4/11/2007

Bishop Lipscomb speaks out: When will CANA or ACN?

Bishop John Lipscomb wrote his diocese this week. It was a thoughtful letter, although I believe he does an analysis of the Anglican "situation" that is prejudging and not helpful. He states that there are "… two major parties in the life of our church. There is a consistency in the theological and moral teachings within each that stands in opposition to the other. Our division begins with two radically different views regarding the authority of the Holy Scriptures."

It is increasingly unwise to divide the Church into the "two" parties on the matter of the approach to or use of the Holy Scriptures. What happens with almost unfailing frequency is that one party turns out to be described as soft on heresy, moral certitude, communism, or whatever, and the other true to the faith delivered and unchanging. Bishop Lipscomb whose analytical abilities are far greater than that could have done better.

And then, toward the end of his letter he makes this comment, one true to Bishop Lipscomb's clarity of belief and his commitment to justice . He wrote this:

"On a final note, I must address the growing concern regarding human rights abuses in Nigeria and the reported support of the primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria for laws that would criminalize homosexual behavior. I am aware that our Lord said that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from our brother's eye. Even as we need to clear our own vision this church must stand opposed to the abuse of human rights wherever they may occur. It is only when we allow freedom of conscience for the other, no matter how much we may disagree about their manner of life, that our freedom is assured. Support for such laws is contrary to both the letter and spirit of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. This resolution is clear:

  • Recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the church and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  • while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex."

Bishop Lipscomb is willing to speak out against the support given by the Archbishop of Nigeria for repressive legislation. That he uses Lambeth 1998, Res. 1.10 in support of this position is completely unnecessary. But as someone who appears to support the rest of the resolution and may, as many in the realignment camp do, believe that this indeed is the mind of the Communion requiring our compliance, it is no wonder he did use it.

Lambeth resolutions are not the place to go for support. Rather we might go to such places as our Baptismal covenant in an ecclesiastical context or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a political context. Lambeth Resolutions are, by comparison, a trifle. The Baptismal Covenant provides all the justification we need for respecting the dignity of every human being, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a "natural" law sensibility for the rights of all people.

Still, he did speak out against the Archbishop and the Church of Nigeria and their support of the proposed legislation.

Bishop Lipscomb has spoken. But what about Bishop Minns of CANA and Bishop Duncan of ACN?

Bishop Minns is in a hard place. The Archbishop is his patron and boss. It's hard to be critical under such circumstances. Still, Bishop Minns says nothing to distance himself from the support give by the Archbishop for the legislation in Nigeria, much less from the Archbishop's own justifications for supporting the legislation – a variation on the love the sinner, hate the sin argument.

It may be that the Moderator of the Network has spoken out, but as far as I know, he has not. (I will publish any statement of distancing he might have made.) Actually, nothing publically has been heard from the Moderator since March 9, 2007 when he sent a message to the Network following the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam. In the last month the House of Bishops met, Holy Week came and went, and yet we have nothing.

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh newsletter, which witnesses to a breadth of ministry and mission in Pittsburgh, the Bishop had this to say in his Easter message:

"…Do what is right and trust the Lord. It is Scripture's consistent message. Rescue is not always the result - martyrdom and death sometimes are. Yet the message is always the same: Do what is right and trust the Lord.

As a diocese we, here in Pittsburgh, have not bowed down to the culture's golden images. We have stood again and again for the faith once delivered to the saints, without compromise or accommodation. Even though the fiery furnace may await us - heated ten times in the fury of opponents - we will do what is right and trust the Lord.

In a small way, the results of the Primates' Meeting at Dar es Salaam showed the Lord's power, once again, for those who refuse to bow down to the false gods of a declining Western culture. As we look toward Easter, we are reminded of the greatest of all acts of deliverance by our faithful God - a triumph in which we actually share - the triumph of life over death because Jesus would not bow down to the world, the flesh or the devil."

It would appear that the Moderator has other concerns that keep him from speaking either to the results of the House of Bishop's meeting or to matters as seemingly secondary as the actions and words of the Archbishop of Nigeria, who in turn is no slouch in decrying the "false gods of a declining Western culture."

But when will we hear from CANA and ACN on this matter?

At least Bishop Lipscomb said a word.

16 comments:

  1. Malcolm French+11/4/07 1:06 PM

    Actually, I am pleased to see Bishop Lipscomb reference Lambeth 1998 1.10 in his criticism of Dr. Akinola's conduct.

