Monday, 28 July 2008

Lambeth: telling it like it is

Pat Ashworth at the Church Times blog has interviewed the Bishop of Botswana, read it in full here.

THE FURORE over the Archbishop of Sudan’s comments last week is dying down: a bit of excitement that grabbed all the headlines, including our own. The story is moving on. But many have since observed that the official statement on sexuality that came from the Sudanese House of Bishops (and with which 17 provinces concurred) did not contain a call for Gene Robinson’s resignation. That came in the afternoon press conference, a day after the statement was put into circulation.

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia was one of those expressing puzzlement. “We had a meeting of six to eight American bishops with Sudanese bishops, all having diocesan links. It was a very helpful meeting because we respect and appreciate the Sudanese position and at the same time welcome their commitment to remain in relationship with us: we accept that we have much to learn from them and they seem to welcome our participation in their lives,” he said on Saturday.

“Archbishop Deng Bul made it clear at the press conference. He was asked what he would do if he were Gene Robinson. It was a speculative question and he said if he was Gene Robinson, he would resign. It was not a formal call from the Sudanese bishops. He did not repeat that to us as a demand at all.”

The Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, was even more forthright on the discrepancy between the statement and the views expressed later by Archbishop Deng. “My personal view is that it wasn’t helpful at all. I can understand where they are coming from in being in a Muslim context. But having said that, I am also aware that somebody organised that position. In the context of the conference it’s regrettable that it was done but here are other factors at play and we need to name those factors.

“We are using each other at times for ends which are not constructive. That’s just one example of people being used. Another is that people are continuously talking up the absence of our brothers from four African provinces from this meeting. But the point is that a lot of those brothers of ours – 200 is a nice round figure – would have wanted to come here. That’s important to say.”

Bishop Mwamba described the situation as it had been in Uganda, “where a special Synod is organised and provision passed which would penalise any bishop coming to the Lambeth Conference. That denied freedom of expression in terms of any individual bishop. The invitation to Lambeth is in the gift of the archbishop and it is up to a particular bishop, not a particular province, to say I will come or I won’t come.

“What are we saying about our leadership styles? It was the same in Nigeria- many would have been glad to come. So when they say 200 of our brothers have boycotted the conference – definitely no. Maybe given the freedom, one or two would have stayed behind. It must be clearly understood: the reason why they didn’t come is that they were forced not to come.” He finds it therefore a paradox that while they stay at home, some of the American allies who have been working with them – for example, Bishop Robert Duncan and others - are here…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 11:11am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Lambeth Conference 2008

I think it is not odd at all that Duncan and others of that ilk are at Lambeth while their African allies are not. I expect it's easier to keep a few people on message than to risk having everyone present and able to actually speak their own minds.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 11:48am BST

Mwamba was a celebrated guest at the Trinity Wall Street - "Buy an African bishop" meeting in Madrid last year. He, quite simply, is compromised goods, tainted with American lucre. He is also a main player on the attempt to foist the British homosexualist as bishop on the diocese of Lake Malawi. There are disturbing unanswered questions of how these two were related to the poisoning death of missionary Rodney Hunter.

Posted by: robroy on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 11:59am BST

Again....I keep hearing undertones of worrying about what the Muslims think from the prelates in countries with high populations of such, or in "places where Christians are on the defensive..". Is this a classic case of "co-dependency"? Is this leadership? Is this Christianity?

It amazes me that we are worried about a collection of bishops who made an active and conscious decision to not attend Lambeth and yet readily "use" our LGBT brethren "for ends that are not constructive", who are also very deliberately absent.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:17pm BST

Hmm, two aspects of Bishop Mwamba's comments immediately strike me, telling.

One is that he says the rest of the truth that was supposed to be spin doctored out of awareness - many bishops from Africa did not attend under duress from their own varied mix of threats, policing, punishments. Fundamentally proto-Islamic, yet a missed chance to talk about the gospel of grace and freedom that has long existed in tension with iterations of sacred law and legalisms of all sorts in our traditions.

Thanks to the bishop for being honest enough, and brave enough to tell the rest of that suppressed truism. One hopes and prays he will not suffer for truth-telling, as people have tried to punish and police VGR and New Hampshire and TEC and Canada for truth telling. It is an odd holiness indeed which cannot stand a conversation with the truth, in favor of its own closed-minded traditionalisms. It is an odd holiness that cannot speak openly of grace and freedom in Jesus of Nazareth. Another truism? The opposite of love is not hatred and anger, but just this fear that keeps getting preached as the essence of good news about really knowing a real God. What an odd Anglican duck, that sort of holiness.

