Bishops blogging, July 27

The bishops’ schedule is lighter today. Some are catching up with their blogs and many are reflecting on the experiences of the past week and their hopes for this week. Some have made connections they believe will grow in the future. Click on the bishops’ names to read their whole blog.

+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, CofE, has a video and some photos of the photo shoot process:

Apparently, according to Ruth Gledhill of the Times, the Anglican Communion was “melting down” a few Wednesdays ago but unfortunately by the time my theology day at Lambeth was over it had, er, melted back up again, and it was all there again. Yesterday I managed to be present for a more official meltdown. In 27 degree [centigrade] heat (unusual for round here) the Lambeth Conference bishops were lined up in close proximity. Bishop Kirk of Arizona has captured the loud angry singing of Amazing Grace that preceded the spontaneous ovation we all gave Rowan to show how much we all hate him.

+George Packard, Bishop for Chaplaincies, TEC, was surprised by the Holy Spirit through his Indaba group and standing in the endless lines at Canterbury:

The clear effect of [the Bible study and Indaba group] dynamic is to put one in the perpetual motion of listening and discovery so when you are in another interminable line waiting for food or transportation you pick up the conversation again with those around you. There’s a genius to it. [see Dave Walker on this here.]


Feeling depressed, I went to dinner thinking if all had worked out I would be merrily driving on the wrong side of the road right now en route to see Daniel Karanja and his family but instead I was on another food line. It was then–in the spirit of indaba–I met Bishop Bernard Oringa Balmoi of the Diocese of Torit in Sudan. His is a small diocese which he walks by foot; he has 1000 members. He and his wife have 30 children.

“Thirty children?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “Two my wife and I have and 28 more we adopted from the war, they were orphans…who would care for them?”

He spoke enthusiastically about his faith with nary a care that by world–or church–standards he had next to nothing.

“Have you never had a car?” I asked.

“No, the bishop before me had one but it wore out.” Said Bernard.

We sat together for dinner and complained about the food (I was really beginning to like him). Finally I gave him a souvenir coin from my office and he asked me, “Do you have a companion diocese?” I told him of our work and he said there is a need for chaplains in the Army in his area and how many residents had left and only troops remained. Besides thinking his was an area which about matched the operational size of Micronesia, I realized because his diocese was so small it was being overlooked in the sorting for companion dioceses.

Right then and there we forged a bond and I promised to visit him not really sure exactly where he lived. Later I was to see on a map that it was in the farthest and most southern portion of Sudan; so distant that he receives mail in Uganda.

Bernard was to say later that the Holy Spirit had drawn us together and in the atmosphere of indaba I quite agree.

+Mouneer Anis, Egypt, on his need for prayers:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your prayers. God hears our prayers and in His time, answers them. The Lambeth Conference has been a time of great fellowship and strength; it has also been a time of disunity and conflict. Everything is going fairly well, but I do not believe that there is hope of a solution from this Lambeth conference.


Please pray for me because on Monday 28 July we will have another debate. Last Wednesday the TEC bishops were well prepared and spoke very bluntly, making it clear that there is no turning back. I will present my thoughts to them on Monday. I pray to God for strength and direction, that He may direct my thoughts and words.

Please pray for me and all of the bishops as we determine a way ahead from this crisis, as we determine where do we want to go from here.

+Alan Scarfe, Iowa, TEC, reminds us of the overarching environmental challenges and how that impacts every aspect of mission:

We were reminded yesterday that without serious engagement with Climate Change we cannot possibly work through the five points of Anglican Mission and Evangelism. This is a linkage which often eludes us in Iowa, though perhaps in our present circumstances we can see the connection more clearly. That sense that I have picked up and expressed before of our need to work at every level of Government and public agency open to us is further underlined at this level of gathering. The Walk of Witness for the MDGs on Thursday culminating in speeches by the Archbishop and British Prime Minister gave expression to this. I found myself walking across Lambeth Bridge surmising with a Bishop from the Yuba mountains of Sudan how our two regions share 25% of the best top soil in the world, and how could our two Diocese work together to connect our business and agricultural sectors?

After this weekend we enter into our final week and we face our hardest questions. Have we earned the right and gained the capacity to hear each other in these past few days of relationship building? One image offered by an English bishop is that of the music of Charles Ives, who as a boy heard two bands play in his town’s processions starting from different ends of the town, each playing their own tune. As they came closer the sound grew cacophonous to most but not to Charles. He grew up to develop third tunes out of the combination of the two! It probably echoes the Archbishop’s call to go deeper in our communion. It is how Jesus often dealt with disputes.

The bible studies based on John’s I AM statements have been very rich. To have a bishop who lives the horror of Zimbabwe, and one who lived through Belfast at its most violent and is now its bishop seeking to build the peace, are rare gifts from God. And that is only one quarter of the group and it is but one fractal of the Anglican Communion.

+Alan Scarfe also posts his testimony to the Windsor Continuation Group here.