    It assures me that at least one of the conservative bishops has the integrity to adhere to the whole of Lambeth 1.10, not just the bits that appeal.

    While Bishop Lipscomb and I may see the overarching issue differently, he is, at least, approaching it with integrity.

    Unlike certain "conservative" bishops who, Humpty Dumpty like, believe that a Lambeth resolution means whatever they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

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  2. “It would appear that the Moderator has other concerns that keep him from speaking . . . to matters as seemingly secondary as the actions and words of the Archbishop of Nigeria”

    Perhaps he does, Rev. Harris. Don’t we all? Must Bishop Duncan speak out on every issue that is of first importance to you?

    When is that last time you’ve spoken out against the practice of abortion, to which the Episcopal Church of which you are part gives sanction? Do you have other concerns that keep you from speaking to this seemingly secondary matter?

    Or, when do you plan to speak out on the serious disputes between Charles Bennison and his Standing Committee? After all, you have plenty of time to discuss Don Armstrong, who isn’t even part of your church. Do you have other concerns that keep you from speaking to this seemingly secondary matter?

    What about the practice of open communion, growing like a weed in your church with not a mention from the powers that be? Other concerns keeping you from this?

    Let’s stop with the insinuations. +Duncan doesn’t speak about every topic I’d prefer, either. I imagine you and I will both manage just fine.

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  3. phil...Bishop Duncan doesn't have to speak to any issue that is of importance to me at all.

    It is only seemingly secondary that the Archbishop of Nigeria acts and speaks in a particular way. For many of us not distancing himself from the AofN is telling.

    And, BTW, As I note in an earlier post, Don Armstrong is, as far as the Bishop of Colorado is concerned, still a member of this church.

    I am not insinuating anything. I am staying it plainly: Unlike Bishop Libscomb, Bishops Minns and Duncan can't seem to get it together to say that they are against the criminalization of gay people who exercise freedom of speach and assembly. That is what the bill supported by the AofN is about.

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  4. Mark

    You should read the Rev Dr Ephraim Radner's wonderful essay at Titusonenine

    http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=18778#more-18778

    An insightful essay indeed!

    Andy John

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  5. Rev. Harris, I'd like to be clear that I do not support the bill. What annoys me is that it is being used as a club against conservatives, as though it were some type of touchstone of moral legitimacy, such that, even if one is silent on it, one implicitly stands condemned.

    I believe abortion is a moral concern far greater than the Nigerian bill, and here we have things under our direct control, since we can rescind certain resolutions and affiliations. But the concern is with influencing a legislature on the other side of the world, where moral views are quite different than our own, rather than the legislatures of which we are actual constituents, or the polity of our own church.

    That speaks to a single-issue mentality, which is anyone’s privilege, but Bishop Duncan’s single issue does not need to be yours. If you agree with this, as you say, then +Duncan’s non-action shouldn’t be telling at all.

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  6. Actually, and with great respect, I think Rev. Minns' only statement on the subject is a materially false one; on the CANA site -- his "clarification" states that the Washington Post's depiction of Archbishop Akinola as "an advocate of jailing gays" is "not true."

    http://www.canaconvocation.org/news/archives/20061207.php

    That statement seems to me to be patently false, based on Abp. Akinola's statements regarding the Nigerian legislation, and the Nigerian Church's report on its "listening process."

    http://www.aco.org/listening/reports/nigeria.cfm

    http://www.anglican-nig.org/communique_ibadan2006.htm

    So Minns appears to have been more than silent, here, but rather to have been untruthful.

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  7. Although I admire +Lipscomb for speaking his mind forthrightly on the issue of respecting both parts of Lambeth 1.10, it is unfortunate that he spoke of legislation that "would" criminalize homosexuality. In fact, in Nigeria, that legislation already exists. The proposed legislation would affect those who would speak for or assemble with homosexuals.

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  8. The legislation is shelved. Or hadn't you noticed?

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  9. anonymous...I posted your comment because it is useful, but please try to use a name of some sort consistently (other than anonymous) so I can tell one anon from another.

    I am aware the legislation is shelved, but I gather it can be taken up again at the next session. After the elections in Nigeria the matter may become less interesting there, I don't know. But the Archbishop has stated that he supports such legislation because gay people and their conversations about their rights, or anything else for that matter are poison.

    Just because the legislation is not pending at the moment doesn't mean that the Archbishop is not into criminalizing any support of gay persons.

