Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lambeth: I don't know, man, I just don't know

Well, Lambeth is over, and the bishops are either coming home or taking off for some sort of quiet and well-deserved vacation. I don't blame them. Little old blogger me wasn't even there, and yet I too feel wiped out from it all. I also feel as if I also grew from all the dialogue, obviously not from attending Indaba groups and having discussions, but from reading the bishops' blogs and talking with other Episcopalians through their own blogs.

I'm going to refrain from commenting or analyzing the concluding document or the myraid of bishop blog posts, mainly because I don't have any original comments or analysis to provide. In fact, I'm not even sure I have UNoriginal comments or analysis to provide. Quite frankly, I just don't know what to think. I'm still fuming that one of my two bishops was excluded from the Conference, but someone from our office who spent a few days at the Conference told me that even though hundreds of bishops still boycotted, hundreds more would have stayed away had +Gene actually shown up and Lambeth would have been a non-event. He was there, and I guess he would know better than me. He also said that the pro-inclusion groups like Integrity were really in-your-face everywhere you went, and that the same couldn't be said of any other groups, including conservatives. I saw something similar on a bishop's blog somewhere, but can't find the link now. Yett on the other hand, how can you ask the queer community to bear the brunt of our sacrifice if you won't even let them in on the deciding discussion? Jesus was an outcast who suffered great pain for the sake of healing and reconciliation, but he was also present at his own trial, as much of a sham as it may have been. This Pastoral Council and moratoria stuff is also vexing. On the one hand, we can't expect the whole Communion to do a whole 180 on any touchy issue in just ten years, but on the other hand, how can we back away from our own principles? Isn't it fair to say if we're a communion, we must all sacrifice and we must stand for something deeper than just being friendly, but isn't it also important to bring all individuals into God's tent?

So, I just don't know what to think. I'm definently in a liberal direction on this, I just don't know *how* I'm in the liberal direction. The road is chosen, but the car isn't, so to speak. I'll put it on the backburner, I think, until I'm able to talk to my other bishop next month and hear his reflections.

I'll probably take it easy with the blogging for the next few days and just throw up some cool links and pictures I've come across, maybe reflect on the Sunday propers. Hopefully I'll step it up a bit with my reviews of DC churches. At some point, I'll write up my predictions for this year's Senate races and review the new Batman movie, but there's no pressing timetable time horizon. Tomorrow, I'll throw up a Garrison Keillor column that made me smile.

20 comments:

Fran O'Gorman said...

You know although I was trying to follow it somewhat (got worn out from it after awhile) I, being new to Episcopalianism having jumped ship from the RC Church, wasn't very familiar with a lot of it. The fact that there were Bishops boycotting and that others WOULD have boycotted I'm just learning now from what you said.
I felt of course Bishop Gene should not have been dis-invited in the first place but the idea that Bishops on either side of these issues could boycott something like this is really funny to me- isn't it their JOB to attend things like this? If I decided not to attend a faculty meeting or a Superintendent's conference I'm supposed to attend because I didn't like the agenda or topic the other attendees would get me FIRED. Maybe the rules of the everyday world should apply here too?
Just wondering...

Nathan Empsall said...

I think being a bishop, as it relates to the larger Communion, is more like being a member of a Board of Directors than it is being a member of a staff. Although the principal is the teachers' boss, the President of the Board is not the boss of the Directors and the Archbishop of Canterbury is not the boss of the bishops. He is a titular leader, a figurehead who can provide spiritual leadership but not orders. Each province in the Communion is autonomous, and can do whatever it wants. The provinces have agreed to enter into Communion with one another, but authority never enters into it at any real level. That's one of the things that distinguishes Anglicanism from Roman Catholicism. So with Lambeth, bishops are not ordered to attend by the ABC, they are merely invited - or not.

The problem is when a province does things the other provinces don't want it to do but can't stop it from doing. How does the unhappy Communion handle that? That's the issue with our gay ordinations and the Nigerians' border encursions. I suppose it could also be a problem with attendance, but no one's elevated attendance to quite that level.

Nathan Empsall said...

