Blogging bishops, July 23


Tomorrow the bishops are off to London see The Queen, have tea and some will March for the MDGs. Living in a dormitory far from home, interacting all day with other bishops seems to have made a few a bit edgy. Today some have remarks about the statement of Archbishop Deng of Sudan, others comment on the discussions of the Covenant, and one is still missing his luggage.

+Wayne Smith, Missouri, whose diocese has a close relationship with the Sudan, offers his thoughts on the statement from Archbishop Deng as well as his hope that the Communion will find its way.

The more I encounter the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the more I am made aware of differences– and aware of what appears to be God’s great delight in diversity. We so easily misunderstand one another, from the vastly worlds we inhabit, though I must admit that I am still recoiling from the shock of yesterday’s events. I am beginning to understand that they came from the fact of those different worlds we inhabit. Jim Naughton has had the advantage of being out and about, not cooped up in meetings (in rooms with all the air circulation of Apollo XIII), and you will find his good summary of the Sudanese matter here. There is still much work to do, in conversation with our Sudanese colleagues, but now twenty-four hours after the news release and news conference, having productive conversation at least seems possible.

I will admit to some emotional exhaustion, over the past day. Worry about Sudan, worry about Episcopalians back in Missouri, but no real worry at this point about the broader issues of communion. Or perhaps I should say that I am not anxious about these issues, remaining cautiously hopeful about finding a way, some way, any way forward. Somehow the larger Anglican world can by the grace of God find a means, perhaps some brand new, yet unthought-of means, to remain connected to one another. I could be wrong, but I think that can prove the case. Enough about this, until more becomes clear, in due time.

+Pierre Whalon, Churches in Europe (TEC), gives a forthright report of the discussions in his Bible study group and Indaba group.

In my Bible study group, we studied John 7:53–8, specifically, the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus’ saying, “I am the light of the world.” The question we were asked to address was how judgment in the Anglican Communion could bring light, rather than darkness. The background material had contrasted Jesus’ type of judgment with the Pharisees’ (8:15-16).

This got us deeply into the issue of the Sudanese statement concerning The Episcopal Church. As a lot of TEC dioceses have strongly supported the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, there were hurt feelings among the bishops and spouses. There is a Sudanese bishop in my Bible study, as well as three Tanzanians and three Barundis. I pointed out that while the Sudanese bishops have every right to tell us what they believe, it was done in such a way that we could not hear it, namely because they had not addressed us directly, but through releases and a press conference.

+Alan Wilson, Buckingham, daily blogger, reports on the Windsor Report hearings:

Just finished the preliminary Windsor report hearing, next to brothers from Tanzania, England and Canada. I have to be very honest and say I was not expecting this to be a wow. Shame on me. The room’s still there. There weren’t any custard pies. And I can say that for me and the people sitting around me it was a very special experience, for the respectful, clear and charitable way strong points were made from all sides of the Wndsor report issues. It was good also to have affrmation from an ecumenical colleague that they acknowledge as deep a probem in other churches and commit to travel with us towards ways forward for the good of all, not just Anglicans. It’s good to know some partners see us as leading the pack in working this through, though it’s a scary place to be.

The official output will be streaming out soon enough, no doubt, but there was a general buzz of approval in the room for the willingness of everyone involved to talk to each other, not about each other. People experienced realism all round, which is a good place to start.

+Kirk Smith, Arizona, another stalwart blogger and videographer, continues his daily updates:

You can see (in his video) from the large turn-out, that many of us were VERY interested in what was being said here. This little committee was set up by the ABC as a way to monitor the progress being made in implementing the Windsor report (a document which technically has no authority in first place). The existence of this group is regarded by many in the American House as suspect, and it became clear that the majority who spoke at today’s hearing were opposed to it and to its conclusions that we needed to strengthen the authority of the “instruments of communion” namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference. The thesis of the report is that the old description of the Anglican Communion as being made of provinces with “autonomy-in-communion,” was no longer enough to hold things together, and that what we need is “communion with autonomy and accountability.” That seems to me to be coded language for “communion with discipline and exclusion” for those who don’t toe the line set down by the instruments of communion. The vast majority of the bishops who came to the microphone seemed to agree with me. Out of about 20 who spoke, only one approved of the Committee’s report.

+Catherine Roskam, Suffragan of New York, writing by email, was surprised by the Sudan statement:

I was feeling pretty positive about our work so far, when I learned this evening that the Province of the Sudan has called for Gene Robinson’s resignation and has made various other demands. We New York bishops were particularly surprised by this, as the Archbishop of the Sudan, Daniel Den Bul, was at our Priests’ Conference in May, and as recently as that gave Bishop Sisk full assurances that he wished to remain in relationship with the Episcopal Church.

I will say more about this tomorrow, when I have more information. It seems that parts of the Anglican Communion still have in mind to destroy the Episcopal Church. I am greatly saddened that this latest salvo comes from an area of the Communion where there is such great suffering. Surely the bishops of the Sudan have better things to do with their time and energy than to feed the division.

+Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, though exiled to the “Fringe” by the ABC, finds it a blessing:

Almost invariably, though, I am stopped by each of the conference stewards — mostly college-aged young people from England and around the Communion, who want to shake my hand and tell me of their support. These young people are so interested in the Church, so committed to being here and helping in any way, yet mystified by some of the words and behaviors they witness, all in the name of the Church. They want me to know how much they are praying for me. The fellow behind the cafe counter in the Marketplace insists that I accept a cappuchino he has made for me, a free gift he insists. Many want their pictures taken with the Bishop of New Hampshire, as if it will be a reminder of something important and hopeful for them. I am awed and honored by their interest and their kindness, and am reminded that “my congregation” right now is anyone who will listen and engage. Being “on the Fringe” is a blessing indeed.

+Stephen Lane, Maine, reports by video on his Indaba group and the discussion of Evangelism – quoting one member of his group who said, “We need more lightning in the arm than thunder in the mouth,” – a new version of St. Francis’ ‘preach the gospel always – use words if you must.’

+James Stanton, Dallas, is feeling overwhelmed by the idea of blogging. His internet connection is iffy, the days are long and packed with meetings offering little time for reflection, but his Bible study group is very rewarding.

This is the first Lambeth Conference to be “blogged”. I didn’t conceive this “series” of reports to be a blog. But in any event, I have found the possibility of providing them very frustrating.

+George Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies, reports that the ABC “approaches his theology as if it all just makes sense.” Bishop Packard did get an internet connection but still does not have his luggage:

Getting connected to the Internet was easier in Europe than here at Lambeth (never thought I’d say that considering the bewildering–and scary–array of sockets that seem to declare a standoff to a power source.) But here I am still without my suitcase and wondering if the mom and pop operation called the front office over here really did lose it between the front gate of the Kent University campus and my dorm. Well, yes they did! Eight days and counting. The English have much to say to for themselves but planning and process isn’t part of that description. I’ll probably get more optimistic once they release my underwear from some hedgerow.

+David Chillingworth, St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Dunbane, appreciates the new young leadership of the African continent:

If I can say so without being patronising, I think the revelation of this Conference for me has been the quality of the new generation of leadership emerging in the African Churches. They are sophisticated, clear and powerful – clearly have leadership to offer to the whole Communion.

+Leo Frade, Southeast Florida, speaks for all the bishops from warmer parts of the world, “Warm at last!” He also describes the meeting of the TEC bishops.

Great news for all of us that come from the warm places of this planet. The temperature got all the way to the mid 70s and it was sunny and relatively warm. I even dared to take off my Macy’s jacket that I got at the 4th of July sale.

One of the topics of the (TEC bishops) meeting was the absence of the bishop of New Hampshire from our gathering. I must say that we were very upset because due to security, Gene Robinson could not even meet with the rest of the bishops. Regardless of what position you may hold on this issue, as Americans we are used to more equality, and to have one of our duly elected bishops forbidden to meet with us is a travesty. This was a meeting of the bishops of The Episcopal Church, and it is sad that in the 21 Century we are still acting as if we were in the Middle Ages.

+Neff Powell, Southwest Virginia, blogging on the official TEC blog discusses the Sudan statement, Gene’s exclusion, and the life of the Dalit (untouchables) in India – wondering who are the Dalits in our lives?

When we broke into sub-groups of three to begin our conversation, one of the three I sat with was a bishop from South India who belongs to the Dalit caste. We would call Dalit “Untouchables.” He spoke to us of the very difficult life of the Dalit, even though the caste system is officially banned. Although Hindu, the Dalit class are not allowed to read the holy scripture, they are not even allowed to listen to it being read. The Dalit are assigned to the job of cleaning out, by hand, the sewers carrying human waste. They remove the waste with buckets they carry on their heads. And the waste ends up dripping down their entire bodies. I asked, “how did you escape this fate?” He said, the British brought universal education which has allowed some Dalit to escape. They like Christianity for its values of fundamental human equality. He said that there are many priests and bishops in India who are Dalit. I am still shaken by the description.

+David Walker, blogging for Thinking Anglicans wrote of the Covenant process hearings:

The Hearing was the hardest event I’ve been to yet. These broadly relate to the Covenant or Windsor processes. Bishops get three minutes to speak to whoever chooses to turn up. It’s not a forum for formal debate, there are certainly no motions, amendments or votes, but the platform (today they were the Windsor Continuation Group) take back all that is said, together with comments submitted in writing, and process it into a further statement to the conference. I reckon something like two thirds of the bishops attended today’s session. We heard at first hand the real anguish that the divisions are causing to people on all sides of the questions. Speeches were delivered with pain and passion, but with grace. It was pretty heart wrenching, but then that’s exactly how it should be


A final blessing from the Province of Brazil, follow this link to see a video greeting the Province sent to the Lambeth Conference.

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