Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More on Canterbury's Ban of Bp. Robinson

Yesterday, a commenter informed us that Bp. Robinson had announced to a group gathered at St. Mary's, Putney that the Archbishop of Canterbury had denied his request to preach and preside while in England. Mary Clara was also present for that gathering, and reported hearing the same announcement from Bp.Robinson. That information has now been confirmed by Jim Naughton over on The Lead:

Citing fears of creating a controversy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to grant Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the right to preach or preside at the eucharist in England. Robinson received the news in an email yesterday morning...

...Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who gave his support to a failed legislative attempt to limit the rights of Nigerian gays and their supporters to speak, assemble and worship God collectively. Akinola has yet to respond to an Atlantic magazine article which suggests he may have had prior knowledge of plans for retributive violence against Muslims in his country that resulted in the massacre of more than 650 people in Yelwa, Nigeria.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa and one of the authors of the Windsor Report. Malango dismissed without reason the ecclesiastical court convened to try pro-Mugabe Bishop Nolbert Kunonga for incitement to murder and other charges.

Williams has not denied permission to preach and preside to Bishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, who has now claimed as his own, churches in three others provinces in the Anglican Communion (Brazil, Canada and the United States). Nor has he denined permission to preach and preside to Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Emanuel Kolini of Rwanda, or Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, all of whom have ignored the Windsor Report's plea not to claim churches within other provinces of the Communion...
If Canterbury is going to use the Windsor Report as his justification for imposing such a ban, there needs to be some consistency if we are to believe such a claim.

Dave Walker has also confirmed this story, and wonders about the canonical validity of such a ban:

...Questions are being asked as to whether Lambeth Palace has the authority to stop Gene Robinson from preaching if he is invited to do so by the incumbent of a parish. Legal minds have been perusing the Canons of the Church of England and it appears that church law would allow him to preach if invited...
This does cause me to wonder what in the world Dr. Williams is thinking. His claim that such permission would be too controversial simply does not ring true, considering the other controversial bishops, some of whom Jim mentioned, that have not been informed of a similar ban.

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury not recognize the Holy Orders of Bp. Robinson? If so, by what standard? Let us assume for a minute that Canterbury considers Bp. Robinson to be an "unrepentant sinner," a flawed vessel, or the wrong "matter" for ordination. In other words, does the Archbishop of Canterbury consider the Bishop of New Hampshire to be an "evil man"? Would that be sufficient reason for such a denial?

It is safe to assume that Dr. Williams affirms the 39 Articles, as I believe all Church of England clergy are required to do. Here is Article 26:

XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
What comes to my mind is the scene in the film Romero, in which the Archbishop has come to realize the depth of evil that he is confronting. He is running down the street, in deep anguish, and finally comes to a stop in a poor neighborhood. He is standing in the middle of the road weeping. The people come out of their homes, vest the Archbishop, set up a table, bring out some bread and wine, and there in the middle of the street they celebrate mass. It is one of the most moving scenes that I have ever seen in any film.

I think Dr. Williams needs to recognize that it is the people of God who will give authority to the clergy's vocational call, not an email from Lambeth Palace.

Pray for the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Pray for the Church.


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