Sunday, March 16, 2008

"The worst sin is leaving the table."

Last week, Lambeth Palace made it official: The Archbishop of Canterbury refuses to invite the canonical Bishop of New Hampshire to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

I think I understand +Rowan's reasoning, and I suppose I don't really see how he could have given in on that point without adding to his already well-established (though not entirely deserved) reputation as a spineless blunderer.

That said, the suggestion that Gene Robinson should set up shop in the Marketplace attached to the conference went well beyond appalling stupid. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more offensive suggestion. "We won't let you pray with us, but we can put you on display in a circus tent if you like."

Frankly, Gene Robinson has responded with far more grace than I would have. His comments at a meeting of the American House of Bishops can be found in their entirety here.

There is one passage in particular that stands out to me - the passage in which Bishop Robinson describes why he keeps putting up with the pain.

I want to acknowledge that I am not the first or last person to be in pain at a House of Bishops meeting. My own pain was sufficient enough that for 36 hours I felt the compelling urge to run, to flee. My inspiration for staying came from my conservative brothers in this house. I have seen John Howe and Ed Salmon and others show up for years when there was a lot of pain for them. I see Bill Love and Mark Lawrence, and I know it is a very difficult thing for them to be here right now. For me, the worst sin is leaving the table. And that is what I was on the verge of doing. But, largely because of you, I stayed. Thank you for that.

If you aren't a close follower of the current internecine unpleasantness in Anglicanism, those four names might not mean anything to you. They are the names of four of the leading conservatives in the American House of Bishops. John Howe is the Bishop of Central Florida, Ed Salmon the retired Bishop of South Carolina, Bill Love the Bishop of Albany New York, Mark Lawrence the current Bishop of South Carolina.

I find Bishop Robinson's remarks, particularly this one section as remarkably graceful. He treats those on the other side of the current unpleasantness with decency, respect and even admiration. Contrast this with the way John Howe or conservative theologian Michael Poon are often treated in the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere when they dissent from certain extremist positions.

Fr. Dan Martins, who turns out to be a seminary classmate of my bishop, makes some remarkably insightful comments about how unhelpful the broad brush is as we approach these issues. I share one small excerpt, but the whole thing is worth a read.

Let's put the broad brushes away. Conservatives would do well to quit automatically unchurching anyone who holds "reappraiser" views, not just because it really pisses them off, but because it's just wrong to do. Somebody can hold a mistaken view on the sexuality questions without being lumped together with John Spong and Markus Borg--or Katharine Jefferts Schori, for that matter. Liberals would do well to quit assuming anyone who holds "reasserter" views does so out of either ignorance, selfishness, or mere power-hungry churlishness. A person can hold a traditional view of sexual morality without being lumped together with Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps.
Sadly for me, I had been part of the increasingly angry exchange in the comments section of an earlier post which led Fr. Dan to post this reflection. Ironically, my first comment had been to decry precisely that sort of broad brush - I objected to the suggestion that "my" side of the divide "loathed" Christianity. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get drawn into an ongoing flame war. Mea culpa.

Of course, Gene Robinson has seen John Howe face to face - and Ed Salmon, and Bill Love, and Mark Lawrence. It is hard (though not impossible) to have a flame war with real people. It is really, really easy to have a flame war with a quasi-anonymous blog profiles.

This is why I object to the current strategy of the "conservatives" - hiving off bits of the Church to be out of communion with their neighbours and "canonically" attached to a like-minded prelate across the globe. Such an arrangement removes any necessity of engaging with my neighbour, of experiencing my neighbour's humanity, of understanding my neighbour as a child of God.


Fr. Peter said...

And they will know we are Christians by our love! I feel that if you agree with the "other" sudes position or not no one has the right to not invite and canonical bishop to a meeting. The shame that this brings is too much to bear. I think +Gene is doing the right thing. I have changed my views on him.

Malcolm+ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malcolm+ said...

Kate had posted the following comment. Afterwards, she asked that I remove her email address once I had taken it down.

Turns out the only way I can figure to edit the comment was to delete it entirely.

So, I've deleted Kate's comment, but am reposting it here with the personal information (the emaill address) removed.


Such an arrangement removes any necessity of engaging with my neighbour, of experiencing my neighbour's humanity, of understanding my neighbour as a child of God.

As an ANiC member, I see it a bit differently. I think that it is precisely because we love the Anglican church that we have taken the actions we have. I see it as pointing out a cliff that we are about to drive over, and not being inclined to follow when others are determined to continue to drive.

Anyway, that's really not why I popped over, but I thought if I left a comment on the post about Xavier, you might miss it. I've been where those parents are - Easter will probably be very difficult for them, especially if there is still a baptism scheduled, and/or if they have no living children. If you think that it would help them to be in contact with somebody who has been through it, you may pass my email address on to them - it is (removed at Kate's request). It does get easier, over time, eventually.