Tag Archives: Peter Akinola

Battle of the Bishops

Something that you might have missed on Monday was a very interesting programme in the This World strand on BBC2 called Battle of the Bishops.

The programme primarily focuses on Archbishop Akinola and some of the other GAFCON during the run up to the conference. There are also contributions from Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark Cathedral and Bishop Tom Wright, and a visit to the Falls Church in Virginia, one of the most high profile split congregations (it counts several high ranking government officials amongst it’s membership, and can count George Washington as one of it’s former Churchwardens) where the bulk of the congregation have split from a small group that remain loyal to the Episcopal Church.

Aside from seeing some of what went on at GAFCON, the programme also shows something of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, and in particular a hint of the almost explosive level of growth that the Anglican Church in Nigeria is enjoying. I certainly don’t expect that as a programme it will make anyone change their minds, but it certainly underlines the fundamental differences in what those in Africa understand it is to be Anglican, and how we in the West understand it.

The programme will be available on iPlayer until next Monday, and I highly recommend taking a look if you get the opportunity.

Crunch Point

In all the recent goings on in the Anglican Communion, the obvious crunch point has always been the Lambeth Conference in 2008. Every ten years all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion from all over the world get together, ironically not in Lambeth but at the University of Kent in Canterbury. However who attends is entirely down to who the Archbishop of Canterbury, so there has been much speculation and discussion as to who will be invited, particularly with reference to the Episcopal Church.

Yesterday, the months of speculation were ended by the announcement that the invitations had been issued. Reading the letter of invitation, those worried that the whole of the Episcopal Church will have been sidelined had their minds put at rest. Rowan Williams said the following:

An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.

and also this:

I have said, and repeat here, that coming to the Conference does not commit you to accepting every position held by other bishops as equally legitimate or true. But I hope it does commit us all to striving together for a more effective and coherent worldwide body, working for God’s glory and Christ’s Kingdom. The Instruments of Communion have offered for this purpose a set of resources and processes, focused on the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals. My hope is that as we gather we can trust that your acceptance of the invitation carries a willingness to work with these tools to shape our future. I urge you all most strongly to strive during the intervening period to strengthen confidence and understanding between our provinces and not to undermine it.

However, then comes the following:

At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.

Although they are not mentioned by name, neither the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, nor Martyn Minns, recently consecrated by Peter Akinola against the wishes of Rowan Williams have been invited.

The reasons for the exclusions though are rather different. Minns isn’t invited, fundamentally because Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), although being regarded as part of the Anglican Church in Nigeria is not recognised as part of the wider Anglican Communion.

The exclusion of Gene Robinson is for no other reason than the fact his is gay and is being honest about it. All of the sixty or so Bishops who supported him and were involved in his consecration are invited, it is only Robinson who is being denied an invite. However, the communiqué issued by the February 2005 Primates meeting said the following:

The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.

Not surprisingly this has provoked a good deal of outrage from across the communion, there is a good roundup on Episcopal Cafe. Interestingly both sides of the debate are not happy with the decision, for differing reasons, as detailed by Andrew Plus:

So far the blogs seem to go like this. The blogs on the right are disappointed because invitation to Lambeth was seen as test of orthodoxy. They assumed that only orthodox Anglicans would be invited, and Archbishop Akinola has said that if +Gene or the Episocpal Church was included he and the Global South would gather in Alexandria or someplace else and have their Lambeth conference.

The bloggers on the left are disappointed because of the active and deliberate exclusion of Bishop Robinson, once again placing the burden of division on the back of one man–the open, affirming and partnered gay man. This once again smacks of condescension and avoidance–talking about people instead of to people–and so this solution seems to be a capitulation to conservative pressure. The words in his letter about the limits of inclusivity seem to reinforce this.

Andrew’s position is much the same as mine – everybody should have been invited, and then it should have been left to the individual Bishops as to whether they would attend. Mark Harris on PRELUDIUM says much the same. By excluding Minns and Robinson from the invite list it seems to please no-one, indeed Peter Akinola is already threatening to have the entire Anglican Church in Nigeria boycott the meeting over Minns not being invited. Minns himself doesn’t seem quite so bothered. Gene Robinson’s statement describes him being excluded as an affront to the whole Episcopal Church. Certainly it will be interesting to see how many of the Episcopal Church choose not to attend in protest.

However, there is a possibility that Robinson will still attend the conference. A number of reports including USA Today and Ruth Gledhill suggest that Robinson may well be invited as a guest – perhaps the irony of that is that as a guest he may well have more visibility than if he was within the conference.

Anyway, if all of this is totally depressing, thanks to Dave Walker for his spin on why the two Bishops weren’t invited…

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Is Anyone Happy with B033?

So everything has panned out pretty much as expected. The Americans pulled together a last minute motion, B033, that reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion.

However, nobody really seems happy about it. The Diocese of Washington has published a ‘Statement of Conscience‘, essentially distancing themselves from the resolution because firstly it was only briefly discussed, and secondly because it discriminates. Father Jake, as would be expected, has a much more direct and forthright response.

Looking on the other side of the rift, the Anglican Communion Network published this statment describing the measure as inadequate. Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria was quick with a response too.

There is even comment from a participant in the General Convention who believes that the motion was the centre ground speaking. However if you read further, even he isn’t happy with the result.

So could it have been any different? Could there have been a solution that would make everybody happy? I think not. Nothing short of the removal of the Bishop of New Hampshire, and a legal block on any similar appointments (something I don’t think was even possible under the canon law of the church in a single convention) and the most pitiful, grovelling statement – the verbal equivalent of crawling through the streets in sackcloth and ashes would have satisfied the conservative side. Equally, any move that can be seen as in any way discriminatory would be unacceptable to the liberal wing. Essentially, the only solution would be one that made one group or another happy, not both. What they finished up with was one which pleased nobody, too wishy-washy for the conservatives, and a perceived slap in the face to the liberals.

So what should have happened? Reading the discussion, I was reminded of John Shelby Spong’s call for a new reformation. In a similar way to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517, Spong published 12 theses online, and in his book “New Christianity for a New Worldâ€?, the twelfth of which is:

All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Maybe, rather that being, well Anglican about it all, the Episcopal General Convention, realising that no compromise that they would produce would satisfy the conservatives, gone with what they believed, and have backed at previous conventions, and effectively kicked off the new reformation proposed by Spong. Instead, the resolution has alienated and offended parts of the church, without doing anything more than postponing the inevitable break-up of the Anglican Communion. To be frank, the beliefs expressed by both groups are so deep seated that neither is ever going to be happy unless the other moves their position, and since the conservative group isn’t happy for the liberal to be in the same Church (although in general the liberal group seem to be happy to include the conservatives), it seems better that they separate. (This of course will get on to another whole load of terribly earnest but totally tedious and irrelevant arguments over who is the ‘true’ Anglican church. To be honest, who cares?) At least then the two groups can actually get back to doing what the church is called to do, rather than arguing amongst themselves.