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Friday, July 25, 2008

Lambeth Officially Declared A "No News" Zone

I went to my first Lambeth Press Conference with the Archbishop of Canterbury today and all I got was this lousy blog.

I'm not kidding.

I was completely underwhelmed.

With only 30 minutes allotted for the press conference, we heard first from Archbishop Paul Sayah, a Maronite who said he was originally from Lebanon, who is Archbishop of Haifa, representing the The Holy Land.

He rehearsed for us the history of the Anglican - Roman Catholic dialogue (Yawn!), who mentioned that "they" were having the same difficult discussions, "calmly" he emphasized at least three times.

We were later told that there are in attendance: 8 Lutheran, 8 Orthodox, 4 Oriental Orthodox and 8 Roman Catholic bishops and 18 other "non-episcopal" churches with representatives at Lambeth. (There, don't you feel better that you now know this?)

At 13:45 (1:45 PM) Rowan took the microphone. Mind you, there were at least 40 journalist and other media folk (including Matt Kennedy who was, bless his heart, furiously live blogging in the back of the room) who were clearly trying to be polite and contained, but were also obviously anxious to get their questions asked and answered.

Rowan looked quite natty and very happy to see us and wanted to talk 'briefly' about three things: the "narrative" or process of the Conference, yesterday's 'march' on London, and the ecumenical component of the conference which was the highlighted theme of the day.

I guess 'briefly' is British for "I'll talk as long as I damn well please."

He seemed quite happy with it all. Really happy. Even the parts that were "dealing with difficult issues." I think what he was really happy about was the fact that the longer he talked, the fewer questions he would have to entertain.

He had lots of reason not to want to field questions.

We had been given a "press blurb" earlier in the morning from the Windsor Continuing Group which dropped the mild bomb that, in addition to the "Listening Process", the "Hermeneutics Project", and the "Principles of Canon Law Project" they were "commending a suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on the ecclesiological issues raised by our current 'crisis'".

I'm not making this up. "Faith and Order Commission." Didn't they have one of those in the Harry Potter series? And, as I recall, it had as ominous a purpose as this one sounds like it would have.

Dr. Sherrod. Paging Dr. Katie Sherrod.

"Archbishop," she said, really laying her accent on thick, "I'm just a laywoman from Texas and I hope you can help me understand about this Windsor Continuation process."

Rowan was clearly charmed (And, really, who wouldn't have been?). Katie continued, "Given that the Anglican Communion is not a church and the Lambeth Conference has no real authority over anybody or anything, well, can you help me understand?"

Rowan sat forward on his chair, at the ready to help a damsel in distress. "If this is so, then by what authority does THIS conference purport to create a Covenant much less a curia with the authority to discipline anyone?"

She's a pip, Our Katie. They don't come any smarter or with more savvy. I've never known anyone to plays 'beat 'em at their own game' better than she does.

Rowan's eyebrows moved up and down as his thoughts moved from his brain to his mouth. "Ah yes," he said, "you see, we're working toward 'consent' verses 'coercion' but if we don't have consent, I fear we'll move farther and farther apart."

The crowd in the room grew restless to move on to their question, but Rowan wanted to address Katie's point about "church" - which he acknowledged was not only correct but said, "that's a good point."

"We're not a Lutheran Federation, but we're also not the Roman Church. We're somewhere in between the two," and then he paused for emphasis, "which is exactly where we belong."

That was really the big news, at least from my perspective. I don't think he answered any of the questions to any of our satisfaction.

For example, this model does not take into consideration the democratic way The Episcopal Church USA, as well as many other North American churches, function. No mention of that and no opportunity for follow up questions.

In the Windsor model, consent vs. coercion applies only to Primates and then, every ten years, to bishops. There really isn't any vehicle for the voice, much less the vote of the other three orders of ministry: laity, priests or deacons.

It's deeply troubling. We are constantly being asked to "understand the cultural context" of others, but no one seems to take into consideration, much less respect, our particular cultural context.

On the lighter side, it was sort of fun to see the dynamics between certain journalists - before and after the conference. Most of the conservative / orthodox journalists reconnoitered after the press conference, comparing notes and impressions.

I heard David Virtue bluster that he thought this "Faith and Order" Commission was a way to keep other "orthodox bishops" from going over to GAFCON.

Yeah, right, David. As if GAFCON were even a viable option except for the megalomaniacs of the church.

One of his writers, Hans Ziegler, seems really stuck on Bishop Christopher, who was defrocked by the Archbishop of Uganda for his ministry with LGBT people in his diocese. There's an obvious point to be made there. I'm just surprised he's being so transparent about it.

I did see Ruth Gledhill who sauntered in wearing a white low-slung skirt which sat low on her hips and a pink, fairly immodest camisole top. Okay, so it's another fairly warm day today but this IS the church, for goodness sake.

Good grief, I must be tired. I'm sounding like my grandmother.

As I said, Matt Kennedy was there, "live blogging" the "no news" conference, bless his heart. I went over and introduced myself and found him to be a delightfully charming young man with impeccable manners and very blue (if not a bit blurry) eyes with a mischievous twinkle I would have expected from someone named 'Kennedy'. His momma clearly raised him well.

I wonder what might have happened if he hadn't found Jesus through Bill Bright's 'Campus Crusade for Christ'? Pity. Too late now. He and his wife have already left The Episcopal Church and is 'standing firm' in his belief.

Our loss. And, his.

Me and Matt Kennedy. Talking like two mature adults who love Jesus. Who wouldda thunk it, eh?

And now you know just how slow things really are in the press room. Not so in the Market Place, where I'm off to 'schmooze' with assorted bishops and spouses.

That's where the action REALLY is - and, probably should be.

In community.

Not media spin.


Lindy said...

Where the bishops are concerned it seems like no news is indeed good news.

Glad to hear that the ever-charming Texas accent has been put to good use. It IS handy sometimes.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hey, I could have used my Harry Truman-esque rural northern Missouri accent on the Grand Tufti!

But I agree with Lindy and Rowan the dog. When it comes to bishops, the less the better!

Muthah+ said...

I am with you, Elizabeth! If we are supposed to be taking account of other's cultural place, why is it that our cultural context is not being regarded. We are not asking Nigeria to ordain or consecrate LGBT folk. We just want then to stop killing them! We are not trying to force gay bishops on anyone, we just want to be able to sit down with them with out them stomping out.

Go get 'em Katie!

JCF said...

"Ah yes," he said, "you see, we're working toward 'consent' verses 'coercion' but if we don't have consent, I fear we'll move farther and farther apart."

Get it?

"Fear is Our Coercion"

Thanks but No Thanks, Rowan.

[LOL re your description of Ruth. From her picture---and your imagery---she could be the veritable Anglican sex-on-legs...

...and then she starts typing, which (usually) kills-the-joy. ;-/]

Malcolm+ said...

I find the stories about the Lambeth media relations to be really depressing.

In my secular life, I'm an accredited PR practitioner.

My professional take?

The media relations approach has been designed to ensure that the entire focus of the coverage is on the imminent split of the Communion.

One is moved to wonder if media relations this bad can be simply the result of incompetence.