Saturday, September 8, 2007

and thankfully it doesn't end with UPI

from the Anglican Communion Office ( thanks to Susan+ Russell, President of Integrity U.S.A.)

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has expressed deep shock at
remarks said to have been made by the Bishop of Uyo, Nigeria, the Rt Revd Isaac
Orama concerning gay and lesbian people. The Archbishop will be contacting the
Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, to seek clarification.
Dr Williams
said "The safety of people of gay and lesbian sexual orientation is a matter of
concern for us all. The Anglican Primates, along with all other official bodies
in the Anglican Communion, have consistently called for an end to homophobia,
violence and hatred. If these reports are correct I would urge the bishop to
apologise. Such comments are unacceptable and profoundly shocking on the lips of
any Christian".

and then... from the same source

In an email communication The Venerable Akintunde A. Popoola, Director of
Communications for the Church of Nigeria has stated that Bishop Orama has denied
making the statements attributed to him in a September 2, 2007, UPI report.
Additionally, the journalist who issued the statement has given a verbal apology
for the misrepresentation and has promised to print a retraction.

all of this scond item has has yet to be confirmed- both Bishop Orama or the reporter have to deliver, but the fact that the situation, for once appears not to have ended at a wall of recrimination and threat is hopeful.

And then this morning......AWESOME comes close to covering in. A ' very original Christian' and Bishop (retired) has spoken with great courage and grace to the agony of these past months .Yes! You guessed it Bishop Jack Spong- the man we all might have a few issues with on the more prickly points of his theology, but who thankfuly is part of our Communion. Bishop Spong has penned a letter to +Cantebury. (Available on the internet thanks to Canon Elizabeth+ Kaeton). I think Bishop Spong is to be commended not only for his articulate intelligence, but also for his larger understanding of the Church's vocation.

