Odds and Ends in Anglican-Land
The Bishops at Lambeth are on retreat. That seems a good and spiritually healthy thing and it seems to be going well.
Around the edges there are bits of strange and interesting news. Much of these tidbits are the product of the hard work of Ruth Gledhill, pictured to the right cycling into the Press Center. (Photo by Susan Russell)
Here are some:
We reported that it appeared that Uganda was the only Province where not one bishop showed up at Lambeth. However the story broke that the Church of Nigeria made it very clear that any Nigerian bishop who attended would face disciplinary action of some sort on return. Then the one person reportedly planning to attend, Bishop Cyril Okorocha, Bishop of Owerri, changed his mind and decided not to come. It all seemed to be politely handled as a misunderstanding, that he was not really here for Lambeth but to do some visiting in dioceses in England. So it appears that Nigeria and Uganda kept the pledge not to go to Lambeth.
The list of those not allowed to attend include the CANA bishops, the AMiA bishops, the two bishops from Brazil who are part of the Southern Cone diocese of Recife, and of course Bishop Gene Robinson. It appears that Bishop Salmon of South Carolina is not allowed to attend officially either, given his status as retired.
Attending is Bishop Lamb of the Diocese of San Joaquin. This one is interesting because recognition by Lambeth that he is the bishop of the diocese of San Joaquin adds a certain depth to the claim that the Diocese of San Joaquin indeed has a new bishop. The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin (Province of the Southern Cone) is not recognized any more than the Diocese of Recife (Province of the Southern Cone.) Bishop Venables and the PSC may have expanded their reach, but it is not being recognized by Lambeth.
Meanwhile Bishop Pierre Whalon, of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, has written an oddly interesting piece titled, "Is this Woman a Heretic?" on his blog. In it he concludes that, no, she isn't. But why the question, and why in the context of the Lambeth Conference? I gather that Bishop Whalon believes that the GAFCON slam of Bishop Katharine is fairly widely held. The article certainly puts her comments and actions in the right place - liberal but not radically separated from the Church's teachings. It is worth the read and can be found HERE.
He makes two remarks, however, that I find odd.
"First of all," he writes, "some truth needs to be told, namely, that Bishop Jefferts-Schori was elected Presiding Bishop when a group of conservative bishops switched their votes in the last rounds of balloting. “They even brag about it,” said one highly-placed Anglican Communion officer to me. Why they did this is a matter of speculation. (If they thought they were electing someone they could push around, they were sorely mistaken.)" Later he writes of those "those conservative bishops who got her elected."
Conservative bishops may or may not have switched their votes for one reason or another, and speculation has abounded on this matter, but they did not get her elected. They may have been among the last to vote for her, but there were a lot of votes that came before. To say the conservative bishops got her elected or that they brag about it essentially makes all votes but the last and all support but the support of the princes of Machiavellian interests irrelevant. I wonder what value this tidbit of old and somewhat suspect analysis serves in this essay?
Then Bishop Whalon writes, "If she were to declare that there are several equally valid ways to salvation outside of Jesus Christ, this would be clear Unitarian universalism. And my letter of resignation would be on its way to 815 Second Avenue (the Presiding Bishop’s office)."
I hope he would not resign in such circumstances. In the first place Bishop Whalon is, I believe, a fine bishop, a good theologian and it is helpful to have him in the house. In the second place, the "I'm out of here" stance is precisely what we don't need. IF the Presiding Bishop were to fall over the edge into "Unitarian universalism" or some other read on the matter of salvation in Jesus Christ, then that is precisely the time to stay and push back.
The fact that Bishop Whalon is Suffragan to the Presiding Bishop and Bishop in Charge with the Convocation would make this awkward, but as in any multiple staffing it is sometimes necessary for the associate or assistant to tell the boss that what they have said or done needs to be revisited. He might well have to resign that particular post at some point, but hopefully not before he made his case for change. But we can hope that he would not resign the House of Bishops or leave the Church over such a matter. Presiding Bishops are important yes, and powerful no doubt, but they, like all bishops have limited tenure - time or mortality catches up. I have often wondered about the impatience of those who are in profound disagreement with their bishops. For most purposes the weeding will be done in plenty of time for the Big Day. The Bishop who was so formidable is wonderfully temporal.
It is sometimes believed that the only choice before us is to leave the institution if it fails us. We know of course that the institution always fails us at some level, and always fails us on some particulars. The only way to stay is to believe that over the long haul, if we all continue together and we are none of us reduced to fearful silence, the correctives will happen.
The fact is that some of the correctives will not please conservatives, and some will not please liberals, and almost none will please the radicals among us. But can we hope that over the very long haul we will be corrected by God and the results will be evident? I believe so.