Monday, August 04, 2008

Where the Anglican Communion lives

I’m sitting in a departure lounge at Heathrow. It’s a strange in-between time – I’ve already mentally left England but have not yet begun traveling toward home.

So while I wait here are some rough draft reflections on Lambeth:

Rowan Williams did a very clever job of designing a conference that gave him everything he wanted – no resolutions, bishops who felt “closer” to one another, and – on the last day when they had been lulled into a sense of trust -- a total smackdown of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The process may have been easier on the bishops than the brutal Lambeth of 1998, but the outcome is just as brutal for LGBT Anglicans.

I’m still waiting for a better explanation than Williams was able to give me at the final press conference about what the theological and scriptural grounding is for asking an entire group of Christians to sacrifice their vocations and relationship on your behalf. Simply saying that sacrifice has to be voluntary and that the Communion is worth that sacrifice doesn’t do the job.

As a priest in the US said, “When I climb up on the cross, it’s sacrifice. When you put me up there, it’s murder.’

Clear enough for you?

Several troubling images remain with me, but the most disturbing was the fact that the daily worship services were segregated. The bishops and spouses worshipped in the Big Top, but no one else was allowed to worship with them. There was a separate worship service for “the rest of us.” It was particularly clear that the press were to be kept out of the bishops’ worship. Apparently conference organizers were terrified the press might spot one bishop refusing to share communion with another.

Gee, do you suppose that might have given the press the idea that there were strains in the Communion? Oh, right, they already knew that.

The anxiety of the conference organizers was through the roof, and it was communicated to the press a dozen times a day in countless ways. Their efforts to “control” the message didn’t work, of course, because members of the press are not stupid, and because others were quite willing to step in to the news vacuum created by the conference organizers’ reluctance to let the press see any of the official proceedings.

There also were no North Americans on the conference communications team – by design, not omission. Rowan Williams was doing his best to keep the North Americans in the background. So bishops from the Episcopal Church began giving their own news briefings every afternoon – an idea quickly copied by the Gafconistas present. Who could blame them? It was a great way to get the message out because news-starved reporters flocked to these events.

The daily press briefings and press conferences were a lively dance between the conference organizers who wanted to give out as little information as possible and the press who were trying to pry something – anything – out of them. George Conger was particularly persistent in trying to pry a list of the bishops in attendance from them. I admired his tenacity and marveled at the creative explanations given for why they simply couldn’t hand us a list of who was there.

Because of the paucity of news, most days there were more bloggers in the briefing room than news reporters – along one hardly wants to call some of the British press “reporters.” It was instructive to watch the Brits help stage events, which they would then “report” as news.

The wildly inaccurate and sensationalist “reporting” of some of the British writers left North Americans watching in amazed disgust. Some of us amused ourselves by writing “headlines’ we thought might appear the next day. We weren’t very good at it. No matter how outrageous we thought we were, the reality always outpaced our efforts.

So here we are with another Lambeth behind us. What parts of this will be used to beat up on LGBT Anglicans? Which parts will be raised to the status of Holy Writ, much as the Windsor Report and resolution 1.10 have been?

The truth is, all this sturm and drang is mostly irrelevant to the people in your parish, who are going to go on loving one another, quarreling with one another, looking for the Christ in one another, marrying, burying, and baptizing people, worshipping together, doing mission work together, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked.

It’s there that the Anglican Communion lives, not at Lambeth, not among the bishops – it’s there among all the baptized, in all our daily lives, in all our encounters with one another and with God.


Leonard said...

Thank you...that's what I thought was/wasn't going on...particularly the "control issue" that Dr. Williams appeared to have been trying to suffocate The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada (I imagine he wasn't exactly giving mouth-to-mouth inspirations to Central America and Mexico either).

Somehow, this morning, as I woke up, I have a real feeling of great dread against the actions of the ABC...I believe, through his manipulative ways and threat of "inquisition" he has become a tyrant and will destroy our communion relations if he doesn't step down...I wish I didn't think that, but all of his actions were carefully orchestrated to promote religious segregation as he avoided looking at on-the-ground religious inspired difference and acts of violence and hate crimes (such as the murder of a Gay youngman in Liverpool last week or the viscious laws instigated agains LGBT/others in Nigeria).

The Archbishop of Canterbury has sold out his ministry to ignoring bigotry...and that IS a religious matter!

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

"When I climb up on the cross, it’s sacrifice. When you put me up there, it’s murder."

It's a good quote, and I heartily agree.

At the primates' meeting in October of 2003 (following Canon Robinson's election as bishop), the bishops noted, "If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. . . . This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues. . ."

When one of those primates then proceeded to consecrate Robinson anyway, was the Anglican Communion putting itself on the cross, or was it being put there by the Episcopal Church?

After that October 2003 Primates Meeting, Bishop Griswold acknowledged, "The effects for our Anglican brothers and sisters of our action taken at General Convention giving consent to the ordination and consecration of the bishop coadjutor-elect of New Hampshire were described in very stark terms. Many spoke about ridicule they had received within their provinces and the threat to their ability to proclaim the gospel, particularly in places where other religions are dominant." Why was he not willing to "bear one another's burdens" and act within the bounds of our common life?

To ask bishops and clergy to live in communion when they minister to LGBT people is instead a call made in the spirit of our Lord who said, "Take up your cross and follow me."

David@Montreal said...

This is just a quick note of heartfelt thanks from one who is profoudly grateful not only for the great job you did as the editor of the Lambeth Witness, but for your presence and the witness of your questions at the press conferences.
As a gay man and cradle Anglican I have been deeply touched by the intelligent passion you bring to making out cause your own. But then as we both know what's really going on here is really only the first steps in the complete transformation of our Church.
Thank-you Katie, and godspeed your trip home to that wonderful garden of yours


Ann said...

Thanks Katie --- always good to hear from someone who was in the front lines. All your work was great.

Randuwa said...


Sleep well and comfortably, sister. Your summation of Lambeth deserves admiration, and the participation in it, grants you a time of well deserved vacation! I hope you have a way of taking it.

Randy William Ash, Takoma Park, Maryland

kevindoylejones said...

that's sure the way i see it.

episcopalifem said...

Excellent insights Katie! Thank you for sharing them. I've given you a link back at Friends of Jake!

Caminante said...

Dear Katie, Thank you for ALL you did on our behalf.

'There also were no North Americans on the conference communications team – by design, not omission.'

I am still really P-O-ed that the so-called 'Latin American' voice for the Reflection paper was a Brit (or at least an English named person) from the Southern Cone. Hello???? There is Mexico, Brazil, Central America... what about them?

Was that an attempt only to have English-speaking people on the team to make the work go faster... or keep down kibbitzing from those for whom English was not their first language?


Safe travels home... get rest and again, thank you so much.


JCF said...

When one of those primates then proceeded to consecrate Robinson anyway, was the Anglican Communion putting itself on the cross, or was it being put there by the Episcopal Church?

Um, neither?

BizarroWorld framing, Fr. Timothy. Did Jesus crucify the Roman legionnaries in your world, too?