Another is that this threatening, policing, punishment is probably what we can all more or less expect in daily church life, if the global communion is sufficiently realigned so that conservative minds and even more conservative hearts predominate. The USA religious right is particularly enamored of penalisms - theological, ethical, and of course in social policy, family life, and church life. Theirs is the essential drum beat of this realignment campaign, even if their fav front men at the moment are all people of color. In that way, Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of the planet's largest known union of prison guards, all strict penalistic believers, all anxious lest unrest or questioning or indeed any other influence disturb the set routines which the union is set to guard, police, and bully into high existence above all other values.

Another very odd Anglican duck, then, if it may be that Anglican and holiness do go together.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:29pm BST

Bishop Mwamba is unusual in featuring in a series of novels - the "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series by Alexander McCall Smith. Smith clearly has his finger on the pulse in Botswana, and is quite explicit that by and large, in that country Nigerians are seen as arrogant and overbearing. I find it very interesting that much of what Bp Mwamba has said over recent months reinforces that perception. It makes one wonder at the extent of the skullduggery behind his deposition as Provincial Dean by Archbishop Malango, and just whose strings were being pulled from where.

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 4:19pm BST

"Mwamba was a celebrated guest at the Trinity Wall Street - "Buy an African bishop" meeting in Madrid last year. He, quite simply, is compromised goods, tainted with American lucre."

Oh, now I understand, robroy. American lucre from liberal parishes, bad; American lucre from conservative parishes, good.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 5:26pm BST

I've just been reading Gerry O'Collins excellent book, 'Second Age'. In it he quotes words of Charles Davis as to what led him to leave the RC Church:

‘Words were used not to communicate truth, but as a means of preserving authority without regard for truth. Words were manipulated as a means of power.’ He noted a similar degradation and debasement of language both in ‘papal encyclicals and documents from the Roman Congregations’ and ‘the pastoral letters of bishops’ and ‘even many ordinary parochial sermons.’ ‘All reflect a similar corruption.’ … ‘I see now how twisted and inhibited my mind became in trying to conform, partly from a sincere desire to accept authority, partly from the pressure exerted by an authority prepared to suppress dissentients.’

As O'Collins points out,some of this can be challenged but, nonetheless, his words seem to speak into our current situation.

Posted by: francisjon on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 5:28pm BST

For over a decade a flood of statements from various groups and individuals have been released or promoted within the Anglican churches. Some of the statements, recommendations, and resolutions have been spontaneous or off-the-cuff. Others are after the solmenn deliberation and votes of various special interest groups (claiming endorsement of Almighty God or Scripture). These statements and resolutions prompt more statements with reactions, recrimination, outrage, anger, or agreement. And the Internet has made these statements widely available. Archbishop Deng hasn't said anything new or anything less boring. The most sane and wise action --recently-- has been the decision not to have votes for resolutions from Lambeth 2008. I get the feeling that Archbishop Deng isn't too well known outside of his country. This isn't a compliment or a put-down. My own dicoesan bishop, a good man, is not well know outside of our own diocese (perhaps because he is too busy working within his own diocese rather than claiming to speak for God or become a world leader). The only news to come out of my diocese during Lambeth is that a gunman, yesterday, took a shotgun into a Knoxville, Tennessee Unitarian church, killed two and shot eight more "because he didn't like liberals." My observation is that not many rank-and-file lay Anglicans (laity outnumber clergy) are really listening or praying much attention to resolutions and statements from bishops and groups anymore. There are thousands of these statements and resolutions floating around. The plethora of statements has made all such statements basically meaningless or without real impact. Perhaps, at some point, we can become more "people of action" and less "people who babble" incessantly. And our "action" needs to be the Love of God. Talk is cheap. And more hostile speech just serves to promote hatred and violence.

Posted by: mark217 on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:00pm BST

"Buy an African bishop"


I swear, robroy, you are BEYOND parody!

[In all seriousness, I can assure you that your SLANDER of Bishop Mwamba will mean about as much here as Tunde Popoola's SLANDER of Davis Mac-Iyalla: i.e., not one whit. >:-/]

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:59pm BST

"robroy" refers to "the British homosexualist". Is a "homosexualist" something different than a "homosexual"?????

Posted by: WilliamK on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:00pm BST

Robroy, attempting to malign the good Bishop of Botswana, wrote:
"He is also a main player on the attempt to foist the British homosexualist as bishop on the diocese of Lake Malawi."