I guess one of the things I mean to say about authority is, there's no one at the Communion level who can fire a bishop at the provincial level. Within The Episcopal Church in the United States, bishops face a retirement age and there is an ecumenical court they could be dragged before if accused of something illegal or immoral, that has no bearing on not attending a discussion conference. We're an unruly bunch, we Episcopalians, not a disciplined, ordered group centered around heirarchy. :)

Fran O'Gorman said...

OK I get what you're saying but in a way the people whom the Bishop represents are the source of his/her employment hence there's a moral obligation to them- not so much bosses over the bishop but reason why he/she is what he is- not showing up would in my opinion be like being derelict in your duties.. I think all the Bishops should attend a thing like that including of course Bishop Gene. Just my opinion... but yes I come from a very authoritarian tradition which I'm sure influences it. Still if there is supposed to be a communion how can there be one if everyone isn't willing to participate? Oh and one thing about authority- whose authority was it that allowed Bishop Gene to be banned? Maybe it was an overstepping of authority and could've been challenged.. of course too late now but like I said I'm new to so much of this..

Fran O'Gorman said...

Oops didn't see your extra post... still some of my questions remain more from a moral standpoint I guess since it was an "invitation" thing from the ABC.. still the ABC was not very Christian to leave someone out!

Nathan Empsall said...

Yup, it's not that +Gene was "banned," just that he wasn't invited. Think of it as a private party at ++Rowan's house.

Setting authority aside and focusing only on questions of morality and discourse, I am completely with you, Fran. In numerous posts about the boycotting GAFCON crowd (scroll down the page for "The little boy who cried colonialism"), I've wished that they would come back to the table and participate, and I've often decried kicking out +Gene given that in a way, that also kicks out me and my college ministry where he is bishop. We need discourse and discussion if there is to be understanding, and how can it be a real discourse if it's just an echo chamber?

Fran O'Gorman said...

"how can it be a real discourse if it's just an echo chamber? "
Wow, you put it so well! Is ++Rowan approaching retirement age?
:-)

Nathan Empsall said...

Thank you. :)

I don't know if England has a mandatory retirement age like we Americans. I doubt it. But then again, as listless as he can be, I would imagine that given the current climate he would be replaced by a mroe conservative bloke with even less leadership. He was a rather progressive man before taking his current job, and I can't see them nominating someone else like the fellow we thought he would be.

James said...

Nathan, as for Rowan's replacement being more conservative, always remember any ABC has to have the approval of the government and The Queen, herself. The Government is much more liberal (gay is okay), so getting a conservative bloke though the committees and then the Prime Minister would be rather difficult.

I wouldn't imagine anyone more conservative than Rowan having a chance. BUt I've been wrong a few times (okay, only once!)

Nathan Empsall said...

Hmm. That's not an angle I'd considered before, James, although I wouldn't be quite so confident about it. The government's conservatism is such that Former PM Blair just became a Catholic and PM Brown's popularity is downright Bush-like, meaning the Cameron and the Conservatives just might take over. And the Queen is, of course, a formality, a rubber stamp at this point. I hardl think an actual conservative would get the job, just maybe someone more conservaitve than ++Rowan, given just how liberal he used to be.

obadiah slope said...

The difficulty with +NH's invitation is that it is a conversation stopper not a conversation starter. As a (theological) conservative I believe that the Anglican Communion should not have gay bishops. So for my bishop go to a meeting of bishops where there is one, is to surrender the principle before we begin to talk.
I am not sure how we can get around this one.
Beginning the dialogue about gay inclusion with the communion by electing a gay bishop is problematic.

Nathan Empsall said...

OS, I can sympathize with your last statement. It makes sense, and I will say that TEC probably jumped the gun quite a bit by electing and consecrating +Gene before the Communion-wide conversation was had. However, that was in 2003, and now we're in 2008. It's happened. To paraphrase a low life, you go to Lambeth with the bishops you have, not the bishops you wish you had. For me, this needs to be about dialogue, not about right vs. wrong. If it were straight theology, I would love for the violence-endorsing Akinola to be excluded, but I never called for that. It would be hypocritical. I stand nothing to lose by including all our dioceses, and by listening to the voices of all God's children and asking them to listen to me.

obadiahslope said...

