Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anglicans in New Orleans

MMarch 6, 2009

The Rector’s Gathering at the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) began the day with The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, The Rev’d Kenneth Kearon. He spoke about the Lambeth Conference and how the Bishops present learned what it meant to be a communion, and how they related to the Archbishop of Canterbury s he waited in cafeteria lines like everybody else. He was doing fine until someone pointed out to him that it was extraordinary to be talking to a group of Episcopalians about the Bishops in communion without mentioning Gene Robinson who was not invited. Kenneth Kearon then had the unpleasant task of giving the rationale for the decision not to invite a regularly and validly elected and consecrated bishop to the party. It was the usual stuff and really yesterday’s news, but Gene Robinson and the Episcopal Church had been told that if we went ahead his ministry would not be ‘recognized’ by many in the communion. The difference between this and the consecration of women as bishops was that the church had already resolved apparently that there was no theological impediment to the ordination of women even if many did not like it. He was not able to articulate what the theological impediment to Bishop Robinson’s consecration might be. So, of course and inevitably we are back to prejudice from those who would rather not accept that homosexual people are just that and not perverts by definition. A tiresome couple of hours for everyone.
We went on to spend time talking about the challenges of ministry in the current economic climate and what ministries were proving transformational and hopeful. One of our number pointed out as we drew to a close that we had been energized and creative and had not once found it necessary or desirable to mention the Anglican Communion. There was a real spirit of ‘getting on with it’ which I rather suspect and hope will also pervade our General Convention. Canon. Kearon wondered aloud how we could live with ‘the mess that is Anglicanism’. I will write a separate entry about why it is really quite simple to decide to live with the mess and not get bent out of shape by what appear to be fundamental differences if we are willing to trust in the beauty of traditional Anglican polity and not push for greater centralized control which is at the heart of the ‘covenant process’ when all is said and done.
In the afternoon we were treated to a bus tour of New Orleans with a particular emphasis on the (altogether impressive) work of the Episcopal Church in recovering from Hurricane Katrina. I was struck less by the (still evident) devastation and more by how much has been accomplished since 2005 in terms of new and renewed housing and the restoration of neighborhoods. I particularly enjoyed the story of the boys who formed a crewe to help take care of the city parks by mowing them and called the group the ‘mow-rons’. Apparently they wound up on Oprah and were given all kinds of equipment as a result. We ended at the Cathedral for evensong and a fine sermon by Bishop Jenkins about moving from fear to hope. He is retiring soon, in part because of PTSD which has affected many people in this city and notably emergency workers, relief workers, police and the like.
After a congenial reception some of us attended a dinner hosted by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale where we heard again from Canon Kearon who talked about the development of theological education in the communion and the challenge of helping many in the third (and in Anglican terms growing) world see leadership in theological education as something other than a fast-track stepping stone to becoming a bishop, --something we have worried about at All Saints’ in respect to the Bible College in Kusulu. I continue to think that strengthening African (in this instance) theological education must be done primarily in Africa itself, even though I hope and expect that Emmanuel Bwatta will be elected a bishop soon after his return to Tanzania from Sewanee.

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