Friday 1 August 2008

Orombi from the Sidelines

On July 28th Bishop Tom Wright, giving one of his many reproduced interviews, said this to the Christian Today website: example Henry Orombi represents one of the finest Christian leaders in the world today and that is a voice that we badly miss at this conference.

He may be wondering about this judgment, given the interview just produced by The Times, in which Henry Orombi follows Chris Sugden's previous nonsense about colonialism and the sin of nationalism, in an article that becomes cover for an attack on Rowan Williams "not serving us well" (all right in George Carey's day?).

To begin Orombi gives the well worn explanation regarding the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson:

I participated in that conference and we overwhelmingly resolved that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture" and the conference "cannot advise the legitimising of same-sex unions". As a result, the 2003 action of the American Church plunged the Anglican Communion into a crisis that, as the primates of the Anglican Communion said in 2003, "tore the very fabric of our communion at its deepest level". The crisis is about authority - biblical authority and ecclesiastical authority.

But see the subtle* change that is going on at Lambeth 2008, at least according to the Australian Archbishop Philip Aspinall. We have Orombi spouting the same old stuff whilst Episcopal Bishops and those many African bishops present do manage to talk across the divide. The Lead has it:

Reflecting on the procedure employed during the conference, Aspinall explained that Archbishop Rowan Williams saw little purpose in revisiting Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. He said that while the views embodied in that resolution remained the views of the "vast majority" of the communion, the process by which the resolution was arrived at "didn't help the church move forward."

"You won't be surprised to hear that we haven't suddenly reached consensus on the issue of homosexuality," Aspinall said. "The problems are not all resolved."

However, he added, that the mood in 2008 is dramatically different (than in 1998). "Bishops from opposite ends of the spectrum actively embraced each other and thanked each other for helping each other" understand how the issue of sexuality plays out in their provinces, he said.

This is the difference, and there is praise for Rowan Williams's steering of the Lambeth Conference ship. He has said plenty himself, and it has his impression all over it, and he has let visiting speakers say much (including the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks), and he has put the issues squarely, and there has been the cut-down method of bishops facing one another - even if they cannot agree. Yet what can Orombi do other than engage in attack like this nonsense, the unstated point being that the British State selected the wrong man:

Anglicans may say there are four "Instruments of Communion," (the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Lambeth Conference; the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting). But de facto, there is only one - the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The peculiar thing is that this one man, who is at the centre of the communion's structures, is not even elected by his peers. Even the Pope is elected by his peers, but what Anglicans have is a man appointed by a secular government. Over the past five years, we have come to see this as a remnant of British colonialism, and it is not serving us well.


The Bible says: "Can two walk together unless they are agreed?" The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked us to "wait for each other". But how is it possible when we are not travelling in the same direction?

Perhaps the answer, Henry Orombi, is that you and Chris Sugden/ Martyn Minns have been out manouvred; that the penalty for walking off is that you can only shout from the sidelines. Gregory Venables is still wobbling all over the place, but the bullies have been absent. I noticed Chris Sugden was present, interviewed earlier on BBC TV News along with someone from Integrity.

The answer, in this situation, is that maybe many bishops and many Churches cannot go along together in substance, in that their positions are just too wide apart: however, if there is to be some sort of arrangement of togetherness for some and apartness for others, at least it might be done in a friendly way. The badly managed, triumphalist, nasty, Lambeth 1998, that has left a legacy of ten years of bad feeling, is superseded by a Conference that at least has generated good feeling (so far) as here:

Chris and John Simmonds (on the Progressive Christianity stall) told me about last night's taxi ride. Unasked, the driver said "What a difference this year's Lambeth Conference is! Ten years ago bishops were superior, stiff and starchy and talked down to us taxi drivers. They treated us like servants. But this year it's so different. They have a laugh, they are friendly, courteous and generous. All the taxi drivers are talking about it".

This much has been seen. It may be impossible and indeed undesirable to have a Covenant of Faith, because it cannot stretch across, and can only give to one side at the expense of the other, but it should be possible to have good relationships under an unwritten Covenant of Fate - that we live in the same world, that the people in the world are one and the same, and that Churches when serving the world do so, roughly speaking, in the same way.

* Note: I used "subtle"; if I read the word "nuanced" (or "nuance") once more I shall have to dig my fingernails into my face flesh and tear it all off.

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