Tuesday, February 10, 2009

If Archbishop Akinola Can't Dazzle Them With Brilliance, Perhaps He Can Baffle Them With - Well, You Know.

You know, one has to hand it to Peter Akinola, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Nigeria – Anglican. He tries to make his points with strength.

To the point: he has written an Open Letter to Archbishop Williams. The gist of the letter is to point to significant failings on the parts of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Church of Canada that to his mind demonstrate at least indifference to the Communion, and at worst true perfidy.

To that end, he has linked an attached report with the impressive title “The Episcopal Church: Tearing The Fabric Of Communion To Shreds,” prepared by his American friends of the American Anglican Council that purports to show all the actions taken in the past year in the Episcopal Church that defy and/or undermine the moratoria against consenting to election to the episcopate of partnered gay persons, or against blessing the unions of same sex partners. The report is indeed extensive – all of 45 pages. One could hardly imagine that the Archbishop has time to go through it.

Which, is unfortunate. I quickly found at least one mistake in the information gathered. Beginning on page 36 of the report there is a list of actions taken in diocesan conventions in the Episcopal Church. This is how the writers of the report describe the resolutions:

TEC non-compliance with Anglican Communion requests for moratoria on same sex blessings and consecrations to the Episcopate of persons in homosexual relationships, by Diocese

The following data was compiled by the pro-homosexual group, “Integrity.” It documents chronologically diocesan resolutions which defy Anglican Communion calls for moratoria on same sex blessings and consecrations to the Episcopate of persons in homosexual relationships by (1) calling for the repeal of General Convention 2006 resolution B033 which calls 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 communion,” (2) weakening the definition of traditional Christian marriage, and (3) promoting the creation of rites for same-sex blessings. The full text of the resolutions can be found at the site:

Among the resolutions cited is one from my own diocese, West Missouri. Now, the text of that resolution, as found where they cite, is as follows:

Whereas in 1998 Lambeth 1.10 (c) called for those in the Anglican Communion to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian persons, and

Whereas the Windsor Report ¶135 speaks to the need to forward the Listening Process as called for by Lambeth 1.10 (c) and

Whereas The Listening Process section of The Anglican Communion Official Website states that “the object of listening is not to have one’s mind changed, but to hear the joys as well as the struggles of following Christ as a gay or lesbian person. Listening is about hearing the struggles of individuals as they seek to follow Christ and this will change our hearts and how we speak. Listening is about seeking to understand the way the speaker understands the Bible, tradition and reason. Listening is about hearing the experience of parents, children and friends of lesbian and gay people.” and

Whereas the Listening Process section of The Anglican Communion Official Website also states that “A listening process concerned with human sexuality has to include lesbian and gay people and ‘straight’ people. All have something to share in the process. People who find they are attracted to people of their own gender are present in all our churches and have a range of opinions. Each of their diverse stories is significant” and

Whereas The Listening Process section of The Anglican Communion Official Website also states that “successful listening requires a commitment to creating safe places, to owning common ground and to sharing the sense of vulnerability. It does not require us to commit to changingour theology.” and

Whereas matters of Human Sexuality will come before the 2009 General Convention, and much conversation will take place about those matters, therefore be it

Resolved, that the clergy and people of the Diocese of West Missouri commit themselves toengage in such a Listening Process during 2009, and be it further

Resolved, that the Bishop appoint a Task Force of clergy and lay persons to develop appropriate content and process for such a Listening Process, and be it further

Resolved that the Task Force be composed of straight, gay, and lesbian persons, and be it further

Resolved, that in every case such listening shall occur in safe places, with an honoring of our common ground as persons united in Holy Baptism by which we are all made one in Christ, and with a pastoral attentiveness to the vulnerability which is essential to honest and heart-felt listening, and be it further

Resolved, that the Task Force make a full report on the Listening Process in the Diocese of West Missouri to the 2009 Diocesan Convention.

Now, I do remember voting for this resolution. On the other hand, I don’t find anything in there that matches the description of the writers of the report. There is no reference to B033 at all, nor to blessings of couples, gay or otherwise. Instead, there are quotes from Lambeth resolution 1998 1.10, which we are reminded again and again expressed “the mind of the Communion;” from the Windsor Report; and from the Anglican Communion web site. The point is to endorse and localize the Listening Process – a process we have been asked to enter for more than ten years now, and that, by the way, the Church of Nigeria – Anglican has said is not worth their while.

Perhaps this is a simple oversight on the part of those who wrote the report. I can imagine that the mere fact that the folks at Integrity were pleased by this resolution, perhaps coupled with the determination that gay and lesbian persons should participate in the process (what a concept!) would so infuriate the folks at the American Anglican Council that they would overlook the facts regarding this resolution.

On the other hand, I would encourage anyone to look through the list, and if one of those resolutions was passed in his or her diocese, check it out to make sure another mistake wasn’t made. This may not be such an exception. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some resolutions that met the criteria stated by the writers; but all of them? That seems unlikely.

My fear, you see, is that the difficulty for the Archbishop and his staff to read all this stuff is precisely the point. I fear that the idea is to bury the truth beneath a pile of paper, and hope that poorly substantiated assertions will not be examined but simply accepted. That would be a disservice to the Archbishop and to the Communion as a whole. It would be in keeping, of course, with the GAFCON/FOCA perspective that Canterbury isn’t really all that important anymore; but it would hardly be in any sense reflective of the call for reconciliation in even the most recent Primates’ Meeting.

Of course, if one’s purpose were to justify rejecting reconciliation, then it wouldn’t matter, would it?

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