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There is enough blame to go around

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
January 26, 2024

The recent 2024 Mere Anglicanism Conference turned into a kerfuffle when one of the invited presenters, Fr. Calvin Robinson, unwittingly hit a hot button issue within the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) -- Women's Ordination -- particularly since the gathering was being held in a diocese which allows females in the priesthood.

The premier Anglican conference was hosted by St. Philip's Church in Charleston, South Carolina. As usual, it drew a sellout crowd.

But before the event was over Fr. Robinson's wings were clipped and he was asked to stand down from the conclusion panel discussion. The reasons are murky and there is enough blame to go around.

Some say the chastising came because he revealed the elephant in the room -- WO, others think it is because he went off script and didn't stick to the assigned topic -- Critical Race Theory.

Fr. Robinson's presence at the conference was a mismatch from the beginning.

Firstly, the young priest is a passionate Anglo-Catholic with a strong commitment to traditional biblical values concerning the priesthood, marriage and the family, along with same-sex and transgender issues.

Mere Anglicanism is a low church evangelical event based in the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina which supports ideology that Fr. Robinson strongly opposes, particularly women in the priesthood.

Secondly, Mere Anglicanism misunderstood Fr. Robinson's style of presentation. As one commentator explained: "The very last thing you should do if you have invited Fr. Calvin Robinson to your conference is disinvite Fr. Calvin Robinson for being Fr. Calvin Robinson."

It's like inviting the other Robinson -- Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson -- then being surprised that he speaks about the joys of being a gay bishop.

Thirdly, Fr. Robinson's assigned topic was overly broad: Critical Theory: Antithetical to the Gospel?

In Fr. Robinson's mind this was an opportunity to explore what he sees as the root cause of all critical theory -- feminism which became the springboard into WO.

He had no idea that Mere Anglicanism organizers were hoping he would tackle the race issue since he is a man of color. His mother is a British gentlewoman and his father's folks come from Jamaica making him a light-skinned mixed-race child.

Meanwhile, Mere Anglicanism expected him to tackle the race issue from his mixed-race perspective. But this was not made clear to him up front. The parameters were too wide.

Fourthly, Fr. Robinson misread his audience. He was in an ACNA diocese which allows for priestesses and there were women priests in the audience. They bristled at his words.

The priest expected that the Mere Anglicanism attendees were already conversant with Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, and all the other woke theories out there, that he delved deeper into the cause of the various woke identities zeroing in on feminism and its effect on the church leading to ... Women's Orders.

His address got a mixed reception. He was met with polite applause while others gave him an enthusiastic standing ovation. And there was also a chorus of boos to round out how his presentation was received.

But the end of his address was the beginning of the dust up which has landed as fodder for the Anglican blogosphere. What happened behind closed doors was not kept behind closed doors. The dirty laundry was dragged out front and is continuing to be aired on various social media platforms.

At this point both Mere Anglicanism organizers and Fr. Robinson are at fault. The conflict should have been dealt with quietly and privately.

Mere Anglicanism failed to convey to its guest speaker the exact parameters of his address and their explicit expectations of him.

Fr. Robinson had no clue that he was supposed to zero in on Critical Race Theory specifically. All the October 18, 2023 email confirming his place at the 2024 Mere Anglicanism Conference said was: "Our hope would be that you could briefly define Critical Theory and its origins, as well as show it has infected the thinking of much of the Western world, and then address why Critical Theory and the Gospel are irreconcilable metanarratives." There was no mention of Critical Race Theory (CTR) specifically.

Critical Theory is a broad brush that includes Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Feminist Theory, Liberation Theory, Critical Race Theory ... so with a broad brush as a guideline, Fr. Robinson took broad strokes.

Following the priest's presentation and after it was clear that his address ruffled feathers the behind the doors discussion with Mere Anglicanism leadership should have remained private. Instead Fr. Robinson is at fault for taping the conversation, discussing the conversation on his various social media platforms, and releasing the audio of that conversation.

"I felt a little bit betrayed that you did not address the topic we asked you to address. We asked you to address the topic of Critical Race Theory and I don't feel that honestly that is what you did. I think you eventually made your way around to some of that but, the whole issue of Women's Ordination and all of that, I felt was completely off topic," Fr. Jeffrey Miller, Mere Anglicanism host and St. Philip's rector is heard to say on the released audio. "I've got to be honest with you, and it created a problem. I'm not sure it's the topic that rattled the cage as it is the person who presented it."

To expect Fr. Robinson to address Critical Race Theory because he is a person of color was disingenuous. Would the former Queen's Chaplain Gavin Ashenden be offered that topic or former Mere Anglicanism Conference speakers N.T. Wright and Os Guinness?

But, Mere Anglicanism is also at fault. In dismissing Fr. Robinson from the concluding panel it did not live up to the premise of the Conference's theme: "Speaking the Truth in Love: The Church and the Challenge of the New Morality."

Calvin Robinson spoke the truth about Women's Ordination, but he was not received lovingly. Dismissing him from the final panel discussion is one thing. This was Mere Anglicanism's venue, after all, but leaving an empty chair up on the stage was incredibly inconsiderate. He was not treated with charity and kindness nor respect.

Since its founding ACNA has had to walk a tightrope between battling factions over those who accept women priests and those who reject the practice, something called "living with dual integrity."

Some dioceses have clergy women as priests including South Carolina, Pittsburgh, and the Carolinas. Other ACNA dioceses say "No" to the practice including Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy.

If ACNA is tolerant about the practice of WO even though there is strong disagreement between dioceses could not Mere Anglicanism have been tolerant of a visiting English priest with strong opposing views?

The Church of England talks about mutual flourishing, theoretically allowing opposing views to subsist together while living together in charity even though there is strong disagreement.

Even the ACNA College of Bishops has decided to agree to disagree since it cannot come to an equitable consensus on the issue of Women's Orders.

However, the young-not-yet-40 priest is at fault for not humbly accepting his chastisement silently, turning to prayer and keeping mum. He immediately started posting on social media and hit the YouTube circuit defending himself while disparaging his hosts.

He is a priest, albeit newly-ordained, he needs to learn to keep things confidential and humbly accept discipline.

Truth needs no defense.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

Here are some additional links that might prove grist for the mill.

(1) Will Orthodox Anglicans Please Stand Up? (substack.com)

Can Two Walk Together, Except They Be Agreed? | The North American Anglican (northamanglican.com)

Forward in Faith North America... - Forward in Faith North America | Facebook

(1) Mere Anglicanism, Mere censorship! Calvin Robinson Speaks Out! - YouTube

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