Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Anglican Bishops - A Block to the Holy Spirit?

As a mature Christian and a priest in the Anglican Church for almost 25 years, I have come to a sad but inevitable conclusion: Bishops after they are elected often seem to loose all the positive qualities that made you want to vote for them to become a bishop in the first place. Some become arrogant an unapproachable; some hold grossly exaggerated visions of their pastoral abilities; some even appear to suggest that they are particularly gifted at knowing the mind of the Holy Spirit when I think it is could just as well be argued that they couldn’t find the mind of the Holy Spirit if that same Spirit placed a burning bush under them to light their way.

To be sure, not all bishops are like this but I think enough are that the time has come for an Anglican reformation where the three-fold ministry of the Anglicanism is reduced to two with the ministry of bishops being absorbed into the order of priests. This would reduce the risks of one person being granted almost dictatorial and abusive powers as well as the excessive taxation burden place upon local parishes to support this unnecessary level of bureaucracy.

I have personally known bishops who:

By their arrogance and thoughtless comments have disheartened newly ordained ministers who have given their lives to the Lord’s service;
Failed to be pastors to their own clergy whose ministry they say they share when a family member has been close to death;
Broken canon laws that they took an oath to uphold;
Used their incredible powers of their office to force their clergy not to follow the mind of the spirit as the clergy saw it;
Refused to provide information requested and needed by clergy who have tried to seek justice before church courts.

The Rocky Mountain Center for Progressive Faith and Works Ltd will be publishing a series of articles to stimulate discussion on this topic before the Anglican Church becomes even more irrelevant than it is.

Health Warning: Do not hold your breath waiting for changes to the Episcopate. Bishops have too much power at stake to want to go down the slippery slope of change.

The following is an open letter I wrote several years ago to the Archbishop of Canterbury about how he used his office after taking over the duties of Archbishop. Again, one of the privileges of being a bishop is that you believe you don’t have to answer the questions posed by your underlings. Rowan Williams has not replied to my letter.

Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams

by The Rev. Frank Doe

To: The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams

First of all let me say that I am sending this email to this address as I cannot find an address for Archbishop Williams. This seems to be the same approach taken by his predecessor. Some of us either do not have access to fax machines or cannot afford trans-Atlantic faxes and so email is the only quick and efficient way many such as myself have for letting our thoughts and opinions be known to the Archbishop. I would urge you to establish and publish such an address.

This week I read with dismay about a letter written by Dr. Jeffrey John withdrawing his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Reading. According to the TimesOnLine, this letter came after a 6 hour meeting at Lambeth Palace and after threats from wealthy evangelical parishes to divert and/or withhold funds.

The Times article went on to say that you called for 'a pause for thought after the open and painful confrontation that had severely strained the bonds of mutual trust'. Continuing the article also quoted you as saying: "We need now to give ourselves opportunities honestly to think through what has happened and to find what God has been teaching us in these difficult days."

Based upon Dr. Jeffrey's withdrawal and the Time's article I have several questions which I would appreciate your personal response to. If you are the 'leader' of the worldwide Anglican Communion I am interested in your response and not that of someone else drafting a response for you. I know that our Primate has spoken highly of you many times before you were chosen as Archbishop and I value Bishop Michael's opinion.

First: Did you encourage Dr. Jeffrey to withdraw, either by direct suggestion or by providing him only with a list of threats made as to what would happen if he did not. Further, did you help him to understand the points as to why he should have stayed and that you would stand by him as you both struggled with these difficult issues?

Secondly; do you really believe that 'unity' is more important than 'justice' and the 'Gospel'? In Canada I believe the House of Bishop's call it 'collegiality rather than unity. To me and many others the forced resignation of Dr. Jeffrey comes as a denial of not just our ordination vows but also of our baptismal vows to respect the dignity of every human being. How can you respect the dignity of every human being and yet be a part of an institution which denies gays and lesbians the full rights granted by their baptism? How can you assure them that they are created in the image of a loving God when you (we) deny them so much, especially the blessing of their unions. As Anglicans do we not believe that where love is present God is also present? Many of the samesex couples I know have not had their relationships blessed by the church but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they have been blessed by God. Is it Christian and can the Anglican Church minister to all with any integrity when it seems to bow to the wishes of those who make threats of schism or withdrawal of financial support?

Thirdly: Dialogue seems to be the solution suggested by most of the leadership within the Anglican Church. A man I respect greatly, Bishop Michael Ingham and the people of his diocese tried that in a very well thought out process but some would not participate and others refused to listen. I believe that at the last Lambeth Conference gay men and women were invited to speak to the bishops about their experiences of being gay and yet the majority refused to hear their stories and in doing so refused them basic 'hospitality' so central to our faith. If we were able to turn back the clock would we propose 'dialogue' as a means to dissuade Hitler from executing and experimenting of gay's in his prison camps. When Robert Mugabe calls gay people 'less than dogs', do Anglicans especially in that country speak out to protect their dignity and worth? In Uganda, if we are in dialogue, where is the good faith when Bishops and Priests are barred from exercising their ministries because they are gay or gay supportive? In other parts of the world why are some branches of the church 'refusing' communion to gay Christians? In his speeches after the last Lambeth conference the former Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to emphasize the need for dialogue. However, as far as I am aware, other than one well publicized meeting with leaders of the gay Christian community how much time did he invest doing just that? Is one meeting dialogue? Did he 'walk the talk'? I don't think he did. Don't you think that dialogue is just a delaying tactic used when we lack the courage to do what we know to be right? I know that there are many sincere Christians who believe that homosexuality is wrong. That's what the church in its ignorance has taught them. But isn't it possible to be sincere and dead wrong? Can you not be sincere and cause irreparable damage to other Christians? Who bears the cost of continued dialogue if it is not the gay Christian as they wait in hope for justice too long denied?

Fourth: I believe you were nominated and chosen as the Archbishop of Canterbury because of the body of your life's work and teaching including that teaching on 'homosexuality'. You nomination gave new hope to many who had lost that hope under your predecessor. I believe that to distance yourself now by making a distinction between your teaching on homosexuality and the rest of the body of your life's work may seem too many a betrayal and an artificial separation from the rest of why you were selected as Archbishop of Canterbury. What other areas of your life's work might you be tempted to separate yourself from?

Finally, will you please give consideration to the following points and let me know of your response:

a) will establish through email or some other means a way that all Anglicans can let you know their opinions in a timely manner;

b) if dialogue is pursued, will you also appoint an advocate/chaplain for gay Anglicans who has the power to publicly speak out and address instances where gay Anglicans are being refused communion and others are being persecuted by being denied their rights to function as priests because they are gay or because they are advocates for gay and lesbians within the church?

c) Will you yourself speak out and condemn in the strongest possible terms countries and regimes that persecute gays (Egypt, Zimbabwe, etc.)

d) Will you level the playing field and support the local option for all dioceses which prayerfully decided that God has called them to ordain and bless samesex relationships?

e) In those places where laws permit the marriage of samesex couples, will you give your assurance that you will defend the right of any clergy who feels as a matter of conscience that they are called to perform such a sacramental rite that you will defend them from being persecuted and disciplined?

If you wish more dialogue then I call upon you to lift some of the burden too long carried by gay Christians. If you wish more dialogue, they I urge you to use the voice and influence of your office anywhere around the world where the Anglican Church is persecuting gay Christians and their supporters.

I respectfully await your answers and look forward to our continuing dialogue.

The Rev. Frank Doe
Canmore, AlbertaCanada

"What does the Lord require,but to do justice, to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

God"s love is for all creation

God"s love is for all creation
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