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…