Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Latest on Bishop Gene Robinson

As The Lead is reporting, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, informed Bishop Gene Robinson (by email!) that he was not permitted to preach or celebrate mass while in England:

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning.

Sources familiar with the email say Williams cites the Windsor Report and recent statements from the Primates Meeting in refusing to grant Robinson permission to exercise his priestly functions during his current trip to England, or during the trip he plans during the Lambeth Conference in July and August.

The Windsor Report does not discuss the ordination of a candidate in a gay relationship to the priesthood, and it is priestly, rather than episcopal functions that Robinson had sought permission to perform. The primates' statements, similarly, have objected to Robinson's episcopacy, not his priesthood.

Several provinces in the Communion ordain gay and lesbian candidates without requiring a vow of celibacy. It is unclear whether the Church of England forbids these priests from exercising their functions within its jurisdiction as a matter of policy, or whether Williams' ban extends only to Robinson. Many gay English priests live with their partners, but are expected to remain celibate.

The email, which came to Robinson through a Lambeth official, says Williams believes that giving Robinson permission to preach and preside at the Eucharist would be construed as an acceptance of the ministry of a controversial figure within the Communion.

Read it all here.

This strikes me as a stunningly bad move by the Archbishop. Many of the more conservative Anglican provinces (such as Nigeria) were already boycotting Lambeth and Bishop Robinson had already been told that he was not invited to Lambeth in any capacity. So what was the purpose of this move, which as the Lead points out, is directed to Gene Robinson as an ordained priest, and not as a Bishop?

I suspect that the best explanation is that the Church of England is itself dividing on the issue of same sex relatiionships, and this has more to do with keeping unity within the Church of England--especially given that gay Englsh priests are officially expected to be celibate.

Up until now, I had thought that the Archbishop was playing a careful and thoughtful game of allowing time and inertia to lead to some reconciliation among at least most of the Provinces. I am now not so sure. The progressives within the Episcopal Church are already asking why the Archbishop has forbidden Gene Robinson, but not other non-Windsor compliant Bishops, from preaching in England. This again from the Lead:

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion.

Perhaps Bishop Robinson should make a few sidetrips to Wales and Scotland.

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