US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori speaks at a Lambeth 2008 press conference. Behind her is Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia and official Lambeth Conference spokesperson.
U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Saturday said it would “not be in my purview” to ask Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, to resign as suggested by the primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, who said such an act would save the Anglican Communion from falling apart.
“That’s certainly not within my purview. He’s (Bishop Robinson) the bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire and such a response would be a matter between him and his diocese and certainly not anything I would expect,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who was asked whether she would ask Bishop Robinson to take up the suggestion. (Bishop Schori was at a press conference on climate change but was also asked questions about sexuality and perceptions about the American church, whose consecration of Bishop Robinson in 2003 had triggered much of the animosity between Anglicans across the theological divide)
Archbishop Deng Bull last week told members of the media covering the Lambeth Conference at the University of Kent here that Bishop Robinson’s resignation was necessary to arrest the schism within the Anglican Communion, which has been bitterly divided over his consecration and over the place of homosexuals in the life of the church.
“I’m representing my people in the Sudan and (same-sex relations) is not what’s found in the Bible,” said Archbishop Deng Bul. “Gene Robinson should resign. For me, if he says he is a good Christian, he should resign for the sake of the church. The Anglican norm has been violated.”
Asked how Bishop Robinson’s resignation would halt a breakdown in the nearly 80-million strong communion, he had said, “I think there’s already a breakdown. You have 300 bishops who have stayed away because of Gene Robinson. Can’t Gene Robinson not resign to allow the 300 bishops to come back to the house?”
Archbishop Deng Bul said that some bishops have boycotted the conference despite the absence of Bishop Robinson who was not invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury because “the question is not whether he comes in or not. The question is what is the statement for dealing with Gene Robinson.”
Bishop Robinson himself has not issued a statement. While he once made an appearance at the Marketplace and was at a closed-door reception hosted by some Episcopal bishops during one of the conference’s fringe events, he has largely avoided being seen at the conference venues. It is not clear whether he will be present at the eucharist which will be presided over by The Episcopal Church since it is generally open just to invited bishops, spouses, and ecumenical participants.
Bishop Jefferts Schori said the conference has enabled her and other American bishops to deepen relationships and explain actions by the Episcopal Church on various issues. “Face to face conversation is the way to go. It’s the way Jesus worked; Jesus didn’t use the Internet. He met 12 people face to face, he taught, he lived and ate with them,” she said.
She said discussions around sexuality are still “at an early stage” in the conference. “We’ve not focused on those issues yet, either in Bible study or indaba groups; that’s scheduled for next week.”
On Sunday bishops are being feted by various parishes in Canterbury and will not conduct any business.