A Moratorium on Moratoria

Rather surprisingly, I’ve not said much about the Lambeth Conference since it closed. The truth is, we were rather distracted at St Mary’s at the time.

People are still asking me what happened. What was the result?

Well, the result was not as bad as it might have been. I still wish that our bishops from Scotland had not gone though I don’t find it difficult to understand why they did go.

So what happened?

Well, the gathered bishops of the Anglican Communion met and talked and then published a document of reflections on their discussions. They did not pass motions. They did not vote. They just reported a discussion. That in itself does not seem too bad a way of proceeding. My only reservation is that it did not allow the bishops to undo any of their previous misdoings of 10 years ago. We cannot really be expected to take Rowan Williams seriously when he maintains that Lambeth 1.10 is the “official” teaching of the Anglican Commnion when there was no opportunity to reexamine it this year. Not that we have official teaching as Anglicans anyway. Don’t we just believe in the Christian faith?

I don’t have much sympathy for Rowan Williams at the best of times these days. (In order to dredge up any sympathy for him I have to try to imagine who he would be replaced by if he did go). No doubt many bishops fell in love with the internationalist scene whilst in Lambeth and no doubt many felt great affection for the Archbishop of Canterbury whilst they were there. None of that excuses his performance at the final press conference when he seemed to undermine the Reflections docucument by presuming to speak about what the bishops really meant by it.

He seems hell bent on a Convenant. Looking over Rowan’s shoulder at what might come next, I think there might be quite a few of us in Scotland who would want to work quietly, gently and firmly to ensure that our Scottish church remains free from the jurisdiction of the throne of Canterbury. Coming under Rowan’s Rule would be bad enough. What might follow is unthinkable.

Archbishop Rowan is claiming that the communion needs three moratoria. Firstly a moratorium against any new partnered gay bishops being consecrated, secondly against authorising same-sex blessings and thirdly a moratorium against bishops crossing borders and acting within the jurisdiction of others. (Oh the irony!)

I’m happy to be corrected by anyone who has better information than I have, but I think that none of these are in force today in Scotland.

There is today no moratorium against consecrating a gay bishop in Scotland. There was a moratorium in place but it expired a fortnight or so ago. In any case there is no need for one as the bishops can consider every candidate for every episcopal election on their merits and vote whether or not to veto them. (They do this anyway and we should manage everyone under the same process).

So far as I know, there is today, no moratorium against the authorisation of same-sex blessings. There are no plans that I know of to authorise such a blessing in General Synod. We’ve no real need of a moratorium as the Faith and Order Board have not asked the liturgy committee to prepare such a document. Presumably they judge there to be no need for such as service at this time. I agree with that, though if we really did produce another prayer book, I might then change my mind. So no moratorium here that I know of. Our ministry to lesbian and gay people continues apace and I’m happy to take enquiries for people for same-sex blessings in St Mary’s Cathedral.

I don’t think there has been any talk of the third moratorium. Notwithstanding a recent rather ill thought through press release from one of the bishops concerning services in two other dioceses, I think a moratorium in this area would be heavy handed. Sadly, I fear we don’t yet have the stomach to interfere in England and I must conclude that if we are not going to rescue people from the Bishop of Carlisle, we are probably not going on any rescue missions at all.

If you listened to Rowan Williams, you might think that the Lambeth Conference called for these three moratoria. It didn’t. Very precisely it did not do so. The Lambeth Conference this time around had no mechanism for calling for moratoria. It was itself a moratorium against making moratoria.

In Scotland, we would be wise to respect the council of the gathered Anglican Bishops at Lambeth. A moratorium against moratoria will do for us too.

Gene Robinson Interview – 1

I've not many words today so all you are getting is a bit more of the interview I did with +Gene. This is the first bit, all about what it felt like to come to Scotland straight from the Lambeth Conference.

Provost supports Bishop

I know, such a dull headline isn’t it.

However, sometimes we need to express our support and appreciation for the things our bishops do and the things our bishops say.

For example, just before he went off to Lambeth, +Idris (our bishop and primus) said this:

“The vision of our communion is that ‘The truth shall make you free’. Your bishops do not intend to return to you bound in any chains. Or bringing back any chains for you to get wrapped up in either.”

I can’t think of any way of interpreting that other than to assume that +Idris was talking about a proposed covenant and moratorium on consecrations.

I was glad to hear him say that. The Lambeth Conference will be drawing to a close over this weekend. Like Episcopalians up and down Scotland, I’m still praying for our bishops at Lambeth every day.

Provost supports Bishop, see.

Dull headline?

Its about Human Rights, Rowan

I’ve refrained from commenting much on the Lambeth Conference as there has not been anything official to react to and media reports do not give a good flavour of what is essentially a closed event.

However, now we have a published address from Rowan Williams.

At first sight, it seems reasonable enough. Indeed, he is making an honest attempt to hear and articulate the feelings and emotions of two hypothetical voices on either “side” of the debate.

The fact is, it is the conception of the Communion as having these two sides that is the real problem.

I don’t actually think that the attempt to sum up the “liberal” side comes anywhere near to my position at all.

The things is, its all about human rights, Rowan. This is not just about the rights of gay and lesbian people in the US, it is about all of us. It is about the rights of people in all parts of the world to self expression, to practise their religion, to live freely with dignity before God. It is about the whole people of God, (you know, the laos, you must have heard of it, you’ve read a bit of theology) being able to speak in decision making in the church. It is about women and men being treated as equal human beings. It is about the western church standing up for persecuted brothers and sisters wherever they are. It is about having the confidence that Muslim and Anglican can live together in the same street and not attack one another.

