Monday, March 24, 2008

Inhospitality and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Much has been written about what the term "inhospitality" meant during biblical times and why it became the "sin of Sodom." But what about the present day? How is inhospitality practiced today? Do we recognize it when it is practiced today by religious leaders?

From today's Guardian
Gay bishop's mission to unite

It is fitting that Bishop Gene Robinson spent much of his Easter enduring the wintry conditions of the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, performing his ministry to small but loyal congregations. For although he is one of the few bishops who could claim to be a household name across the world's Anglican communion, he has been all but frozen out by the head of his church, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As the first bishop to speak openly about having a homosexual relationship, he has heard fellow Anglicans describe gays as "lower than beasts".

The Guardian spent the Easter weekend with Robinson as he battled the winds and blizzards on a 400-mile road trip around his US diocese. But the conditions were nothing compared with those he has encountered trying to make it to the Lambeth conference, the 10-yearly gathering of the world's Anglican bishops, which takes place in Canterbury, Kent, from July 16 to August 3.

Two weeks ago Robinson was told he would not be allowed to take part in the event - the only bishop out of 880 to be excluded. He will still go to Canterbury, but with no official status and the same access as a member of the public. Yet he will, inevitably, be one of its star attractions. Robinson will not go into detail, but says he has his own events planned, including one with award-winning actor and gay rights campaigner Sir Ian McKellen, who will perform a reading.

His official exclusion came as a blow to Robinson, who told a spring gathering of the US Episcopal church house of bishops that he felt abandoned by Williams. He wept during the address. "It was the hardest time I've had since my consecration," he said, driving along interstate 93. He suggested it was not his consecration or homosexuality that was tearing apart the Anglican communion, but a failure of the leadership.

"I don't know if it was Rowan's intention to divide the US house of bishops but he's done the very thing he was trying to avoid through his action or lack of action. It mystifies me that he has never commented on statements Akinola [the Archbishop of Nigeria] has made about homosexuality," he said.

Robinson has met Williams only once, although he has had three one-to-one encounters with the US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. For two years after he was elected, Robinson tried to meet the archbishop, who finally relented but would not receive Robinson at his official residence. "He wanted to meet in a secret location and I was not told where until after I got on the plane from the US."

Both men agreed to keep the contents of the meeting private and Robinson would only describe the atmosphere as cordial. "I felt sad for him. He was caught in a difficult situation and didn't know how to lead the church through it. But I don't think we need an archbishop in a role of leadership. We need an archbishop to symbolise unity," he said.

Before the summer, Robinson has scheduled a series of interviews to coincide with publication of his book, In the Eye of the Storm, and he will also appear in the US edition of GQ magazine.
"I am probably the only bishop to feature in a 10,000-word article. I was expecting Armani and George Clooney but they wanted me to wear my robes."

Back in Concord, in his office, is a box containing purple badges bearing a red heart and the slogan "Gene is here".

"Some people found out I wasn't getting an official invitation [to the Lambeth conference] and they were outraged. So they had these made up. I figure if you can't have fun with this you might as well stay home."