UPDATED: Individual bishops respond to Lambeth Conference invitations announcement

May 28, 2007

Some Episcopal Church bishops have responded to the May 22 announcement that a small number of bishops have not been invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson and Martyn Minns -- the latter chosen by the Anglican Church of Nigeria to be the "missionary bishop" for its Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) -- were among the bishops Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, did not invite. Only serving diocesan bishops, suffragans and assistants, as opposed to retired bishops, were invited.

Robinson is one of the few duly elected bishops who did not receive an invitation, but Williams will explore how Robinson could be present as a guest to the conference, according to the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion.

Robinson and Minns issued statements after learning of the decision.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a brief statement that same day calling for "a calm approach" to the announcement and noting that aspects of the matter could change in the 14 months leading up to the July 16-August 4, 2008 gathering at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. She said that "the House of Bishops' September meeting offers us a forum for further discussion." Williams and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council will attend that meeting.

On May 23, Minns sent a letter to CANA members criticizing Williams and his decision.

He wrote that Williams "faces an impossible task -- he is confronted by two irreconcilable truth claims."

"What Archbishop Rowan has chosen to do now, however, is to ignore the underlying issue and elevate process over principle," Minns wrote. "The Lambeth Conference has been reduced to a meeting where bishops and their spouses simply gather for group bible study, prayer and shared reflection. These are significant activities but hardly justify the enormous expense of such an extended and world-wide gathering."

The complete text of Minns' letter is available here.

California Bishop Marc Andrus criticized Williams' decision on May 22 in his blog, saying "the tactic of exile and isolation has been among strongest tools of oppression against the human spirit."

"We were created to be in communion, and there is a deep-seated intuition on the part of those who wish to hem in human freedom that the best way to do this is to separate us, one from another," he wrote.

"The isolation and exile of Bishop Robinson rebukes the bright vision of the unity of the Church, and substitutes the mechanism of the diabolic, the shattering of communion and integrity," Andrus wrote. "I cannot overemphasize how important it is to meet this action on [William’s] part with the weapons of the spirit. I will be praying that my response and our response will be in solidarity with Bishop Robinson, mindful of our relatedness worldwide, full of shalom, and creative, in the manner of Jesus Christ."

The complete text of Andrus' statement is available here.

Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth wrote in a letter to the diocese on May 22 that Minns and the Bishop of Bolivia were in the Diocese of Ohio the previous week to participate in an ordination in Akron. Neither bishop had "sought or received my permission to perform episcopal acts within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction for which I am responsible," Hollingsworth added.

Robinson's presence at the Lambeth Conference "might be awkward or difficult for some of the other participants, but that is hardly uncommon in Christian community," he said. "There are plenty of bishops whose presence in the councils of the Church I find difficult, and doubtless plenty who find mine the same. However, Bishop Robinson, throughout his ministry, has been unfailingly honest and open, consistently establishing and maintaining trust within the diocese he has faithfully served and throughout the Church. Time and time again he has been an instrument of reconciliation and resolution."

Hollingsworth wrote that he concurred with both Jefferts Schori's "sense of patience and her hope for productive conversations with the Archbishop of Canterbury in New Orleans this autumn."

Hollingsworth, who became a bishop the same year as Robinson, is meeting with him and the other members of that class this week in a previously scheduled gathering.

"Of course we will consider this recent news thoughtfully and prayerfully...seeking not to be reactive, but faithfully responsive," he wrote.

The complete text of Hollingsworth's letter is available here.

Washington Bishop John Chane wrote in a May 23 letter to his diocese that he was "saddened" by the news that Robinson would not be invited to the Lambeth Conference in his status as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Chane wrote that Williams' failure to invite Robinson "will be a high priority in our time together" when the House of Bishops meets with Williams in New Orleans in September.

Chane wrote that the "real issue" facing the Communion is leadership.

"Until we are able to separate ourselves from our fixation on human sexuality as the root of our divisions and address the dynamics of power and leadership in the Communion, we are doomed to fail in Christ's call to engage the world in the act of inclusive love and a mission-driven theology that claims justice, the rule of law and the respect for human rights as the core of our work as a Communion," Chane wrote.

The complete text of Chane's letter is available here.

The Diocese of Utah issued a statement May 23 calling the decision to withhold invitations "an extremely rare historic occurrence" and a "very serious and sensitive matter" which left the diocese "deeply saddened and much distressed."

Noting that the Communion is "exploring how we may best listen to one another across our provincial boundaries regarding issues of human sexuality and our churchwide structures," the statement said that "to exclude any voice from our discussions is to impoverish our collective wisdom and to imperil our future as a Communion committed to the inclusion of all persons who exercise the ministry of Christ to which we are called in baptism."

The statement said the diocese finds Robinson's exclusion "deeply hurtful."

"To single him out because of his sexuality shows a regrettable lack of respect for his diocese, the process of The Episcopal Church that confirmed his consecration as a bishop, and previous calls by the Lambeth Conference and other working groups within the Anglican Communion for a time of listening which will incorporate the voices of gay and lesbian Anglicans," the statement said.

"We will continue to pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury, for Bishop Robinson and his family, and for every person who faces institutional and personal discrimination because of their sexuality," it concluded.

The statement was not posted on the diocese's website as of midday (EDT) May 25.

Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith wrote in a May 25 "E-pistle" on the diocesan website that "Certainly the Archbishop is within his rights to invite whomever he pleases."

However, Smith wrote that he is dismayed that Williams treated Minns and Robinson in the same way.

"Whatever you may think of Bishop Robinson, I do not believe that his manner of life has caused division or scandal in the communion, rather it is the actions of those who have used his ordination in an intentional effort to divide both our own Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion who are responsible."

Smith said that Robinson "has been exemplary in maintaining an honest and open attitude of trust within his own Diocese, and in the House of Bishops, he as worked tirelessly to be an agent of reconciliation and resolution."

"That is not the case with Bishop Minns and his supporters," Smith wrote. "They have attempted to steal the rightfully owned buildings and property of Episcopal Congregations in Virginia and elsewhere and have caused untold hardship and division to faithful parishioners."

Smith wrote that he finds it "remarkably odd" that if the Anglican Communion has pledged itself to the Listening Process, it would then exclude from that process "one of its leading witnesses."

However, Smith wrote, he plans to follow Jefferts Schori's call for a "calm approach" and looks forward to meeting with Williams in September.

The complete text of Smith's E-pistle is available here.

Bishop Charles H. Murphy, III, chairman of the AMiA, issued a statement May 25 after consulting with Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda. The AMiA is a "missionary outreach" of the Rwanda Church, according to its website.

Murphy said Williams' decision not to invite AMiA bishops "indicates an intentional distancing of himself from the Primates' Godly counsel, which they have repeatedly stated in their gatherings and in their Communiqués."

The communiqués Murphy lists include statements from meetings other than official gatherings of the Primates, most of them having been issued by various gatherings of the Primates in the global south.

"The Archbishop seems to signal his unconditional support for continued full inclusion of [The Episcopal Church] bishops, regardless of how they ultimately choose to respond to repeated demands and conditions of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, most recently voiced in their Dar es Salaam Communiqué," Murphy wrote.

He also called Williams' decision to issue invitations before the September 30 deadline given to the House of Bishops by the Primates, "preemptive and even dismissive" of the concerns of the Primates of the Global South.

Murphy predicted that Kolini and other Global South leaders would respond on their own at their upcoming meetings this fall.

The complete statement, which has not yet been posted on the AMiA's website, is available here.

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