Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's it all about? Lambeth

After all the hype of the past almost 3 years, what has the Lambeth Conference accomplished? I have read several reports including the two missals from our bishop and his wife and am still puzzled by what has happened and why we spent inordinate amounts of energy, time and money on this conference. Maybe it was one of those things that ‘you had to be there’ to understand.

I am quite satisfied that it tried to legislate nothing. In that the Archbishop of Canterbury was wise. Bp. Sisk said that there was considerable difference in the whole conference because there was no attempt to bring legislation to the floor. The purpose of the whole conference was to listen.

+Gene Robinson quoted ++Desmond Tute about Lambeth
"We meet," he said. Full stop. That's what we do. We hold a common belief and hope in the Risen Christ, and because we care for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, we meet. We meet, and let God's Holy Spirit work among us, to allow us to see our common humanity, and to discover the Christ in "the other." While that might not look like much to the rest of the world, it is an amazing "product." It is precisely what we need during this difficult time. We don't need -- perhaps cannot possibly discern -- the answers right now. What we DO need and CAN discern, is that we are all in this together. That God IS working God's purposes out, even if we can't always see it. Even if we are in the midst of conflict and pain.”

And perhaps that is what we should allow our bishops to do—to meet, to talk and to listen rather than try to legislate.

From all the reports that I have gotten from bishops, members of Integrity, from the left and the right, the process of Indaba (small group listening intently to others) groups provided the kind of forum that the Church needed. Using a uniquely African formula for such discussion is not only politic, it may have provided a way around the posturing that is inherent when leaders of any kind get together. It called from the mainly manly group a type of listening that they are not used to doing. And in that, the Holy Spirit CAN do her work.
And evidently did.

I am deeply indebted to such people as Susan Russell, Elizabeth Kaeton, Katie Sherrod and Cynthia Black who went and talked and met with people to let them hear from us here at home. The members of Integrity and those who were stewards from all over the world—all of these spoke by their actions to the needs of LGBT persons. Even more I am indebted to those LGBT persons from Africa and India who put their lives in danger but spoke up about what it means to live in their countries as a gay person. It is these witnesses to the issue that need to be held up as the real heroes of Lambeth.

I am also encouraged by brave stance of + Marc Andrus of California who has said he will not abide by the moratoria.
“Archbishop Rowan in his final presidential address, given just after we received the reflections document noted that, “There will be some who cannot abide by these moratoria, and in this they signal that there are steps to deeper unity they cannot take; or it may be that they conceive of deeper unity in other ways.” I take this to be a profound and generous idea. In not abiding by the moratorium on same-sex blessings I take it as incumbent on me and on us in the Diocese to actively labor to both understand the position of those to whom that moratorium is important, and to convey the reality of our life together to the world. I must redouble my efforts at inhabiting a deeper unity.”
Knowing +Marc, I know that he will do just that; these are not just words of kindness.
I doubt if those bishops who attended Lambeth will come away without being in someway changed. Whenever we journey for a fourtnight with other, whenever there has been solid and important sharing going on one is changed. But with that said, it is absolutely imperative that those of us who call for the end of homophobia in the Church, must also be willing to enter into a deeper unity with those who are not yet ready to hear this from us.
I find that when I have been confronted with those who are willing to share their fears, I am much more willing to take those fears into consideration when I am trying to articulate what it means to be Christ’s own in the world. But we must be mindful that not only must we listen to the fears of a world that cannot yet address the gay issue in their own lands, we must be willing to continue to address the needs of gay folk in our own.
The continued need to abolish the moritoria on same-sex marriage, the consecration of GLBT persons to the episcopate, the support of gay clergy in their parishes and ministries and the welcoming of LGBT persons to our churches still remains our business. It still remains to be the way that we have allowed ourselves as Church to speak of what Christian inclusion means.
For those in African, issues of Christian inclusion mean something different. And they need to address those differences themselves. But we must at the same time remind them that there are LGBT persons in their midsts that are being discriminated against. The same way that our African or Latin American brothers and sisters have to remind us of our consumerist sins, or the use of power in this nation.
The end of the conference and the Archbishop’s (ABC) address is so reminicent of General Convention. While there had been no legislation and the bishops had worked hard to hear each other, it was clear that the ABC wanted to push his desire for a Covenant and to continue the Windsor Process. It was like the end of GC2006—a blatant overthrow of the process that had been worked out in the trenches. It was as if the Indaba groups meant nothing—and perhaps the ABC had not participated in one—the need to be incharge came to the fore.
Where does this leave the Episcopal Church? No place different than before it. What will it mean for General Convention 2009? More of the same, I fear.
But if the Bishops of the Episcopal Church are going to be people of integrity they must be willing to end the moritoria. If they are going to stand for something but still continue to disallow the on-going process of including LGBT person into the life of the Church, then they are nothing but clanging cymbals. But if they are to end the moritoria and take up the real work of inclusivity and unity, then we will be a better Church for it.