Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bureaucratic Hash

The Windsor Continuation Group have issued their preliminary observations.

I've read a lot of bureaucratic bumph in my day. In my secular life, I've spent more than a decade working in government, for heaven's sake. Circuitous meanderings where many, many words are used to say very little are nothing new to me.


Frankly, this preliminary report makes the average academic musing by +Rowan Cantuar seem positively coherent.

To save you the trouble, it amounts to three preliminary, not quite, and certainly not carved in stone, recommendations.

  • moratoria on blessing same sex unions, ordaining partnered gay bishops and foreign incursions by pretendy "orthodox" bishops;
  • the creation of a Pastoral Forum, yet another tendencious committee to deal with the irregularities that already exist due to the uncanonical and schismatical behaviour of certain foreign prelates;
  • bash on with that mass delusional bit of silliness, the Anglican Covenant.
You may gather that I don't think much of the preliminary observations.

It really isn't anything new. It could have been summed up in one brief sentence: "Make the Windsor Report part of the New Testament."

I mean, really. What is it with this bizarre attempt to treat a committee report like the fifth Gospel?

Jim Naughton at Episcopal Cafe quotes +Martin Barahona, the Primate of Central America: "The Windsor Report. It's just a report. When did it become like the Bible? The Covenant. Why do we need another covenant? We have the Baptismal Covenant. We have the creeds. What else do we need?"

He's right.

So were the Brazilian bishops at Curitiba when they said that the idea of the Covenant, rather than maintaining or strengthening the Anglican Communion, "risks defacing it."

For a calmer view, I refer you to Bishop Greg. But even he "came away feeling that we had accomplished very little of anything helpful toward finding a way forward."


The boycotting bishops have been a recurring issue.

Some of the "conservatives" have been claiming that 300+ Anglican bishops a) have boycotted Lambeth and / or b) attended GAFFEPRONE. They seem convinced that if they spin this falsehood with sufficient earnestness and frequency that it will somehow become true.

First off, about 1/3 of the bishops who attended the GAFFEPRONE picnic are not Anglican - at least, not in the sense that they are in any way connected to the Anglican Communion. GAFFEPRONE won't come clean on the numbers, but a significant number actually belonged to various previous schisms and "continuing Anglican" jurisdictions such as the Reformed Episcopal Church in the US and the so-called Church of England in South Africa.

Second, the number of Lambeth boycotters is nowhere near 300. Of 880 current bishoprics, about 650 bishops are at Lambeth. Some of those bishoprics are currently unencumbered by an incumbent. Some bishops have not come for health reasons or other causes that have nothing to do with the GAFFEPRONE refuseniks. One has been barred on the basis of who he loves. Reasonable estimates say that the boycotters amount to about 200 bishops. A serious enough boycott, surely. One is moved to wonder why Chris Sugden undermines his already limited credibility by exaggerating the numbers.

Of course, even the 200 is open to some . . . interpretation. We already know that at least one Nigerian bishop wanted to attend Lambeth - but fled home after threats to himself and his wife.

The Bishop of Botswana, +Trevor Mwamba adds further light to this issue in the Church Times. Here is the relevant excerpt:

". . . people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.”


Finally, please go read this next item in it's entirety at Telling Secrets. It tells of a brave woman called Rose Ngeri, a lesbian from Nigeria. She has prepared a leaflet which she intends to give to every bishop she can find - especially the African bishops. This excerpt describes why she thinks this is important. And it tells us just how brave she is.

When Michael, who acted as her scribe [preparing the leaflet], asked her if she was not putting herself in no small amount of danger, she said, with no discernible alarm in her voice, that we must understand that when the sexual orientation of gay men becomes known, they are tortured and/or killed.

What becomes of lesbian women, she was asked.

Oh, she said, they just send men to rape us. But, she added, deeply distressed, gay men are tortured and killed.

As a lesbian, she is only going to be raped, and so she does not want to compare her potential suffering to that of a gay man who stands to be beaten and killed.


It's late for me here - and the bishops have already been up for a couple of hours at Lambeth.

Pray for them.

Pray for all the bishops - those who came, those who could not come, those who refused to come and the one who was barred from coming.

Pray for those who may feel betrayed by what happens in the coming days.

Pray for Rose Ngeri.

Pray without ceasing.


Country Parson said...

Even though I favor some form of "covenant" all I can say about this post is Amen, Amen, Amen!

June Butler said...

Archbishop Williams gave his second presidential address to the conference. Does that mean that he is president of the conference? Of the Anglican Communion? If he is, perhaps it would be a good thing if the presidential chair were unencumbered by an incumbent.

And you're right, Malcolm. What's new in the "preliminary observations" of the Windsor Continuation Group. Same old, same old, no?