First, from England, where Gene Robinson (pictured at right), the first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop, has been barred from the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade Anglican meeting, so that he cannot become a focus of the global event. Yet as Rachel Zoll writes for the Associated Press, “Anglicans on all sides of the issue agree: The strategy has backfired.”
Zoll goes on to note that:
New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson has been embraced by sympathetic Anglicans in England and Scotland who view his exclusion as an affront to their Christian beliefs.
Robinson plans several appearances on the outskirts of the Lambeth Conference to be what he called a “constant and friendly” reminder of gays in the church.
“I’m just not willing to let the bishops meet and pretend that we don’t exist,” Robinson said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press before preaching at St. Mary’s Church Putney. “They’ve taken vows to serve all the people in dioceses, not just certain ones.”
The Anglican spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, did not include Robinson and a few other bishops in the conference as he tried to prevent a split in the world Anglican Communion.
The 77 million-member fellowship — the third-largest in the world behind Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians — has been on the brink of schism since Robinson was consecrated in 2003. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S.
Robinson and Episcopal leaders had tried for years to negotiate a role for the New Hampshire bishop at Lambeth, but were unsuccessful. He resolved to come to England anyway.
“I’m not storming the pulpit to wrestle the microphone from the archbishop,” Robinson said. “My agenda is this: What does the church’s treatment of gay and lesbian people say about God? You’ve got all these people talking about gays and lesbians being an abomination before God. Does that make you want to run out and go to an Anglican church and sing God’s praises?”
Robinson preached Sunday at the 16th-century parish on the Thames River, despite a request from Williams that he not do so. A protester briefly interrupted the sermon, waving a motorcycle helmet and yelling “Repent!” and “Heretic!” before he was escorted out.
An emotional Robinson resumed preaching, asking parishioners to “pray for that man” and urging them repeatedly not to fear change in the church.
On Monday night, Robinson will join Sir Ian McKellan at a London literary festival for the British premiere of For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary about gay Christians that features Robinson.
Next Sunday, after the Lambeth Conference holds its opening worship in Canterbury Cathedral, Robinson will join Anglican gays and lesbians in a separate service nearby. He will then sit in the public exhibition hall near the assembly sessions to be available for conversation.
A group of Episcopal bishops have organized two private receptions where Anglicans from other parts of the world can meet him. When the conference ends Aug. 3, he heads to Scotland where he has been invited to preach at Anglican parishes.
Robinson was a target of death threats at his consecration and wore a bulletproof vest throughout the ceremony. He said the threats resumed a few months ago when he published a book about his religious views. He has arranged personal security in England, but said he could not disclose details. Donors are covering the cost for the extra protection, he said. His partner of two decades, Mark Andrew, is traveling with him but declined to be interviewed.
Meanwhile, in my home country of Australia, there’s been a “security scare” just hours after Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival for World Youth Day.
Writing in the July 14 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald, Daniel Emerson notes that:
The security contingent protecting Pope Benedict XVI during his Australian visit suffered a scare just hours after the Pontiff’s arrival yesterday when a police officer apparently mishandled a weapon and injured himself.
Police say the male officer, attached to the tactical operations unit, was performing World Youth Day protection duties at the Pope’s Kenthurst retreat when he was injured “by an item of his personal operational equipment” about 9.20pm.
“The officer was taken to Westmead Hospital where he was treated for a laceration and fracture to one of his fingers,” a police spokesman said.
The Pope’s motorcade, which included three ambulances, was last night given a police escort to the Opus Dei Kenthurst Study Centre retreat where he will stay for the next three days after arriving in Sydney yesterday.
Meanwhile, abuse survivor groups in Australia say they will wait for action from the Australian Catholic Church before judging the sincerity of any apology from the Pope on clerical sex abuse.
Writes Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent, Linda Morris:
The victims’ support group Broken Rites said yesterday any apology would be meaningless until the church took constructive steps to redress the overly legalistic way it dealt with complaints. It called for the removal of statutes of limitations and a new approach in the courts where the church's first priority is not property protection but justice.
As the legal system stood, it was easier to sue James Hardie for asbestos-related claims than to sue the Catholic Church, the group said yesterday. The president of Broken Rites, Chris McIsaac, said victims were owed an apology from the Australian Catholic Church and a personal apology from the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who this week ordered the appointment of an independent church panel to investigate complaints about his handling of a sex abuse complaint in 2003.
But ultimately they wanted more than an apology, she said. “These people have been abused by priests and brothers and then they have been re-abused by church authorities. We would want to see dialogue and proposals to help victims; we would see that as an act of co-operation that would bring justice to victims.”
In other related news, Australia TV personality, Ray Martin, chosen by Cardinal George Pell to front the official World Youth Day television coverage, has added his voice to the growing criticism of the special powers given to police to restrict public protests. Says Martin: “I think the police, the Government has been heavy-handed about this. I don’t think it’s necessary.” Despite his criticism, Martin doesn’t believe that the controversial “special powers” were sought by the organizers of World Youth Day.
Recommended Off-site Links:
Pope Lands in Sydney – Paola Totaro (Sydney Morning Herald, July 13, 2008).
“My Innocent Error” – Pell’s Abuse Defence - Joel Gibson, Erik Jensen and Arjun Ramachandra (Sydney Morning Herald, July 9, 2008).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
When Unity Trumps Truth
Episcopal Fundamentalists Take Their Toys and Run
The Pope’s U.S. Visit: A Lost Opportunity and Much Unfinished Work
Why We Cannot Cheer the Pope
Chris McGillion Responds to the "Exacerbating" Actions of Cardinal Pell
The Two-Sided Catholic Crisis
Image 1: Gene Robinson the openly gay Anglican Bishop from Concord New Hampshire, robes up, at St. Mary's Church in Putney, London, Sunday July 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Image 2: Pope Benedict XVI arrives at Richmond Airbase and is greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and NSW Premier Morris Iemma. (Photo: Bob Pearce)