Does that mean that Robroy is a totalitarianist?

Give us a break, sir/madam!

What has been most intriguing to me, over the past few years, is the incredible qualitative differences between bishops from various African nations.

Many, such as many bishops from Nigeria and its close allies in central Africa, with their national cultures & histories, and with related religious cultures that match the arrogance and interference and oppression of their regimes, as contrasted with other gentle and Christlike bishops, such as we have witnessed in South Africa and Botswana.

It seems clear what this Robroy prefers, namely, interference from any national church that will match his/her prejudices and acquired belief-sets that justify them.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:03pm BST

If anyone ever wondered if there was any such thing as a slander too vile for robroy to repeat, I think we have our answer now.

Posted by: JPM on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:13pm BST

"There are disturbing unanswered questions of how these two were related to the poisoning death of missionary Rodney Hunter."

Leviticus 19:16 - look it up, robroy.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:25pm BST

"Is a "homosexualist" something different than a "homosexual"?????"

This is a favorite locution of David Virtue.

I believe, using the analogy of words like 'philatelist' or 'numismatist', that a homosexualist is one who studies, collects, categorizes, and sometimes buys, sells, or trades homosexuals.

Mr. Virtue, therefore, who obsessively studies and categorizes homosexuals {although I don't think he collects, buys, sells, or trades them) is by this defination by analogy, a major homosexualist.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 9:35pm BST

"He is also a main player on the attempt to foist the British homosexualist as bishop on the diocese of Lake Malawi. There are disturbing unanswered questions of how these two were related to the poisoning death of missionary Rodney Hunter."

Just where is the evidence for this Robroy? Could you perhaps be a confident of the retired Bishop of Upper Shire perhaps??

Posted by: MKP on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 7:39am BST

Robroy's comments about Bishop Trevor Mwamba and the death of Canon Rodney Hunter in Malawi must rank as some of the silliest and most libelous posted on this blogsite for some time.

The facts are that Hunter was not poisoned, he died of bowel cancer for which he had a major operation. When he died a suspended priest named Denis Kayamba accused Hunter's loyal and faithful cook and one other of 'poisoning' Hunter, with no evidence whatsoever - (Ruth Gledhill of the Times mischievously ran this story uncritically). They were both immediately imprisoned - subsequently the other man was released (he has since died) but the cook Bernard Mlota continued to languish in life-threatening conditions in prison for 18 months.

Anyone, such as Robroy who makes such a stupid accusation is in danger of being complaisant in an appalling miscarriage of justice.

By the way as far as I know Trevor Mwamba and the Bishop-elect of Lake Malawi have never met and when Hunter died Mwamaba was in Botswana and Henderson in London.

Perhaps Robroy would like to visit Nkhota-kota prison for a fact-finding tour - he might not be quite so ready to make such claims in future.

Posted by: penwatch on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 9:17am BST

Ref the above, just to make it clear, I wrote about Hunter's death after two men had been arrested and charged. The above comment might give the impression that the men were charged partly as a result of a story I wrote, which is not the case.

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 12:02pm BST

robroy's rarely, if ever, brings facts to bear. All he contributes to the debate is serial slander and ad hominem attacks.

Here is what we know.

The Diocese of Lake Malawi chose a bishop. He was, despite robroy's lies, not "foisted" on them by anyone.

The then-Primate of Central Africa engineered a failure of the necesssary consents, using accusations of a gay-positive position as a wedge issue.

The then-Primate proceeded to sack Mwamba as Dean of the Province on the grounds that he was not sufficiently homophobic.

Now, with the retirement of the then Primate, his loyalists continue to sideline Mwamba, continue to prevent the appointment of a new bishop in Lake Malawi, actively prevent the election of a new Primate or of a new bishop in the former Primate;s diocese - all because they do not believe they can control all the outcomes.

And robroy, the only evidence of bought bishops in the Communion shows that those who were bought were bought by your dominionist friends at the IRD. And your good pal Henry Orombi basically admits to having been bought by "all the money."

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 10:40pm BST

Malcolm+ wrote:” The Diocese of Lake Malawi chose a bishop. He was, despite Robroy's lies, not "foisted" on them by anyone.”

As I remember he had as Vicar of Ealing (where once I lived for a while) been working with Malawi for many years on various projects. What was held against him by the then-Primate was his membership (Dictatorship-wise !) in The Modern Church Peoples Union, a 19th century Anglican discussion club). Sweet.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 30 July 2008 at 7:32pm BST