Monday, 28 July 2008

News from the Big Blue Tent (12)

One of my hopes in writing this daily piece is that it helps those beyond the university campus to hold what is going on up here in prayer. Today I got to be part of that when I joined the Third Order Franciscan Praying Presence at Greyfriars in the city. Franciscan tertiaries from the UK and beyond are following a daily prayer routine for the conference in the place where the very first Franciscan house in England was founded, during the saint’s lifetime, in 1224.

The chapel is part of the original buildings and has miraculously survived the reformation and all that has happened since. My task was to preside at the noon Eucharist and then share lunch. It was a chance to preach on the day’s text (John 10.1-10; I am the door of the sheepfold) and relate it to the Franciscan charism. Prayer is being stepped up on campus too. From today on there is a vigil from 0900 to 2100.

This afternoon saw the second set of Windsor Continuation Hearings, the papers for which are now available on Thinking Anglicans. The pattern tended to be conservative TEC followed by liberal TEC with some good, and good natured, speeches on both sides. Most telling was the temperamentally conservative bishop who personally opposed the consecration of Gene Robinson but still has territorial invasions in his diocese. We need a tool that will allow these to be examined; maybe the WCG paper suggests something (though it needs some beefing up in my view). (By the way, thanks for all the comments and links readers have added, as I said, I’m not responding to each but am taking you with me on the journey.)

Tonight’s main speaker was Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, he’s well worth listening too, especially on religion and culture, but I’d accepted an invite from USPG who kindly support our work with Peru. Anyway, last time I invited Rabbi Sacks to something he sent apologies, so it felt fair enough. The USPG reception was humbling. In rapid succession I spoke with the Bishop of Harare and the Archbishop of Burma, amazing people living out Christian lives and ministries under appalling conditions. The Archbishop of Southern Africa spoke movingly to the assembled gathering. A wise friend from a conservative African province said to me, “If you disagree with your husband or wife, you don’t kick them out; you just carry on walking side by side and believe things can change in the future”.

This morning’s Eucharist was presided over by the Indian Ocean province. I was surprised to see my friend Graham Cray, bishop of Maidstone and suffragan of Rowan on the platform. For a moment I thought I had the media scoop of the conference: “Diocese of Canterbury goes for alternative provincial oversight”. Surely not even Rowan’s worst nightmares feature that eventuality. All was soon cleared up; the province had invited its three links to each put a bishop on the altar.

Highlight of the day: hearing the voices of children outside playing in the summer sun as we celebrated the Eucharist in the thirteenth century Franciscan chapel.

Lowlight of the day: the heat and humidity in the Spouses’ Venue for the Hearings session. Is God trying to tell us something about bishops and hot air?

Posted by David Walker on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 10:20pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Big Blue Tent | Lambeth Conference 2008

David Walker's reference to the Franciscans reminds me of the story about St. Francis telling his followers that "perfect joy" consists of being totally rejected and abused by those who one thinks would be most likely to welcome and love them. It begins to look as though not only gays and lesbians, but all of us in the North American Anglican churches are going to have to find "perfect joy" in being categorized as inferior Christians worthy of marginalization, exclusion and defamation.

Posted by: Orville Endicott on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 10:52pm BST

It's worth noting, I think, that Bishop Robinson has prayed Mattins with this Franciscan community each day that he's been in Canterbury.

Posted by: WilliamK on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 11:04pm BST

thanks for these daily insights: I have been sharing them with my parish here in Australia, who have enjoyed them.

Posted by: Scott Moncrieff on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 12:26am BST

Bishop Walker, with respect --- I hope you have read the responses to your previous posting. I hope you have also taken note of the news out of the United States of the shooting at the Unitarian church in Tennessee by a man who hates liberals and gays. It could just as well have been my liberal, gay-friendly Episcopal church one state over. Africans are not the only ones who suffer for their witness. The refusal to treat LBGT people as equal beings has consequences everywhere. Thank God for the principled witness of the Episcopal Church. One can only pray it continues to grow and expand. Please don't stand in the way.

Posted by: Phyllis on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 1:35am BST

Blessed Francis was seen to break into a dance of joy and saying "Blessed are you, Lord God, for choosing the unworthiest of your creatures to preach the Gospel".

No doubt Bishop Gene, and all the other gay priests and bishops around the world can echo that wonderful statement of the humble servant of God - Saint Francis, pray for us, sinners!

God have mercy on me - a sinner!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 4:01am BST

We are following the conference from TA in Brazil. Thank you for the service you are offering for the whole communion.

Some papers are saying that The Most Rev Gregory Venables is the head of the church in South America. We are very concerned about it here in Brazil, because we are an autonomous province and we are definitely not aligned with most of the Soth Cone positions, and we were not at GAFCON!

Maybe you could try to speak to some of the Brazilian bishops present at the conference. There are ten of them. Thank you.

Posted by: Lucas on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 1:40pm BST

Most Anglicans,at least, are aware that Gregory Venables is not the Primate of the whole of South America but only of the 'Southern Cone'. However, with only a few thousand people within his purlieu as Archbishop of the Southern Cone, he may want to be SEEN to be the Primate of All the countries of South America.

The real problem proably stems from his recent incursion into the Province of the American Episcopal Church, where he has recently - against all the assurance given by the Anglican Bishops at the last Lambeth Conference - sought to take under his wing various parishes and dioceses of TEC (and maybe Canada) under the excuse of being their protector from doctrinal error.

Such hubris appears not to have been taken seriously by the bishops at Lambeth (where he is presently situated on campus at the University of Kent), where he may even be given recognition as a 'defender of the faith' around the Communion.

Meanwhile, a legally elected and consecrated bishop of TEC, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson is allowed to languish on the sidelines. Where is the justice in that?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 30 July 2008 at 12:22am BST
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