July 22, 2008
Today there has been the lobbing of bombs at Lambeth, verbal bombs that make very big concussive noise and rattle pundits and bloggers alike. The content of a statement and reports from news conference with the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Archbishop Deng Bul have hit blog land, long before it got to the bishops attending Lambeth. (see picture to the left, Photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg, ENS).
The sum of the two bombs: Bishop Robinson should resign (Archbishop Deng speaking with the support of the Global South bishops who met yesterday) and those who took part in the consecration of Bishop Robinson should leave Lambeth (Bishop Iker of Fort Worth). Fear of these blasts is the real story, and giving in to the fear of such verbal blasts is the end of anything like the Anglican Communion.
Episcopal News Service had this report.
Here is an excerpt:
"Gene Robinson has to be away from the Anglican world and be a normal Christian,” said Deng at an afternoon news conference. "If he is, as he always says, a Christian, he should resign for the sake of the church."
Asked if he has talked to Robinson, Deng replied, "I have nothing to say to him."
He also said he cannot participate in the Anglican Communion's Listening Process because homosexuality is not "approved by the Bible" and "is not part of my culture, I cannot talk about it." Deng said there are no gay or lesbian people in Sudan."
"We have just had a briefing with the Archbishop of the Sudan, the Most Reverend Dr. Daniel Deng Bul. He informed the press room this morning that he would come and speak with us, since the Anglican Communion News Bureau running this conference, would not schedule a time for him to address the press.
The archbishop is young – I would guess that he is in his 40's. He is very articulate and has an earned Ph.D. By his own admission, he has been an Anglican since he was a very small child.
His words are responses to questions asked. I think the questions are self-evident.
"Gene Robinson should resign for the sake of the Church and the entire Anglican Communion. We are pleading with them (the others at this conference) for the Anglican World, to not throw that away.
"We do not want to throw any people away, either. But we are here to determine how to remain united. That begins with forgiving one another for errors made. Gene Robinson is an error. The American church has not admitted they are wrong and we cannot forgive them until they do.
"I do not see a way out of these problems with the Indaba groups. The main issues have not been touched.
"300 bishops are not here because of Gene Robinson. Can he not resign to allow them to come? Why has he not done that?
"He is a human being and we are not throwing him away but the norms of the Anglican Communion have been violated. The question is not if Gene Robinson comes but what are we being challenged to do by GAFCON?"
"Let the Anglican world be united and be a normal, respected Christian body."
"We have not punished the American church yet. We are asking them to repent. I am talking about the institutional church in America, no specific bishops. I am here to speak within the House. I cannot be silent on this issue; I must speak to the House for the reality I know with my people. I should not hesitate to be here since I have been an Anglican since I was a child.
When asked what would happen to the Communion if Robinson did not resign, the archbishop continued, "I cannot predict what will happen if he will not resign."
Ruth Gledhill has the quote from Bishp Iker regarding the consecrating bishops leaving: "this has just come in from Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker: 'Those Bishops who stand in solidarity with Gene Robinson should withdraw themselves from further participation in the Lambeth Conference. Is this all talk, or is it backed up by action?'"
Her comment is particularly interesting. At the close of her article, Ruth says, "I wish I wasn't writing this but things here are really not looking good. The Anglican Communion seems to be falling apart in front of our eyes and it is not a pretty sight."
Into the midst of all this Susan Russell, President of Integrity, wrote this in time for the Lambeth Witness published earlier today:
"Commentary: Sudanese Primate’s Statement on Sexuality
by Susan Russell
As the majority of bishops attending the Lambeth Conference settled into daily
Bible Study, Indaba groups, and conversations across differences, it was made
clear that at least a percentage of the purple shirts on the Canterbury campus
are focused on conflict rather than collegiality. After issuing statements on the
ongoing genocide in Sudan and the ongoing discussions on human sexuality in
the Anglican Communion, the Sudanese primate chose to focus on sexuality in a
briefing to the media.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul called
for the resignation of the Bishop of New Hampshire, declaring in the statement re-
leased ahead of the press conference that he had come to the Lambeth Conference
“to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the Church.”
When asked about ministering to the gays and lesbians in his province, the archbishop declared that he did not think there were any homosexuals in the Sudan as “none had come forward.”
And when queried about his position on the ordination of women to the priesthood and
episcopate he said he “believed in women priests and bishops because they are human” – leaving listeners to wonder if the inference was that homosexuals are not.
The fact that there are those within the communion who think the Bishop of New Hampshire should resign is not news. There have been calls for his resignation since the day he was elected.
What is news is that the Archbishop of the Sudan helped make the case on Tuesday that the schism facing the Anglican Communion is the direct result of hard-line reactionaries who will stop of nothing short of compliance with their narrow, exclusionist agenda as their criterion for being in communion.
What is news is that a bishop in the Church of God would deny the existence of gay and lesbian members of his province despite repeated calls from every Lambeth Conference since 1978 for listening to the experience of homosexual people throughout the communion.
On Wednesday evening, Integrity USA will present a preview screening of the documentary Voices of Witness: Africa as one of the Lambeth Conference Fringe Events. Everyone is welcome – most particularly Archbishop Deng Bul. We would love to share with him the witness of gay and lesbian Africans who are not only fully human but fully loved by the God who created them. "
Earlier there had been a plea for quotations from bishops who insisted that there were no homosexuals in their dioceses or province. Well, now there is one.
Things may be breaking up, or there may simply be lots of noise. The Bishop of Fort Worth is making noise for the media. There is not a prayer in the world that the 60 will leave on the basis that he puts forward. Archbishop Deng Bul is pulling out the same phrase that has been so unfortunately used before: "'God is not making a mistake creating Adam and Eve, he said. 'He would have created two Adams if he wanted." This is a variation on the old saw, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." This is theological commentary at its most miserable.
The Archbishop was clear that "he had decided to come to the Lambeth Conference to make the voice of the Church of Sudan heard by the West. "I am making this statement on behalf of my people." At the same time Ms. Gledhill reports, " the Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng, ... has the backing of more than 150 bishops and archbishops from 17 provinces in the Global South."
So while the Archbishop was making a statement on behalf of his own Province, he was also becoming a voice for other Global South Primates and bishops. The burst of this bomb was also a show of newly gained voice by the newest of the Global South Primates. Not only do we have questionable sound bite theology, we have the flexing of ecclesiastical muscle.
Archbishop Akinola will step down in two years. Archbishop Orombi is usually seen as the spokesperson apparent in the African Global South group. Is this a first hint of another contender? If so, Archbishop Deng will need more than sound bites and opinions as to what Bishop Robinson needs to do.
So the verbal bombs have gone off, and who knows, they may be only noise. Other matters - the heat in the big tent, the two weeks to go, the possibilities of other flair-ups, and even the cost of the whole thing will come into play.
I think it is too soon to see it all falling down. If it does or if it does not, the work of getting about being the Church will remain. Meanwhile, at this sort of garden party the invited guests who stay away cannot easily have people speaking on their behalf suggest that those who came leave. It is also odd, and very bad theological manners, to refuse to receive communion at the same altar with those who touched the condemned Bishop Robinson, as if somehow the contamination of that act was greater that the grace of the Holy meal.
The big bomb is that one: Those who have condemned Bishop Robinson and the 60 who laid hands on him have had their righteousness explode in their face. At the Lord's Table, it is the Lord who invites, and the meal is the Lord's. Those who stay away because of the unrighteous are in their midst are living in fear.
The reason why these bombastic statements cannot be the end of the story is that if they are the Anglican Communion is through because it succumbed to fear.