Sunday, 19 October 2003

My opinion on this week

You can read what I think about the final statement from the primates meeting in my report on Anglicans Online. Alex Kirby’s comments really summed up my feelings very well, although I preferred the first version.

The Church of England and the other Anglican churches around the globe are sometimes unfairly caricatured as vague and unworldly. This time, though, it really is hard to think they share the same planet as most of humanity.
Whichever side of the debate about homosexuality and the church you find yourself on, this meeting has actually solved nothing. The threat of a split remains as potent as it ever was, and the crisis will come very soon.

I was at the press conference when the statement was presented. The most impressive person at the press conference was Michael Peers, Primate of Canada. No, that’s right he wasn’t on the panel, but he was at the back of the room and, after the questions were over, a big crowd of reporters and cameramen stood round him and asked him lots of questions. So many that one could hardly hear his answers. The TV crews included at least one francophone one, and of course he gave them all the same stuff in French.

This continued for so long that the conference organisers became desperate to get everyone out of the room, and close up, and so Peers and the reporters moved out of the building and continued the interviews outside on the street. This man’s ability to handle the press puts into the shade absolutely every other Anglican bishop I have ever seen. It was brilliant.

While I was writing that article on Friday morning, I listened to Rowan Williams talking to John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4 (Real Audio here, full text here). I found it hard to concentrate on what I was writing, as this interview was I thought really much more newsworthy than the primates statement.

And then just this morning I found on the Guardian website this comment by Simon Hoggart which although I would not have used the word “waffle” expresses much of what I felt at that moment (emphasis mine):

Heavens, yesterday morning’s interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Today was grisly. His pious yet agonised waffle as he tried to hold the line between those who are not bigoted against gays and those who are was almost too painful to listen to. (And proof that John Humphrys can achieve as much through icy politeness as raw aggression.)

He talked about “the homosexual community”, which made it sound like Ambridge. But he was also worried about the views of smaller branches of the church “often in third world countries” who would be upset by a gay bishop.

But what’s the point of having a church abroad if it doesn’t lead people towards tolerance? What’s the use of a mission that wrings its hands over the great issues of justice and humanity? He wouldn’t contemplate holding the ring between those who were against cannibalism and those who thought that, on balance, in its cultural context, it was a valid expression of a community’s values.

But then I felt a deep sense of relief. It’s nothing to do with me. I’m not one of this lot. I don’t have to worry, any more than I would need to take sides in a dispute in the Flat Earth Society over the existence of New Zealand.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. I am part of this lot. So this morning I went to church and prayed. And as the preacher said: “I have known a lot of bishops and priests, some good and some bad. And some straight and some gay.”

As somebody else said earlier this week, I have no objection to fundamentalist Christians so long as they are not practicing.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 October 2003 at 11:36 AM GMT | TrackBack
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Simon — I have much appreciated your diligence in reporting facts and links related to the Primates’ meeting in London. You are doing a great job.

I have linked TA to my blog site. I know my fellow Episcopalians would appreciate the service that you are providing to all of us in this hard time.

Posted by: Don Temples at October 21, 2003 04:37 AM

Haven’t much time to keep up with TA, but thanks, Simon, for your hard work and functioning brain! I did catch Justin Lewis-Anthony’s comment posted 7 October re Puritans running high and wide these days and hopes for another Richard Hooker. Barring that sort of divine making an appearance in the next little while, I strongly suggest reading, marking and inwardly digesting the writings of a biblically radical Episcopalian, one William Stringfellow. This prophet is now a member of the Church Expectant and, no doubt, continues to be himself — a scary prospect for those not interested in speaking or hearing truth. His books are out of print, but often may be found in second-hand shops on the Internet.

Posted by: S. A. Martin at October 23, 2003 08:49 PM