Bishops blogging, July 25

Bishops are blogging again after a night of rest following a long day in London. ‘Indaba is working’ is one theme. I wonder if taking the walk/march has something to do with this? At church camp there is nothing quite like a long hike to bring the camp together. There is also the stage of community life where people begin to claim their own authority and rebel against the facilitators- often to good effect.

+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, CofE, reports that suddenly Indaba seems to be working!

Since logging my last entry at coffee time, my indaba has met and, almost eerily, exactly these concerns have been raised, shared and actioned! A comment was made that our indaba group was feeling like a study group, and our (smaller) study group like a deep and genuine indaba!… This indaba is now working on a meta as well as content level. That was quick! I’m slightly surprised, rather refreshed and greatly encouraged.

+Trevor Mwamba, Bostwana, Central Africa, was interviewed on ELO Media at the March for the Millennium Development Goals, His quote of the day on the Goals:

There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.

+David Rossdale, Grimsby, CofE, reflects what many are saying about their day in London:

The Millennium Goals are about justice and I can’t really describe how I felt to be walking alongside Bishops from places where justice is an elusive quality, where poverty is the norm and where corruption blights the lives of millions. To me this is what needs redeeming in this world and this is what God’s mission in Christ is all about – the flourishing of humanity.

Over lunch I talked with a Bishop from east Africa who told me how his mind was on his son who had been beaten up and left deaf in one ear by the police, just before he left his country to come to the Conference. It was a horrific story and as he shared it, the pertinence of what we are about was reinforced – how can anyone flourish when they are the victims of corruption and injustice.

One march does not change much, but we needed to demonstrate that we are united in the cause of justice. The flow of purple cassocks caught the attention of the press, media and passers-by enabling us to remind people that eight years ago promises were made by the rich and powerful in the world to address poverty, injustice and the chronic economic imbalance which so blights the lives of many. There is much to do to deliver on those promises and only seven years are left to do it.

+Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, TEC, could not go on the March but stayed behind in Canterbury, once again it is the young people at the Conference who provide welcome. He then went to London to have tea with those living with AIDS/HIV:

Young people, from all over the world, staffing their own version of the Stations of the Cross, implored me to come down to their witness in the crypt of the cathedral. True to my experiences with countless young people “on the Fringe” here, they shake their heads and wonder why the Church is tearing itself apart over an issue that is simply not an issue for them. Their comforting words of support mean the world to me, and in that moment, provided the REAL welcome at Canterbury Cathedral I needed.


Upon my arrival at the Methodist church where we were meeting, I was greeted with open arms by those living with HIV. Italian, French, Caribbean, Indian and British human beings infected with a disease that knows no class or nationality, and whose treatment by an inhuman prejudice breaks my heart. But this was not a time to mourn. Pots of tea on tableclothed card tables and a table of delectable pastries gave it a party atmosphere. I was supposed to judge the “best cake” contest, but there were just too many to sample them all and no way to single out the best.

I don’t know how tea with the Queen went, but I can attest that west of Buckingham Palace, there was a GREAT tea party going on! At the end, they presented me with a spectacular bouquet of flowers, wrapped in purple tissue that perfectly matched my bishop’s shirt. It was a profoundly moving experience, and one that I would not have traded for the world. The view “from the Fringe” continues to inspire, challenge, nourish and console me. (see also The Lead here.)

+Wayne Smith, Missouri, TEC, reports on the chocolate cake and on a more serious note, the meeting with Abp Deng of the Sudan – the Missouri companion in mission:

The one little detail that I will give you, from the Queen’s reception, is this. Bishops from previous Lambeths have said that the chocolate cake at the Queen’s tea was the best they had ever eaten, and it’s all true.

Today a small number of Sudanese bishops and their American colleagues sat down for a private conversation over lunch, and the words we exchanged were honest but encouraging. I was able to speak some the words I have heard from you in the Diocese of Missouri, and they were graciously received. That’s about all I want to write at this moment, but I do expect that there will be more to say in the near future.

+David Chillingworth, St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunbane, reflects on the day in London. Read it all for a sense of being there:

And we talked and made more contacts, talked and made more contacts – and it was good. We seem very open to one another – uncomplicatedly unreserved in explaining to another bishop who asks why we feel as we do and how the future looks. If that can find its way through the Indaba Groups we may have a future after all.

After lunch, having stood in line to use the Igloos, we headed off for our second palace of the day for the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. We took tea and queued up for the rather magnificent loos – and ate ice cream and listened to the bands and queued up for the loos just to see if they were as palatial as they were the first time. I flushed experimentally just to see if they would play ‘Rule Britannia’. The Queen is just amazing – she spent over an hour greeting and talking her way through the crowd before she got her cup of tea. As always I am fascinated by the power of royalty – we press forward to see but aren’t quite sure why. We watch as in a zoo, not quite sure which side of the bars of the cage we are.


(From the day before following the Archbishop of the Sudan’s statement on +Gene Robinson.) So first I went into our completely remarkable Bible Study Group and suggested that we might take the opportunity which the study of scripture offered us this morning to explore some of the issues raised. Since the study was about the woman taken in adultery and issues of judgement, it seemed completely appropriate. So we did. Bible Study in this company is like Nigel Kennedy playing Bach. It’s all in the spaces.

