News of the Lambeth Conference has been plastered all over the media. Even those who have no real interest in Church affairs must be aware that Anglical/Episcopal Bishops have been meeting at Canterbury, from all over the world. A considerable number decided to stay away, either because many have felt it is irrelevant or they have other reasons (almost 200 did not attend).
One Bishop, specifically, was forbidden to attend (actually…. he was not invited, which in this instance, is the same thing). He still came over to the UK, and was around at Canterbury, but was forbidden from actively taking part in Communion Services anywhere in England. His name is Bishop Gene Robinson from New Hampshire, and he is openly gay, in a same-sex relationship.
Whatever your opinion, if one you have, about such relationships, and how they could and should be viewed, there is a general feeling around that perhaps too much valuable time and tabloid inches have been taken up with the sexuality question regarding Priests and Bishops, whilst matters of much larger importance affecting our world have been pushed to one side.
He was invited to preach and Preside over our Communion Service today at Glasgow’s St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. This was only possible because the Scottish Episcopal Church is independent from the Church of England, and Archbishop Rowan Williams has no jurisdiction here.
The Cathedral is normally quite well filled, with an increasing congregation, and today it was packed, as was expected. There were natural worries about might happen, should those who disagree with his position decide to make a vociferous point during the service. The banners and a few (albeit sincere) protesters outside the cathedral at the beginning of the Service were the only evidence.
In the event it was a wonderful service, with an excellent extempore sermon (not from the Pulpit but at the level of the congregation) from the Bishop, in which the theme was about inclusion.
But should freedom of the ‘Pulpit’ be given to someone who has views at odds with much of the Chuch heirarchy (and perhaps congregational members)? Freedom of expression is enshrined in most democracies, but it obviously must be balanced and positive, and lead us towards the greater good. Minority attitudes are part and parcel of the human condition and as such should be valued, if not necessarily accepted.
On balance, and without infringing on people’s right to object to the man himself, I must say I was impressed with how he handled himself….a quiet gentle person, who must have had an effect on a considerable number of people. Open-mindedness as a principle is necessary if we are to develop our thought processes, and whilst one Sermon rarely makes a convert, I’m sure many others were persuaded that the attitude of the Archbishop of Canterbury in not inviting him to the discusssions was more of a misjudgement than a sensible intentional decision.
I think Gene Robinson is not going away!
Any comments from our American friends who might know more of him?