Saturday 9 October 2010

The Christian behaviour of Primates - do we expect appropriate or abusive, adult or infantile?

Should we expect senior Anglican leaders to behave in a mature, adult, non-abusive way? I raise the question as a result of reports ahead of the next Primates meeting to be held in Dublin in February.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has invited all the Primates, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Dr Katherine Jefferts Schori. The Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, the Most Revd Ian Ernest has already confirmed that he will not attend the next Primates’ Meeting because the US Presiding Bishop will be present. He wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the summer urging him to exclude her from future Primates’ Meetings and telling the Archbishop that he will not attend if his conditions are not fulfilled.

Presenting the Archbishop of Canterbury with conditions about your attendance at the Primates meeting is inappropriate. If the Archbishop has invited the Presiding Bishop and she is attending, whatever the difference of opinion in the Communion, Primates should be gracious and generous enough in their pattern of Christian life to attend. Ian Ernest issues threats and is trying to manipulate the Archbishop and it isn’t mature behaviour.

Global South Primates in general are apparently meeting later this month to discuss whether they will boycott Dublin, refusing en masse to attend.

The Rt Revd David Anderson, a suffragan bishop within the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, urges a different course of action in a letter which can be read here.

He encourages conservative bishops to attend and advises them that if Dr Jefferts Schori is there, they should either shut her out of the room or remove “by force of numbers” the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church (not physically, he says, but by either voting her off the ‘island’, or recessing to another room and not letting her in). Male power in action – how gallant.

The action proposed by Bishop David Anderson is infantile. If Dr Williams objects to this action he says, the meeting could go ahead in a separate room without the Archbishop. When my outraged infant considers what action I might dream of taking in response to something that has made me angry, I quickly see it for what it is and dismiss it, turning to a more adult course of action. Not so Bishop David Anderson.

He writes that without the orthodox Primates in attendance it could be a dangerous meeting, giving opinion and credence to teachings and beliefs that are not representative of orthodox Anglicanism. He doesn’t believe staying home from the field of battle helps win a war over the truth and nature of Christianity within Anglicanism.

As he contemplates a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, he sees war, a battle, something dangerous.

What’s more important – that partnered lesbian and gay people who chose as adults to express their love sexually in a relationship should be excluded from the Communion unless they change their behaviour and cease having sex, or that those who are responsible for the pastoral, moral and theological life of the Communion should model mature, adult, appropriate Christian behaviour?

For 7 years I have observed those Anglican leaders who claim to be orthodox acting and speaking in ways that are immature, sometimes infantile and abusive. My personal opinion as a gay Christian is that the behaviour of this group is doing far more damage to the Church than I am doing in expressing love for my partner.

Colin Coward

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  1. Wonderful post, Colin.

    The next thing we'll see is a bishop or two throwing themselves on the floor screaming and kicking their feet, and even, as one commenter at my blog suggested, holding their breaths until they turn blue.

  2. "My personal opinion as a gay Christian is that the behaviour of this group is doing far more damage to the Church than I am doing in expressing love for my partner"

    No, you're not doing any damage to the church at all! The damage is done by those who cannot accept you and who absolutely insist on making it the one big test of "orthodox" Christianity.

    There is no reason that we couldn't simply disagree - none, other than that temper tantrum toddlers will temper tantrum until they get their way or until some adult finally puts them to bed for the night.