Then I reflect on the experience of the rest of the day. Alison and I compared notes and found that throughout the day we had been exposed to heroic stories of bishops and their spouses – completely humbling stories of commitment and sacrifice .. stories from spouses of families left behind, of careers sacrificed and of extraordinary labour on behalf of the poor and the voiceless. What is common to many of these stories is how important it is to be members of the Anglican Communion.

+Jack Iker, Fort Worth, TEC, was interviewed on his experience.

He says that he did not go to the March for the MDGs. He thinks it was of little value.

He only attends official Eucharists when they are led by Provinces who do not ordain women. On other days he goes to the Forward in Faith Eucharists. He does not attend the plenary sessions. He thinks everything is very controlled and he is frustrated at the events he does attend. Unlike others who have taken over the agenda in their Bible studies and Indaba groups, his seem to be continuing to follow directions.

He is on sabbatical and he and his wife have their grandchildren along. One day he wears clericals and on alternate days he wears civvies. Listen at the link.

+Dean Wolfe, Kansas, TEC, gives a sense of the responses to the Windsor Report and the idea of a Covenant:

In an afternoon meeting, bishops from Canada and the U.S. shared candidly their responses to the Windsor Report, and it became abundantly clear that the U.S. is not the only Province having difficulties with the Windsor process. Bishop after bishop recounted violations of jurisdictional boundaries, and it became evident that conservative or “orthodox” bishops have experienced this as frequently as “liberal” bishops.

There is a great deal of conversation about the proposed Anglican Covenant, and agreement and acknowledgement that the Anglican Communion has done very well for nearly 400 years without one. There is a desire to be able to say what we do hold in common but also a sensitivity to violating the spirit of the blessed ambiguity that characterizes Anglican theology and thought.

Lynn Alexander and Suzie Whitmore, spouses of the Atlanta, TEC, bishops. Lynn writes on her spouse group Bible study and Suzie shares a photo along with her thoughts (at The Lead eariler today) on the trip to London:

My group consists of spouses from Central America, South America and the United States. We are mostly a Spanish speaking group with a translator available. I think it is surprising to most of us, including the translator, that most of her work is from Spanish to English. I certainly did not come to England expecting to speak Spanish!! In our group we use both Spanish and English translations of scripture as well as the text of the lessons. Especially interesting to us is how the scripture has been translated into English and Spanish with different nuances and meanings. All of us have benefited from the diversity of culture and language.


+Kirk Smith, Arizona, TEC, recorded (click on his name for the link) the luncheon with these comments imagining the ABC calling Mrs. Williams:

“Hello dear, I’m having 2000 people for lunch.”


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.

+David Walker, Dudley, CofE, see the conference moving into Anglican Communion topics:

It feels like we’re now close to being ready to tackle some of the Anglican Communion agenda items directly. Whilst they are certainly not more important than what we did in London yesterday they are matters for which the conference, as one of the Instruments of Communion, has a particular responsibility and locus. We’ve built relationships and allowed divisive issues to emerge where they have come up naturally and it has been OK. I even get a sense that for some the encounters (let the lobbyists shudder) have led to bishops reflecting on and maybe revising their positions.


I’m writing somewhat earlier today in the hope of getting to sleep sooner, so I’ll blog something tomorrow about tonight’s plenary on the environment and climate change – another issue far too important to get pushed off the agenda.

Highlight of the day: Meeting Professor Grace Davie, whose work I’ve long admired and whose arguments I’ve written papers attacking. Her work in the sociology of religion has paved the way for humble empirical theologians like myself to do our work.

Lowlight of the day: writing this blog then the program crashing before I’d saved it, so I’ve had to type it all in again. But, dear reader, you’re worth it!


+John Howe, Central Florida, TEC, reports on the March:

Thursday was, as expected, a very long day (and a significant “break” in our routine). I think it was quite a good day, the highlight (for me, at least) being the “rally” on the front lawn of Lambeth Palace. Archbishop Williams was at his most eloquent, but the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was even more so, in his passionate call for the governments of the world – but even more so for the Christians of the world to pressure their governments – to recommit to the Millennium Development Goals, and make them a reality.

+Catherine Roskam, Suffragan, New York, TEC, some comments:

We in the Episcopal Church have always said that we do not demand agreement with our positions in order to be in relationship. Now is the time to live into that commitment. The Archbishop of the Sudan was signalling to the rest of Africa, and I imagine particularly to the bishops of GAFCON who have stayed away from this conference, that he and the Sudanese are not being “bought” by the Americans. They do not agree with our actions, just as our other partners in Africa do not necessarily agree with us. And still they are choosing to be in relationship with us.


… I confess to you that I almost lost my temper in our Indaba session this morning when one bishop said he thought that our focus on the MDG’s was a distraction from the issue of human sexuality. I responded, trying to remain as civil as possible, that no matter what we might choose to discuss, the world’s suffering is not a distraction for a gathering of bishops from around a Communion riddled by poverty, violence and catastrophe.

I have never heard a bishop from the developing world call the MDG’s a distraction. For those of us in the developed world, suffering seems to us an abberration from a life intended to be free of it. Hence, we often ask “Why me?” when we experience the inevitable sufferings attached to being human…..


… as Gordon Brown said yesterday, people of faith can make a difference. The Anglican Communion does make a difference. Let us not spend time worrying about who is the wheat and who is the tare, but simply grow together in God’s garden, trusting in the abundance of God’s grace to get us through.

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