Thursday, August 7, 2008
Back fom Lambeth
After more than three weeks in England, I now back in Phoenix, reflecting on our time there.
For those of you who missed the musings while at the Lambeth conference, you can find them all on my special site, www.lambethdaily.blogspot.com.
Now that I am home, I will be returning to this blog address.
The first item is to share the letter I wrote the my Diocese today:
Feast of the Transfiguration,
August 6, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Laura and I have just returned from three weeks in England, where we attended the Lambeth Conference, the meeting of the world-wide Anglican Communion held at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury every ten years.
Some of you have been following my daily reports of that meeting, and these will remain posted (along with some videos I took) at www.lambethdaily.blogspot.com. In addition, many of you have already looked at the final “Reflections” document produced at the Conference (www.lambethconference.org/reflections/document.cfm). Much of what is contained in that document, especially the sections referring to full inclusion of gay and lesbian folks in the Anglican Communion, will no doubt serve as material for further discussion and debate here in our Diocese and in our American church, especially when it meets at its General Convention next year.
So although the work of Lambeth 2008 will take some time to digest, I felt that this would be a good time to share with you some of my initial impressions.
Overall, it was an extremely positive experience. Those critics who predicted that the Anglican Communion would fragment at this conference were proved wrong. Far from resulting in schism, the meeting provided us all with a chance bishops from around the world to get to know each other and the contexts in which we work. In spite of the fact that we occasionally disagreed, there was no hint of rancor or anger in any of our meetings, only the desire to share in the mission of the Gospel of Jesus in the world. The highlights of our time together were the small Bible study groups we had each morning and the larger indaba discussions which followed (indaba is a South African technique for making sure every voice is heard). While the bishops focused on scripture and doctrine, the spouses in their meeting concentrated more on the relational side of our life together. Laura heard stories of hardship and suffering from spouses who have experienced rape, murder, and terror as the result of their witness.
Although the Reflections document is merely a report of our discussions (Lambeth has no legislative authority), many of its comments related to human sexuality are bound to gain attention in the coming months. The American Church realizes that our policy of inclusion is not shared by the majority. The document reflects that fact. Even though I had hoped that the Communion could accept the American Church’s actions, I was disappointed that this was not the case. Bishop Gene Robinson’s exclusion was personally difficult for me, and I supported him the best I could by attending an off- campus Eucharist with him. Most (but not all) of the 38 constituent provinces still feel that there is need for a covenant agreement which would contain some kind of discipline for those provinces that proceed with the consecration of openly gay or lesbian bishops, or who offer blessings of same gender unions. Both the meaning of these passages, and the disciplinary implications are still unclear, but I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that many of us in the American Church feel caught between our love for the Communion and our conviction that in the church there can be no outsiders. The result, as someone half jokingly remarked, is that “the Anglican Communion welcomes everyone, except a few, and the Americans, who welcome everyone.” So this tension will continue.
For my part, I intend to do three things. The first is to nurture the friendships I made with my colleagues from around the world. I am sure my prayer-group members (which included one very vocal critic of the American Church) and I will be friends for life, for we pledged to pray daily for each another. Second, our mission partnerships need to be strengthened. I hope to build on our relationship with Western Mexico and Dar es Salaam, and both will be present at our Convention in October. Third, the clergy and I will be discussing the pastoral implications of the Reflections document at our clericus meetings this fall and how we as one Diocese can best respond to it.
Lambeth Conference was for both Laura and me a life changing experience which will affect our ministries for years to come. In addition to the formal meetings, I will always treasure the personal opportunities I had during my time in England to do such things as sit in prayer in Canterbury cathedral for two days of retreat; to visit Cambridge University where I got to touch original documents of Thomas Beckett, Thomas Cranmer, and Martin Luther and to hold in my hands the oldest book in England that Pope Gregory gave to St Augustine in 597; to play the organ in the Cathedral; to walk in solidarity through the streets of London with 700 other bishops in purple cassocks in support of the Millennium Development Goals; and yes, to enjoy the gracious hospitality of the Queen at Buckingham palace! I will always give thanks for the opportunity to represent you, the people of the Diocese of Arizona at this gathering. I am proud to be your bishop and I am proud to be part of our great and historic church throughout the world.