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Episcopal House of Bishops Agonize over Attending Lambeth 2020

Episcopal House of Bishops Agonize over Attending Lambeth 2020
Homosexual marriage continues to bedevil bishops
Some bishops say they will not attend
African Anglicans know they cannot attend if homosexual partners of bishops even appear in Canterbury

By David W. Virtue, DD
September 24, 2019

You would have thought by now, that with all the resolutions passed by the Episcopal Church's General Conventions, over many years, that homosexuality, in all its pluriform manifestations, would be a done deal and that going to Lambeth next year would be a simple matter of ho hum it's off to Canterbury we go.

That would be too easy. With one eye on the Archbishop of Canterbury and another eye on the Global South, The Episcopal Church would simply affirm that the three bishops in question would take their same sex partners to Canterbury and embarrass the hell out of Welby by holding press conferences on the University of Canterbury grounds and simply steal his thunder. Gene Robinson did that to great effect when he was denied access to the sacred hall of deep thinkers run by the then deeply conflicted Dr. Rowan Williams.

But no, the HOB meeting in Minneapolis this week wanted everyone to feel their pain of exclusion, and then whine, cajole and somehow let it be known that the grand "doctrine" of inclusion was under siege. They wanted to let Justin Welby know that their faux outrage could not be ignored. Oh, the pain! They did everything short of rending their cassocks and declare themselves out of communion with Canterbury. But it was not to be.

The House of Bishops' Fall meeting in Minneapolis drafted and approved a response to Welby's decision not to invite the spouses of bishops in same-sex marriages to the 2020 Lambeth Conference. The statement, entitled A Message of Love and Solidarity from the Bishops and Spouses to The Episcopal Church, emphasized that Welby's invitation decision had been hurtful.

Oh, the pain.

It reads, in part, "The Lambeth Conference 2020 intentionally recognizes and underscores the important role bishops' spouses play in the ministry of the episcopate. And yet, spouses of bishops in same-gender marriages have received no invitation to participate. Their exclusion wounds those who are excluded, their spouses, and their friends within and beyond the House of Bishops." The statement was consistent with a Mind of the House resolution passed at last spring's House of Bishops' meeting, which expressed concern about the "use of exclusion as a means of building communion."

The statement also referenced the different ways in which bishops are discerning how to express their concern about the decision, the subject of an extensive public conversation earlier in the gathering. "After faithful soul-searching," the message says, "each bishop and spouse will arrive at a decision about how best to respond in the name of Christ. Some will attend and offer loving witness. Some will opt to stay at home as a different way to offer loving witness." The text adds that "the community of bishops and spouses supports and stands together in solidarity" with these differing responses. Many bishops said they plan to attend, but will mark their disagreement with the decision in some way.

Thomas Brown, the newly-consecrated Bishop of Maine said he is still deciding whether to attend with his husband, the Rev. Tom Mousin, "To only remain silent potentially misses an opportunity for the rest of the communion to hear our reality. Part of the blessing of Lambeth is for us all to share and learn from each other's realities ... as I would be able to learn or be reminded of their realities."

A few fence-sitting bishops who think they can maintain a stand (when clearly, they cannot) questioned the wisdom of a further message. "The call is for us to listen ... this sounds like preemptive talking," said Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina. Communion Partner Bishop Greg Brewer of Central Florida warned, "it will be seen by others in the Communion as another official statement, whether it is called a letter or message." Anne Hodges Copple, Suffragan Bishop of North Carolina, disagreed: "I hear this as addressed for those we are called to shepherd here in our Episcopal Church ... a love letter to our church, rather than a statement to the whole Communion."

After amendments clarifying that the document was not a statement of the entire group, but a message from the majority of bishops and their spouses, the motion passed 60-17, with 3 abstentions.

So, what does all this amount to? The truth is much virtue-signaling signifying nothing. They will all attend, of course, wild horses couldn't keep them away and they will pronounce with holy hands raised high and pious utterances pouring from aggrieved lips, that here in sacred Canterbury where it all began, Welby lacks a truly inclusive heart. Welby, in turn, will agonize, issue multiple mea culpas and then weep and pray and plead forgiveness for his short-sightedness and bow down facing Canterbury and issue an apology as he did at Amritsar.

The Africans will laugh and say, "We told you so. You've got no principles or theology, Welby ol sausage, and now you are paying dearly for it. Your day is done. The communion we once knew is no more. We will go our way. You have a nice day...if you're lucky."

And then they will weep.


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