Sometimes, that means standing up to bishops, such as condemning the inflamatory remarks made by Akinola connected with inter-religious rioting in Nigeria. We’ve not yet heard any condemation from the Lambeth Conference of the circumstances which caused the UK Government to offer policial assylum to a gay Anglican this week because of the violence and persecution he could expect from his home church. That shames the whole church.

It is only when a human rights agenda gets woven into all of this that there will be dignity for all those affected.

We need human rights missionaries. We need to interfere in other jurisdictions until all God’s people are free and safe in their societies and in their churches. We need to set those high, inclusive moral standards amongst all Anglican peoples. That Covenant you are suggesting is not a patch on that vision. It is a step in another direction altogether.

Any covenant which allows anything less than treating all the baptised as equally enriched and empowered by the potential of God’s grace will result in non-juring Episcopalians again in Scotland. That would be communion breaking, not communion making. You might have some problems with it even closer to home than Scotland too.

What is proposed is not a solution. What is proposed is the problem.

Battle of the Bishops

There was a programme (“The Battle of the Bishops”) on the BBC last night on the GAFCON/Lambeth Conference situation which is well worth watching. If you are quick, you can catch it on the iplayer here.

The genius of the piece was pointing a camera at Peter Akinola and letting him rant. He made Tom Wright, who last week compared the consecration of +Gene to the invasion of Iraq, look like the voice of reason. An extraordinary achievement.

Sermon Posted

I’ve just posted The Rev Ken Shaw’s sermon which he preached yesterday at St Mary’s.

To see it, hop over to the preaching page on the Cathedral website.

We are our own Lambeth Conference

I was struck yesterday whilst taking the midweek Eucharist that we were in effect our own mini Lambeth Conference. After the service, gathered around one table, we were from Nigeria, Scotland, Sri Lanka, England, Wales and we had strong connections with Canada and the US.

It is even more real on a Sunday when we would have folk from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the far east to add into the mix.

The bonds of affection over a cup of tea after a service are real. They are more real to me much of the time than the official Instruments of Communion which include the official Lambeth Conference which is now underway. We are an Anglican Communion congregation not simply by the fact that we are a member of one of the Churches of the Communion. We are the Communion, as we gather.

Guest Preacher

John Riches preached about Lambeth as part of his sermon on Sunday. He was preaching on Genesis 18: 1-15.

Here is what he said:

‘And the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.’

Surely this is one of the great archaic stories of the ancient world, of the world of theOld Testament, of the world of Eastern orthodoxy, familiar to us in the Andrei Rubev’s great icon of the Trinity, the three angels seated round the table.

The story operates on different levels: it is the story of Abraham’s hospitality to three – unidentified – men who in the heat of the mid-day sun are travelling past his tent, at Mamre, some few kilometres north of Hebron in the Judaean hills. Abraham runs to meet them, to call them in, (why? does he know it’s the Lord or are they people he needs to keep in with? – we are not told) and offers them bread and water. They accept this offering but then Abraham orders Sarah to bake cakes and himself kills the fatted calf and waits on them at table.

The men get straight to the point with – unexplained – insight into Abraham’s situation: the barren and aged Sarah, they predict, will have a son. Sarah’s derisive response to this announcement lacks delicacy: ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ [Read more…]

College of Bishops Says Sorry

In a letter to lesbian and gay people in the church, the College of Bishops has said:

…it has not been possible to hear adequately your voices, and we apologize for any sense of rejection that has occurred because of this reality. This letter is a sign of our commitment to listen to you and reflect with you theologically and spiritually on your lives and ministries. It is our deep concern that you not feel abandoned by your Church and that you know of our continued respect and support.

We pledge that we will continue to reflect, pray, and work for your full inclusion in the life of the Church….You, our sisters and brothers in Christ, deserve a more thorough hearing than you received over the past three weeks. We will work to make that so.

Now, these are some of the most heartening words that I’ve heard upon the subject of how the church should begin to change in its thinking about lesbian and gay people. It is encouraging to see all the signatures of the members of the College of Bishops.

However, the date on the letter is 1998 – these are the words that they signed up to after the last Lambeth Conference. It is the apology that they issued the last time around.

These words now ring rather hollow to me.

Lambeth Conference of Bloggers

I’ve seen one or two articles recently, both in traditional (ie dead tree) media and online, noting how much blogging has influenced the current Anglican crisis. There is some truth in this, but I’d be the first to say, it ain’t all our fault.

When it comes to the Lambeth Conference, the only person that I can think of who has an invitiation, whom I could unequivicably say I believe should be there is Dave Walker. I’ve no doubt the whole affair (if it takes place) would be better with him there than without him.

It strikes me that anyone who thinks that Anglican Bloggers have really caused all this bother should have the courage of their convictions and call for the Archbishop of Canterbury to rescind all the Episcopal invitations that have been issued and offer them to the bloggers instead. Maybe we could work something out if we all met.

On the other hand, maybe that’s what we’ve been doing all along. We’ve got this vast, daily anarchic conference of Anglicans going on every day. Some voices are louder than others of course, but no-one can be silenced any more.

I think there is not much point blaming the bloggers. And in any case, there is no going back now. What we have, is here to stay.