For the past two weeks, I have been in regular phone and email conversation with several members of the House of Bishops. We began talking and writing because of our concern that the Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that our colleague and friend, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, will not be receiving an invitation to the Lambeth 2008 Conference, which gathers together all the bishops of the Anglican Communion every ten years. We drafted a letter expressing our disappointment and concern. In that letter we also articulated our hope – that this season of confusion and distress, which has “threatened the bonds of affection” in the Anglican Communion, might be resolved through thoughtful conversation and mutual respect.
In a conference call this afternoon, we decided not to send out our letter. As Gene Robinson has told us, there is a lot of diplomacy going on between the Archbishop’s office and the American Church, which may – or may not, create a different ecclesiastical climate and result in invitations to all bishops in good standing in the Church (which certainly includes Bishop Robinson, who was duly elected, consented and consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal church). We also acknowledged to one another that there is great confusion in the wider church about our polity. Unlike most of the rest of the Anglican Communion, which appoints their bishops – we elect ours.
So we decided not to send out our letter – yet. Ours was a decision of strategy. We want to wait a bit to see if the diplomacy will lead to a different, and more satisfying resolution. But as we debated issues of strategy, I could feel my commitment to radical hospitality deepen, and I could hear it in my colleagues. Jesus had a passion for radical welcome – and a disdain for those who were unwilling, or unable, to embrace it. Jesus’ invitation extends down through the centuries to include the rest of us. All of us. Welcome should beget welcome. We shouldn’t settle for anything less.
+Mark M. Beckwith