Only just over a week ago I reported here on a possible ray of hope for the Anglican Communion, that
The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to target individual bishops whose pro-gay policies threaten to derail his efforts to avert schism … by withdrawing their invitations to next year’s Lambeth Conference.
I didn’t hold out much chance for this initiative. But according to the latest news Archbishop Rowan has already closed it off. For he has put himself among the “bishops whose pro-gay policies threaten to derail his efforts to avert schism” by presiding at a ‘secret’ eucharist for the Clergy Consultation, a group of lesbian and gay clergy and their partners. It had been suggested that this service had been cancelled, but in fact it went ahead at a different venue.
If Archbishop Rowan is to be consistent with his own reported position, he should withdraw his own invitation to the Lambeth Conference, or announce that he will voluntarily stay away.
But instead, according to Ruth Gledhill, he has reversed his position by after all inviting Bishop Gene Robinson, the original central figure in this row, together with his partner Mark. In fact it is reported that the pair will be “married” in a civil ceremony a few days earlier, and the Lambeth Conference will be their “honeymoon”.
If this is true, it can only be understood as a deliberate slap in the face to those who object to Bishop Gene, and to whom Archbishop Rowan previously made the concession of not inviting him.
But I wonder if it is true. There are so many inconsistent rumours coming out of Lambeth Palace that they cannot all be true. Whether this one is true or not, it shows Archbishop Rowan’s weakness and vacillation in breaking his own rules about homosexual clergy and allowing contradictory statements to be made in his name.
If Rowan were a political leader, Parliament and even his own party would by now be baying for his resignation. The bishops of the Church of England are a more civilised lot, and probably his fellow Primates are as well. But I suspect that the same point is now being made quietly behind the scenes. The situation has slipped out of Rowan’s grasp, and there is no sign of him getting his grip back. He needs to be replaced by someone decisive who can take control.
Well, Rowan can probably sit it out and go to the Lambeth Conference if he insists. I am sure that he, Gene and Mark will enjoy the beautiful campus of the University of Kent at Canterbury, whose hilltop buildings (I remember them being built in the 1960’s) are aligned to Rowan’s cathedral. But they might find things rather lonely there, for, if decisive action is not taken quickly, I am beginning to wonder if any other bishops will turn up.