This really is a catch 22. If one of the issues is gay bishops, then to begin the "dialogue" by insisting that a gay bishop is included, is to finish the discussion before it begins.
If true dialogue is sought, the sort that includes the possibility that either side may be right, then you don't start by closing off the outcomes ie electing a ay bishop.
Electing a bishop means that the other-side is faced with accepting the change before discussion starts. If TEC had started its quest for full inclusion with almost any other action, eg changing the marriage rite, discussion might have continued on the basis that the change solely affected the US and that other provinces were unaffected. But to elect a gay bishop, meant that a either/or was imposed at the start of the discussion.
This is because bishops are the means of unity, and especially of contact between provinces.
Sadly this closes off dialogue rather than starts it.

Nathan Empsall said...

Obadiah, your position makes sense, except that it is focused on 2003. You're talking about whether it's right or wrong to elect a gay bishop, but the fact is, he's ALREADY been elected. So let's not talk about what the right thing to do in 2003 will be, since there's no "will be" about it anymore. Let's talk about 2008. You go to Lambeth with the bishops you have, not the bishops you wish you had.

I would also point out that to talk about gay people without any sitting at the table is rather patronizing, and that while you may feel closed out of the dialogue now, the GLBT community has felt closed out even longer. To discuss them without them being present at the table is to give conservatives an upper hand, so it's a little silly to get angry with liberals for wanting an even playing field when you're asking for even more. Yes, TEC acted too quickly, but that was then and this is now, and how do we move forward? By dwelling on the future rather than the past, and it never hurts to talk to someone and at least seek their views and feelings.

obadiahslope said...

I suspect you don't intend to be unilateralist here, but that is how it looks from here.
You appear to say that if TEC has elected an openly gay bishop, then the rest of the communion has to accept him or her as a bishop - in other words TEC can make the rules for the whole communion.
This has not proved to be an overly attractive argument outside of the US, and I am suprised that you appear to be surprised by that.

Nathan Empsall said...

You're right, unilateralism is not my goal. I am not saying that the Communion must accept +Gene as a bishop. Your comments seemed to focus on his election as a bishop in '03, not the acceptance of that election in '04 onwards. If you want to focus on accepting the election rather than on the election itself, fine, but I don't think his actual status as a bishop is in question. He was canonically and eclessiastically elected and consecrated. Maybe he shouldn't have been, but he was. And when you look to the larger Communion, the apparent conensus coming out of Canterbury and Windsor is the three moratoria, not a demand for +Gene to resign.

obadiah slope said...

Whether +nh was made a bishop by election or the throwing of dice is not an issue for me, or the communion either.
He appears not to have been recognised as a bishop by the communion - or at last not as a bishop the rest of the communion is in communion with. The communion is not in communion with a lot of bishops, there are more outside it than in.
So whether +nh resigns or stays makes little difference to the rest of us. We don't recognise him - and Rowan Williams point out, communion is recognition of each other.
I think you are right to ighlight he significance of the moratoria.
I think a case can be made that the import of the moratoria is that +nh should not be recognised.
Not the moratorium on gay bishops strangely enough, but that on gay blessings leads me to that conclusion.
No blessings of gay relationships (and Rowan Williams in the final press conference made it clear that anything that approaches liturgy is out) means no partnered gay priests and no gay bishops.
The moratoria are tougher than TEC seems to realise. And as a gafconite, they are tough for me too.

Nathan Empsall said...

It is good for the GAFCONites to recognize that things are tough for TEC, and for liberals to recognize that things are tough for the conservatives. Based on his Lambeth blog, it seems +Gene came away from his trip to England with a deeper appreciation for how and why his existence makes things hard for some other bishops, and he admits to not having answers for them. I was impressed by that, and it's the kind of openness we need from more corners, including the liberal corners.

I personally am probably willing, though I need to give it more thought, to accepting the moratoria if +Gene is also accepted - in other words, I can agree (for now) to "no more," but not to "none whatsoever." It's a compromise for both sides, and one I, for one, could probably live with for a time.

obadiah slope said...

More thought is certainly required, and from Gafcon to some of the TEC blogging bishops the response to Lambeth is, let me think about that......

Nathan Empsall said...

A typical Anglican response, but, methinks, a good and appropriate one.