“I’ll be at Lambeth telling my story…” — Gene Robinson

July 10, 2008

Bishop Gene Robinson, 7 March 2004/Brian SnyderBishop Gene Robinson hasn’t been invited to the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, which opens next week, but he’s sure to be in the news all the same. The openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration in 2003 sparked a near-schism by traditionalist Anglicans from the Global South, plans to preach in churches, attend receptions and appear at a film premiere in Britain before, during and after Lambeth (details below). He also plans to blog at a site called Canterbury Tales from the Fringe. Extensive coverage seems guaranteed.

The absence of the Communion’s most critical conservatives should heighten Robinson’s media presence. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who led the rival GAFCON conference in Jerusalem last month, is boycotting the ten-yearly Lambeth Conference, as are four other traditionalist primates. So it seems unlikely that reporters there will hear headline-grabbing sound bites like accusations of apostasy against Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (as Akinola made at GAFCON) or charges that gay hit men might be ready to whack their critics (as Uganda’s Archbishop Henry Orombi said in a recent sermon).

Mike Conlon has blogged here about the effort to lower the Lambeth Conference’s profile, which could indirectly raise Robinson’s. The 1998 session was dominated by a divisive debate about homosexuality and voting on a resolution “rejecting homosexual practice as Lambeth 1998, 17 july 1998/Kieran Dohertyincompatible with Scripture.” That makes headlines. This time around, the organisers seem to have taken the wind out of the critics’ sails by drawing up an agenda with no voting rounds on it. “Everything they’ve suggested says there won’t be any voting of any kind at any point,” said Jim Naughton, spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Apart from his Canterbury Tales blog, another one called The Gene Pool will also be on the lookout for “Gene sightings.” In a video on that blog, Robinson puts a biblical twist on his non-invitation to the conference:

“When I think about being banished to the marketplace, it occurs to me that that’s where Jesus would be. Jesus would be with the marginalized. He was always in conflict with the religious authorities of his day. He was always preaching that people trump rules…

“I’ll be at Lambeth and I’ll be telling my story and I will be witnessing to the God that I know as powerfully as I can muster. Then I’ll let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

Robinson has already arrived in Britain. According to a letter by him posted on The Lead at The Episcopal Cafe,

Thursday, July 10: I will be speaking at the Modern Churchperson’s Union conference (along with former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, the Primate of Wales, and several African bishops).

Sunday, July 13: I will be preaching at St. Mary’s, Putney (just across the Thames from London, in the Diocese of Southwark). This will be the only time I’m allowed to preach while in England.

Monday, July 14: British premiere of the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” in Queen Elizabeth Hall, at the South Bank Centre for the Arts. I will be appearing with Daniel Karslake, the filmmaker, and Shakespearean actor (and Lord of the Rings star) Sir Ian McKellen. This event will be a fund-raiser for AIDS work in Africa.

Wednesdays, July 23 and 30: American bishops will be hosting two “Come meet our brother bishop Gene” evenings, open only to bishops and spouses. I will be “introduced” by several clergy and lay leaders from NH in a little DVD we’ve made for the event. Then I’ll have a chance to engage bishops from around the Communion and tell them about the work of the Gospel here in NH.

August 3-6, I’ll be preaching and speaking in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland, as guest of the Church that gave us bishops some 200+ years ago.

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