+David Chillingworth, St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunbane, Scotland, reports on the negative reaction to the ecumenical discussions and that they are working on the Indaba process to make it more fruitful:

In the last two days, the Indaba Groups have looked at ecumenical matters and the environment. I was slightly startled at how rapidly the group I was in dismissed the entire world of institutional ecumenical engagement. The opening video about the work of the WCC simply generated anger. Irrelevant, unhelpful, out of date, incomprehensible .. were some of the comments. I don’t think I have ever known a more arid time for ecumenical relationship. If this Conference is about the role of the bishop as leader of mission, I think we must pin our hopes on ‘Growing together in mission.. ‘

The environmental discussion was interesting. In my group it became a ‘wake-up’ call from bishops from the Third World to the rest of us. We need to hear it.

We’re still wrestling with the Indaba Group method. We’re going to try some variations on the working method next week. In our Bible Study we’re going to continue to talk about the difficult stuff and bring that to the Indaba Group. Maybe. But elsewhere there are signs of hope – difficult agendas are coming to the surface and being explored patiently

+Pierre Whalon, Churches in Europe, TEC, discusses the week on the hot day of the photo shoot:

As for the work, a new Kenyan friend said, “We need the person Jesus is sending with a match, and then we shall have a big fire.” (He meant this positively.) I don’t think we will have much longer to wait. The first draft of the Lambeth Reflections, drawn from the Ndaba groups’ work, will be available Monday.

+David Walker, Dudley, CofE, took the day off to go to the beach at Dover, read a book and get sunburned. He thought about his time at Lambeth and possible outcomes around a covenant. Although he believes that the Bible does not speak to same sex mutual relationships, he also believes the place in the church for gays and lesbians has to be sacrificed for the Christians who suffer from Muslim violence:

I think it is possible to envisage some sort of covenant document, broadly along the lines that the Design Group have come up with, which uses the traditional Anglican formularies for the bulk of its text, recognises that as Anglicans our mission is to enculture the gospel along with evangelising the culture, and clearly avoids attempting to lay down the line on doctrinal issues that are not part of the historic creeds and on moral positions. A covenant will need to have some criteria for determining whether a particular church is adhering to it, and there have to be ways in which new areas of concern can be raised and addressed in a timely fashion where they are so grave, have so wide an impact or are sufficiently divisive not to be simply matters that provinces (or dioceses) can determine autonomously without being called to some form of account. My area of greatest scepticism is whether such a covenant can ever be used to deal with matters that have already become rancorous.

I’ve heard enough stories this last 10 days to know that even TEC bishops who voted against Gene Robinson are facing territorial incursions from parishes who think the game is now pick-a-bishop. That really will not do. We mustn’t let this particular issue off the hook again.

My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity. The other main argument, that God didn’t create Adam and Adam, collapses into a narrow form of Thomism (in which every “thing” can have only one good and natural purpose) that is explicitly rejected in the Prayer Book (and its revisions) marriage service and therefore cannot be claimed as Anglican.

Nonetheless, if I ever thought this issue could be “adiaphora” (something a local church can determine without needing to heed others) I no longer do. The consecration of a bishop in an active same sex relationship has certainly helped some Christians in North America to feel more fully accepted by the church, official liturgies and blessings for such partnerships have done the same for the couples involved and their friends. But the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, and are often seen as slack on topics such as the consumption of alcohol. In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal. There is no way they can tackle these issues at present in their contexts nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”. Indeed the very fact that it is the USA (in many parts of the world I doubt Canada is adequately distinguished) leading that plays into the anti-imperialism and hatred of America that is so strong across the globe. Invasion by American cultural values is no more popular than invasion by its troops.

+Wayne Smith, Missouri, TEC gives a few details of the TEC reception for the Sudan bishops:

Late afternoon, Presiding Bishop Katharine hosted a reception for TEC bishops to greet bishops from Sudan, Congo, and Liberia, with a fair turnout on a busy day. Evening Prayer was led by TEC and featured the Bishops’ Choir, who presented our Province in a good light. Theirs is an uplifting voice. Then Trinity Church, Wall Street, hosted an evening for renewing relationships from the Walk to Emmaus Conference held last summer near Madrid. This was an international consultation of fifty-eight TEC and African bishops (with a scattering of bishops from elsewhere) for purposes of deepening relationships and collaborating for mission. Both Bishop Bullen and I were in Spain, and he and I were at table together last night.


Bishops’ Choir – photo by +Greg Rickel, Olympia

+Bavi “Nedi” Rivera, Olympia, TEC gives sense of the worship led by TEC – the media were not allowed in so I hope that a bishop may have video taped some of the service. It sounds lovely:

… the official day ended with Evening Prayer led by TEC. The Bishops and Spouses Choir (led by our beloved Dent Davidson) sang some of our best stuff including The Blue Green Hills of Earth. Bishop Gayle Harris officiated. We chanted the psalm in English, Spanish and French (the three official languages of The Episcopal Church.) Bishops Cathy Roskam and Michael Curry presented a lively reading of Genesis 1; and Donna Scarfe interpreted the whole service into ASL – amazing! The short DVD about The Episcopal Church shown at the end of the service brought tears to many of our eyes.

The Choir’s last song was new to us, and it’s a great one for the Conference. It’s by Marilyn Haskel and Michael Hudson:

Let the broken ones be healed, let the lost be found and fed.

Let the grace of God roll on, roll on.

Let the river rise and spread. Step into the stream with me.

Let God’s gracious purpose be. Let God’s gracious purpose be.

+Marc Andrus, California, TEC, posts a video interview with several TEC bishops at the MDG March:

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