Live: whispers, impressions

By Jim Naughton

The news of the morning lies in the Conference organizer’s unwillingness to disclose the names of the bishops in attendance. This is presumed to be an effort to shield bishops from provinces boycotting the conference from reprisals when they return home. A few bishops are on hand, I don’t know exactly how many, but I’d say enough to man one side of a full court game of basketball, but probably not enough to man both.

The rest of my report consists primarily of whispers and impressions.

First the whispers:

Everyone is wondering how the Conference is going to pay down its debt, which, according to news reports this morning, stands at roughly one million pounds.

The initial report of the Windsor Continuation Group, presented at last night’s opening plenary session was not well received by the Episcopal Church’s bishops, and the negative reception seemed to cut across ideological lines.

The bishops have not been timid about disagreeing with one another in their Indaba groups, but most of the bishops I have spoken to say the disagreements have been friendly and even constructive. The African bishops have impressed upon Americans that Gene Robinson’s consecration has presented problems for them, not just theologically, but in terms of mission. The Americans are more willing to hear this concern, than to rehash old arguments over homosexuality. I am not clear on whether the American bishops discussed the mission-related problems the Episcopal Church would have faced had it not proceed with Gene’s consecration. A recent study by the Barna Group (published in the book unChristian) indicated that 90 percent of young Americans associate the word “Christian” with the word homophobic.

Some bishops from other parts of the developing world are a bit miffed at what they regard as the extensive focus on Africa.

While a handful of bishops have criticized the Indaba format, the primary complaint fielded by conference organizers is that those sessions aren’t long enough. The bishops want to spend more time talking together. They are less keen on the more continuing-ed. elements of the curriculum, which begin today.

Now the impressions:

Philip Groves’ book The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality – a resource for the Anglican Communion’s Listening Process has become required reading for anyone hoping to participate in the debate on sexuality. Almost every “self-select session” focusing on the sexuality issue is based on a chapter in Groves’ book

Last night’s BBC documentary Battle of the Bishops should have been called Peter Akinola and his critics. The crew received excellent access to Akinola, and brought him alive, strengths and weaknesses equally evident. It made no effort to examine the role that Western financial contributions have played in elevating homosexuality to Communion-breaking issues.

Finally: Just as I am writing, the Church of Sudan has released two statements, one is a statement on the genocide in Darfur, the precarious situation of the church in Sudan and the church’s hope that the Communion will support the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. The other is a statement asking the Episcopal and Canadian churches to refrain from ordaining additional gay clergy or approving rites for same-sex blessings; cease court actions, etc.

Guess which one is engendering more interest in the press room?

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