Sunday, August 3, 2008

Anglicans (expectedly) Waffle

I am no expert on the polity of the Anglican Communion, only that the Archbishop of Canterbury - currently Rowan Williams - is considered the head of the denomination even though he has formal authority to unilaterally rule or dictate. He is considered "primus inter pares" or First Among Equals - which frankly is an odd concept for most to understand, myself included.

Like many Christian denominations, the Anglican Communion - of which The Episcopal Church in the United States is a part - is "discerning" the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and, ostensibly transgender (although most of the time we're not mentioned in these discussions - except wrongfully included in "sexual orientation") people. The Anglicans are further chagrined by the presence of an openly gay bishop, V. Eugene Robinson, amongst their midst.

So strident are the voices of condemnation that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, disinvited Bishop Robinson to the once-every-ten-years Lambeth Conference - a conclave in which the world's Anglican bishops discuss things. Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, also disinvited a couple of the more visible homophobic prelates, mostly Peter Akinola of Africa and Martin Minns of the United States. Several of their "brethren" joined them in not attending Lambeth - a huge snub to Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, and the Anglican "communion".

Rather than knuckle down and get to the issue - at least this one - at hand Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams offered no "agenda", no "votes", no real plan to facilitate discernment amongst the bishops. Without that basis established, there could really be no way to adequate address any substantive issue. It recalls the character Linda Richman, played by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live, who was a cable TV talk show hostess who rarely had a topic, but would get "verklempt" in the middle of everything and suggest the audience "talk amongst yourself" giving them a topic completely inane and off kilter.

As Lambeth concludes, Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, has called for a moratorium on installing, or consecrating, any additional openly gay bishops arguing they need "space for study and free discussion without pressure" to deliberate same-sex relationships. He's gone further in asking that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church in Canada stop offering prayers, blessings and ceremonies for same-sex unions suggesting that a lack of acceptance of this moratorium by them places the Communion in "grave peril".

It seems to me that Lambeth, under strong leadership, would have been the perfect place to bring all parties together and require them to engage in discussion and discernment. Perhaps, the Archbishop doesn't have that kind of authority - but my sense is if he can "disinvite" certain bishops he can also "require" their presence as well.

All this to suggest that within the majority of our Protestant denominations there is no real "leadership" among the "leaders", only a passive hand on the helm hoping that the ship won't founder on their watch. As Lambeth happens only every ten years, its fair to suggest that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, will have successfully passed the buck onto his successor while the flames continue to smolder, even rage, for the next decade. Unfortunately for him, he has grossly miscalculated the intensity of emotions that will certainly boil over before that next ten years have elapsed.

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