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  10. Mark, you said: "Lambeth resolutions are not the place to go for support. Rather we might go to such places as our Baptismal covenant in an ecclesiastical context or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a political context. Lambeth Resolutions are, by comparison, a trifle." Why would you not offer Holy Scripture as a superior source to support your argument. I would suggest that both your baptismal covenant (which is peculiar to ECUSA and deviant to Anglican tradition) and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are a trifle compared with Scripture for our dealings with any human being.

    Furthermore - I wonder if anyone other than Nigerians, really understand the situation in Nigeria with respect to the status of homosexuals in that country. I thought that the Muslims wanted far worse punishment of homosexuals under Sharia law, and this is what Abp Akinola and the Anglican church there is having to react to by supporting a more moderate bill.

    It would be better if ECUSA focused on human rights violations in your own country - eg the appalling and widespread use of abortion for birth control.

    ps: I notice the Dalai Lama hasn't spoken against this bill either - does that imply his implicit support or that he has simply relegated the whole issue as secondary?

    Brian F

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  11. Bill Carroll12/4/07 8:59 AM

    I suppose we should ask LGBT persons in Nigeria whether they support this attempt to "protect" them or not. In general it is better to talk to people than about them. The ones who have spoken up have spoken against the bill. See, for example, the following post from Davis Mac Iyalla of Changing Attitude Nigeria

    http://davis35.wordpress.com/2007/03/18/nigerian-anglican-activist-warns-of-new-exodus/

    The duty of a Christian bishop (and of every Christian) is to speak up for vulnerable people whose human rights are being violated. That is what Janani Luwum did. Silence=death.

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  12. Brian F: "I thought that the Muslims wanted far worse punishment of homosexuals under Sharia law, and this is what Abp Akinola and the Anglican church there is having to react to by supporting a more moderate bill."

    Hmmm. Funny. That's pretty much how we got Lambeth 1.10 in 1998: to keep something much much worse from getting to the floor...of course perhaps then more Western bishops would have voted against it and we would have been shed of the damned thing entirely. One can dream.

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  13. I do find it quite amusing to see in much of the western blog world attacking the African (especially Nigeria) Church. These Churches, and their theological base were put there by western missionaries and I think we need to be slow in attacking a church which exists in a culture and country we know very little about (unless of course you have lived in Africa for any length of time. It is the height of western arrogance to assume we know more about their culture and the africans. Of course, the african church has laid into the western church as well, but then we should not forget they are a product of western missionaries. Dr Rev'd Ephraim Radner's recent essay (found on Titusonenine) says this:

    "long before most bishops in the Episcopal Church knew what hunger, civil war, child-soldiers, AIDS among women and children, illiteracy, abandonment and exclusion of women, oppressive government corruption, violation of basic human rights really were, the church leaders of places like Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, India, and elsewhere were grappling with these realities face on, without resources or support from the West. They continue to do so, supported mainly with means from within their churches, or by funds from outside the Anglican churches of the West altogether – from Germany, Norway, Catholic charities, government and UN sources, and more. Who exactly should one be “distressed” with in this strange imbalance?"

    Andy John
    andymorgan2 at hotmail dot com

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  14. I thought that the Muslims wanted far worse punishment of homosexuals under Sharia law, and this is what Abp Akinola and the Anglican church there is having to react to by supporting a more moderate bill.

    I think this turns out not to be the case. The Muslims only have the opportunity to put Sharia into practice in the states that they control, and they do. Women convicted of adultery are subject to stoning, for example. There's no chance, as far as I know, of them implementing Sharia on a national scale, and nothing stopping them from stoning homosexuals in their own states. Heck, as far as I know, they do it now.

    ++Abuja is not shy about facing up to the Muslims, and if this legislation were part of his ongoing opposition to them he would probably say so. I think that we're stuck with what the Archbishop has publicly said about the bill: he thinks it's good and needed legislation on its own merits.

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  15. I do find it quite amusing to see in much of the western blog world attacking the African (especially Nigeria) Church. These Churches, and their theological base were put there by western missionaries and I think we need to be slow in attacking a church which exists in a culture and country we know very little about (unless of course you have lived in Africa for any length of time.

    Andy John, not to put too fine a point on it, but: malarkey! People are mostly (and rightly, IMO) outraged at the way that the Nigerian Church has used theology to back up common or garden variety bigotry. I don't need a PhD in anthropology or an former address in Lagos to know that persecuting gay people is wrong, no matter what the ideological or theological basis for it, or the culture in which its done.

    Not a cultural relativist,
    BillyD

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  16. BillyD, isn't it amusing to see how quick the reactionaries are to embrace "cultural relativism" when it serves their purposes?

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