Dear Rowan,

I am delighted that you have agreed to meet with the House of Bishops
of the American Episcopal Church in September, even if you appear to be
unwilling to come alone. It has seemed strange that you, who have had so much to
say about the American Church, have not been willing to do so before now. Your
office is still honored by Episcopalians in this country, so our bishops will
welcome you warmly and politely. We have some amazingly competent men and women in that body, many of whom have not yet met you.There is clearly an estrangement between that body and you in your role as the Archbishop of Canterbury. I want to share with you my understanding of the sources of that estrangement. First, I believe that most of our senior bishops, including me, were elated, at your appointment by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Most Americans are not aware that yours is an appointed, not an elected position. Those of us who knew you were keenly aware of your intellectual gifts, your openness on all of the great social debates of our generation and indeed of your personal warmth. We also believed that the Lambeth Conference of 1998, presided over by your predecessor, George Carey, had been a disaster that would haunt the
Communion for at least a quarter of a century. An assembly of bishops hissing at
and treating fellow bishops with whom they disagreed quite rudely, was anything
but an example of Christian community. The unwillingness of that hostile
majority to listen to the voices of invited gay Christians, their use of the
Bible in debate as a weapon to justify prejudice, the almost totalitarian
attempt made to manage the press and to prevent access to the wider audience and
the dishonest denial of the obvious and blatant homophobia among the bishops
made that Lambeth Conference the most disillusioning ecclesiastical gathering I
have ever attended. The Church desperately needed new leadership and so many of
us greeted your appointment with hope. Your detractors in the evangelical camp
both in England and in the third world actively lobbied against your
appointment. The hopes of those of us who welcomed your appointment were,
however, short lived because in one decision after another you seemed incapable
of functioning as the leader the Church wanted and needed.It began at the moment
of your appointment when you wrote a public letter to the other primates
assuring them that you would not continue in your enlightened and open
engagement with the moral issue of defining and welcoming those Christians who
are gay and lesbian.We all knew where you stood. Your ministry had not been
secret. We knew you had been one of the voices that sought to temper the
homophobia of your predecessor's rhetoric. We knew of your personal friendship
with gay clergy and that you had even knowingly ordained a gay man to the
priesthood. You, however, seemed to leap immediately to the conclusion that
unity was more important than truth. Perhaps you did not realize that your
appointment as the archbishop was because you had different values from those of
your predecessor and that your values were exactly what the Church wanted and
needed in its new archbishop.In that letter, in a way that was to me a
breathtaking display of ineptitude and moral weakness, you effectively abdicated
your leadership role. The message you communicated was that in the service of
unity you would surrender to whoever had the loudest public voice.A leader gets
only one chance to make a good first impression and you totally failed that
chance. Unity is surely a virtue, but it must be weighed against truth, the
Church's primary virtue.Next came the bizarre episode of the appointment of the
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey John, a known gay priest, to be the area bishop for Reading in
the Diocese of Oxford. He was proposed by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries.
The nomination was approved by all of the necessary authorities, including you,
the Prime Minister and the Queen. The fundamentalists and the evangelicals were
predictably severe and anything but charitable or Christian. They and their
allies in the press assassinated Jeffrey John's character and made his life
miserable. Once again you collapsed in the face of this pressure and, in a
four-hour conversation, you forced your friend and mine, Jeffery John, who is
not only a brilliant New Testament scholar, but also one who gave you his word
that he was living a celibate life, to resign his appointment to that Episcopal
office. The message went out for all to hear that if people are angry enough,
the Archbishop will always back down. Your leadership, as well as our trust in
your integrity, all but disappeared.Shortly thereafter, you concurred in a
"guilt" appointment by naming Jeffrey Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral. It is a
strange church and a strange hierarchy that proclaims that a gay man cannot be a
bishop but can be a dean. Your credibility suffered once again.When Gene
Robinson in the United States was elected the Bishop of New Hampshire and, more
particularly, when his election was confirmed by a concurrent majority of the
bishops, priests and lay deputies at the General Convention (read General
Synod), you appeared to panic. You called an urgent meeting of the primates of
the entire Anglican Communion and allowed them to express enormous hostility. No
one seemed to challenge either their use of scripture, which revealed an amazing
ignorance of the last 250 years of biblical scholarship, or their understanding
of homosexuality. By acting as if homosexuality is a choice made by evil people
they violated everything that medical science has discovered about sexual
orientation in the last century.Just as the Church was historically wrong in its
treatment of women, so now as a result of your leadership, we are espousing a
position about homosexuality that is dated, uninformed, inhumane and frankly
embarrassing. No learned person stands there today.Then you appointed the group,
under Robin Eames' chairmanship, that produced the Windsor Report. That report
confirmed every mistake you had already made. It asked the American Church to
apologize to other parts of the Anglican Communion for its "insensitivity." Can
one apologize for trying to end prejudice and oppression? If the issue were
slavery, would you ask for an apology to the slave holders? That report got the
response it deserved. Our leaders were indeed sorry that others felt hurt, but
they were not prepared to apologize for taking a giant step in removing one more
killing prejudice from both the Church and the world. Those angry elements of
the church were not satisfied by the Windsor report, inept as it was. They never
will be until they have bent you and this communion into a pre-modern, hate
filled, Bible quoting group of people incapable of embracing the world in which
we live.Next came threats issued by the primates of the excommunication of the
American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, as if they actually had
that power. Ultimatums and deadlines for us to conform to their homophobia were
treated by you as if that were appropriate behavior. When the American Church
elected Katharine Jefferts-Schori to be its Presiding Bishop and thus the
Primate of our Province, your response to that major achievement was pathetic.
You did not rejoice that equality had finally been achieved in our struggle
against sexism; your concern was about how much more difficult her election
would make the life of the Anglican Communion. Once again, institutional peace
was made primary to the rising consciousness that challenges what the Church has
done to women for so long. When Katharine took her place among the other
primates, she underwent with dignity, the refusal of some of those bishops to
receive communion with her. Is that the mentality required to build unity?Later
you issued a statement saying that if homosexuals want to be received in the
life of the Church, they will have to change their behavior. I found that
statement incredible. If you mean they have to change from being homosexual then
you are obviously not informed about homosexuality. It is not a choice or a sin,
anymore than being left handed, or male or female, or black or even transgender
is a choice or a sin. All of us simply awaken to these aspects of our identity.
That truth is so elementary and so well documented that only prejudiced eyes can
fail to recognize it. No one in intellectual circles today still gives that
point of view credibility..Next you declined to invite Gene Robinson to the
Lambeth Conference of 2008. All of the closeted homosexual bishops are invited,
the honest one is not invited. I can name the gay bishops who have, during my
active career. served in both the Episcopal Church and in the Church of England?
I bet you can too. Are you suggesting that dishonesty is a virtue?You continue
to act as if quoting the Bible to undergird a dying prejudice is a legitimate
tactic. It is in fact the last resort that religious people always use to
validate "tradition" over change. The Bible was quoted to support the Divine
Right of Kings in 1215, to oppose Galileo in the 17th century, to oppose Darwin
in the 19th century, to support slavery and apartheid in the 19th and 20th
centuries, to keep women from being educated, voting and being ordained in the
20th and 21st century. Today it is quoted to continue the oppression and
rejection of homosexual people. The Bible has lost each of those battles. It
will lose the present battle and you, my friend, will end up on the wrong side
of history, the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of truth. It is a
genuine tragedy that you, the most intellectually-gifted Archbishop of
Canterbury in almost a century, have become so miserable a failure in so short a
period of time.You were appointed to lead, Rowan, not to capitulate to the
hysterical anger of those who are locked in the past. For the sake of God and
this Church, the time has come for you to do so. I hope you still have that

John Shelby Spong, 8th Bishop of Newark, Retired

Thank-you Bishop Spong


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