Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sudan to TEC

Before I write anything else, you need to read the Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality, which I am printing here in full.

But first, I need to observe this. The statement was signed only by Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, and it was issued as a "statement of the Sudanese bishops." But note carefully what the spinmeisters from the other side of the aisle are doing. They are trying to spin it as a statement from the "Global South." And they are trying to spin his interview this morning as a statement on behalf of the Global South. The usual suspects are claiming it's a "Global South statement" on behalf of "80% of the Anglican Communion." They have no basis for that whopper, of course. But they love to say it.

Here is the written statement that was issued today. My comments will follow later.

Statement of the Sudanese Bishops to the Lambeth Conference on the ECS Position on Human Sexuality
July 2008

In view of the present tensions and divisions within the Anglican Communion, and out of deep concern for the unity of the Church, we consider it important to express clearly the position of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) concerning human sexuality.

We believe that God created humankind in his own image; male and female he created them for the continuation of humankind on earth. Women and men were created as God’s agents and stewards on earth We believe that human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings which is rightly ordered only when expressed within the life-long commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. We require all those in the ministry of the Church to live according to this standard and cannot accept church leaders whose practice is contrary to this.

We reject homosexual practice as contrary to biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This has not only caused deep divisions within the Anglican Communion but it has seriously harmed the Church’s witness in Africa and elsewhere, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-religious environment.

The unity of the Anglican Communion is of profound significance to us as an expression of our unity within the Body of Christ. It is not something we can treat lightly or allow to be fractured easily. Our unity expresses the essential truth of the Gospel that in Christ we are united across different tribes, cultures and nationalities. We have come to attend the Lambeth Conference, despite the decision of others to stay away, to appeal to the whole Anglican Communion to uphold our unity and to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the Church.

Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we appeal to the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada, to demonstrate real commitment to the requests arising from the Windsor process. In particular:
- To refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishops or priests
- To refrain from approving rites of blessing for same-sex relationships
- To cease court actions with immediate effect;
- To comply with Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference
- To respect the authority of the Bible

We believe that such steps are essential for bridging the divisions which have opened up within the Communion.

We affirm our commitment to uphold the four instruments of communion of the Anglican Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council; and call upon all Provinces of the Communion to respect these for the sake of the unity and well-being of the Church.

We appeal to this Lambeth Conference to rescue the Anglican Communion from being divided. We pray that God will heal us from the spirit of division. We pray for God’s strength and wisdom so that we might be built up in unity as the Body of Christ.

The Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul
Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of Juba

I will write more about this as soon as I can organize my thoughts.

But here's my first reaction: The Sudanese bishops spent about three days meeting with the TEC bishops who have companion relationships in the Sudan. From what I read, it was a significant and holy meeting. Why did Archbishop Daniel and the bishops of Sudan not give their American friends any indication that this bombshell was going to be delivered early in the Lambeth Conference?

When I read my bishop's account of those meetings, I was truly gratified and moved. I believed that they were all trying to move into a deeper understanding of these nations and cultures that are so very different.

Were Archbishop Daniel and the Sudanese bishops just playing along?

What trust remains, when they can play just a game of make-believe in Salisbury and such a game of "gotcha" at Lambeth?

The Covenant between the Diocese of Missouri and Lui [warning: 4.36MB download] includes these "Principles of Partnership":

5. Service should be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect and trust.
6. Mutual accountability is an integral aspect of Christian stewardship.
Archbishop Daniel has blown out of the water any sense I had of "mutual respect and trust" when he speaks (purportedly for all of Sudan) to accuse all Episcopalians – including me – of rejecting the authority of the Bible.

Some of you may recall that the Episcopal Church of Sudan met in synod in 2006 and they expressed their opposition to TEC's actions, but also pledged to continue to work in mission and ministry with their partner dioceses.

It seems to me that Archbishop Daniel has now closed that door. If he and his brother bishops can issue a statement like this, then I wonder what in the world I can possibly have to say to them anymore.

More coming.

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