before next July."
Meanwhile, according to a posting on the website Anglican Mainstream, Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, said that withholding an invitation to Minns "will be viewed as withholding invitation to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria."
He did note that "since only the first set of invitations had been sent, it is premature to conclude who will be present or absent at the conference."
Akinola also commented that his church is committed to the "Road to Lambeth" report commissioned in 2006 by the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). That report said the Anglican Communion faces "a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the 'Instruments' of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith."
In the report, the CAPA Primates also said, "we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened."
"There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity," the report said. "We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers."
Akinola's comments were not immediately available on the Church of Nigeria's website.
On hearing the news, Robinson, who was flying to the West Coast said, "It is with great disappointment that I receive word from the Archbishop of Canterbury that I will not be included in the invitation list for the Lambeth Conference, 2008. At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a '"listening process'" on the issue of homosexuality, how does it make sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from the discussion? Isn't it time that the Bishops of the Church stop talking about us and start talking with us?!"
"While I appreciate the acknowledgment that I am a duly elected and consecrated Bishop of the Church, the refusal to include me among all the other duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Church is an affront to the entire Episcopal Church. This is not about Gene Robinson, nor the Diocese of New Hampshire. It is about the American Church. It is for The Episcopal Church to respond to this divide-and-conquer challenge to our polity, and in due time, I assume we will do so. In the meantime, I will pray for Archbishop Rowan and our beloved Anglican Communion."
Susan Russell, president of the official Episcopal pansexual organization Integrity responded with outrage. "This is not only a snub of Bishop Gene Robinson but an affront to the entire U.S. Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed himself to be blackmailed by forces promoting bigotry and exclusion in the Anglican Communion. This action shows a disgraceful lack of leadership on Williams' part."
"Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can't happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst," Russell said. "Our bishops must ask themselves this question: 'Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'"
Integrity is currently contacting the leadership of the Episcopal Church and consulting with our progressive allies about this situation. An additional statement from Integrity is expected in the near future.
On hearing the news, Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, TEC Presiding Bishop, wrote to her fellow bishops saying, "I urge a calm approach to today's announcement regarding 2008 Lambeth Conference invitations, a subject on which I plan to make no formal statement at this time. It is possible that aspects of this matter may change in the next 14 months, and the House of Bishops' September meeting offers us a forum for further discussion."
NOW there are several ways in which one could view today's announcement from Lambeth Palace.
The first is outlined by Andrew Goddard, tutor in Christian Ethics at Wycliffe Hall Oxford. He says the Anglican Communion has four quadrants:
1. The incorrigible liberals who will accept nothing except complete acceptance of their position and want to expel the conservatives and seize their property.
2. The conservative liberals who accept that there is a conservative tradition in the church and respect it.
3. The liberal conservatives who are personally orthodox but who accept that there are practicing gay priests.
4. The incorrigible conservatives who are opposed to practicing gay bishops and priests holding office.
The strategy of the establishment is to exclude those on the "extreme" ends and make an alliance of the two in the "middle". This was tried at TEC's General Convention as "fudge" on the Windsor Report. It failed because, on principle, the liberals and the conservatives united in opposing this. It was also tried at General Synod when the Bishop of Liverpool presented an amendment to the motion on Civil Partnerships commending it as a balanced and sensitive response. Both liberals and conservatives united in refusing to agree with this, on principle.
The "spin" in the quadrant theory is to present the liberals and the conservatives as self-canceling and at opposite ends of a spectrum.
Another British Anglican commentator observed, "Those proposing it suggest that there are 15% at each end, and 70% in the middle. When George Washington was leading the American Revolution against Great Britain, 15% of the colonists wished to remain clearly loyal to the crown, 15% were thoroughly with Washington, and 70% just wanted to get on with farming. Who is the actual forefather on the United States - the 15%. In fact there are probably 70% who are conservative, with 15% of them prepared to be vocal on the matter. There are 30% who are liberal."
Yet another voice wrote to VOL saying it should be considered an honor to not be invited by those who only wish to hear what they want to hear. "They refuse to invite the clear majority, Africa, because the truth hurts. We should rejoice and look to the "New Canterbury" in Africa."
Another way of viewing today's announcement is that Dr. Williams wanted to get this out on the table before he meets with TEC's bishops in New Orleans later this year and before the balloon goes up on Sept. 30.
Another perspective is that Dr. Williams deliberately announced the list now (and not December 2007 as planned) in a Machiavellian move to defuse both extremes in the communion.
By refusing to seat Robinson he deflects anger from the Global South Primates who have threatened not to come if he is invited (Robinson will come and hang out with pro-gay journalists). This is a win for Williams. By not inviting bishops Minns and Murphy he defuses the anger of liberals and revisionists who would have seen that not inviting Robinson is clearly a one-sided attack on homosexuals and lesbians and the direction of Western Anglicanism.
That may back fire. Already Susan Russell, Integrity President has made a not so veiled threat calling on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference.
Ms. Russell speaks for neither the Network nor Windsor Bishops who have every intention of going to Canterbury in 2008. She does not understand the collective power of purple bishops meeting once every ten years. For many of the Episcopal Church's bishops, liberal and conservative, this is the only occasion where they can meet with their brothers from around the world. They will not pass it up.
Furthermore, if The Episcopal Church's liberal and revisionist bishops (and possibly Canadian liberal bishops in sympathy with TEC) decide not to go, it would allow a clean sweep for orthodox bishops to reaffirm Resolution 1:10 or perhaps something stronger. One doubts that they will let that happen.
If, on the other hand Akinola and the Nigerian House of Bishops decide that the non-invitation of Minns to Lambeth is a snub they cannot ignore, he and his fellow CAPA bishops might well rebuff Lambeth themselves and set up their own African Lambeth. Akinola has threatened to do that.
Russell said, "Our bishops must ask themselves this question: 'Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'"
One must view what Dr. Williams did as a brilliant move or a Machiavellian one. Time will tell. It could work, or it could back fire. We shall see.
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