Sunday, July 13, 2008

Letting Bishops set the agenda

Driving in the celebrate the 8.00am this morning, I was encouraged to hear Archbishop Barry on the BBC 'Sunday' programme state plainly and straightforwardly that he would have no problem about ordaining someone in a stable gay parnership to the episcopate. Putting what he said in context is most important, given the press headlines generated by this interview.

Such a candidate would have to be in the frame of consideration by the Province's Electoral College. It would be his duty as Archbishop to be sure the College was appraised of the candidates personal circumstances and the possible implications. If the College discerns this is the right person to called to the task, then Barry would have no problems consecrating them. However, the real point is lost on the sensation-mongers.

Here we have a church leader who is not expressing personal feelings, or baring his conscience to the public, but exercising his true office - articulating the mind of the church, expressed through the consultations and deliberations of the Electoral College. Just because he's a Bishop and a successor of the Apostles doesn't mean that he's going to pull rank and say, all of a sudden, that he will / won't serve as consecrator of a gay Bishop, because he does / doesn't agree with this, or because he's a 'successor of the Apostles' he has to dig his heels in on the part of 'tradition', and pursue a line of action outside of the consultative process. That's a strong statement indeed.

As a bishop he is going to be true to his calling, reminding the church of its tradition and its moral and spiritual duties, calling the church make up its mind, and acting accordingly. This is not 'bishop as monarch/despot' as in so much Christian history, but bishop as 'servant of God's servants'. I think this could take the church a lot further in mission to contemporary culture than many other models. It's rather a pity that many aspects of the church's constitution still presume the monarchical model. Perhaps we need several generations of alternative exemplars before the business of constitutional change becomes imperative.

Either side of the weekend the Diocese of Llandaff has welcomed the Bishops of Rockhampton (in Queensland, Australia), Milwaukee and Los Angeles, (USA) and Western Mexico, for a visit prior to the Lambeth Conference. The diocesan mission committee hosted an open meeting for them tonight after Evensong at Christchurch Radyr, attended by about thirty people. Straight after Evensong at St John's, I drove out there, and arrived just after the first speaker, and was very glad I'd made the effort.

Despite the current obsession with sexual morality, the majority present and the epsicopal speakers showed they were more concerned with mission, with Anglican adoption of Millennium Development Goals, with renewal of pastoral ministry in the churches, with issues of justice, peace and environment.

The questions we didn't get around to tackling fully, which might have taken all night, were how we stop the media and disaffected Puritans setting the agenda of concerns, not to mention what we really understand as family whenever we want the church to uphold and secure the environment in which all family life in its rich variety can flourish.

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