Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Here - but Here

One of the sadnesses of the Lambeth Conference 2008 is the absence of about 230 bishops. To be honest though, I could not say that I am specifically missing anyone: the conference campus is a busy heaving crossroads of cultures and it seems that most facets of Anglicanism are, in some way, represented.

Those who did not come ought, in my view, to have come. They should have come to make their point face to face and to engage in dialogue.

Instead, it appears some who are not here have devised other ways of being a ghostly presence, making pronouncements from afar or from elsewhere. Still others are finding ways to make their presence felt in other ways, albeit anonymously.

My own direct experience of this left me bemused. Several days after we arrived, the receptionist in Keynes College, where I am staying, knocked on the door of my room and delivered a package. Yes, it was for me; my name and diocese were on the envelope.

Inside was a book by the absent Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester (which is not far up the road) and a note on behalf of the publisher of the book to say that it was a gift to me from two bishops (unnamed) who felt unable to be present but who were praying for me on my pilgrimage.

I asked around and discovered that I was the only one in my bible study group, for example, who had received one. I was bemused. I still haven't found many others who also received them.

Nonetheless, in the spirit of the gift and in order actively to engage with the two absent bishops who are praying for me I emailed the publisher to say 'thank you' for the gift and asking him to reveal the names of the two bishops.

The response today was that he (the publisher) did not know either. He said

I am afraid that I have absolutely no idea. Chris Sugden mediated between them and us.
What is Canon Chris Sugden (executive director of Anglican Mainstream) doing mediating the distribution of books at Lambeth? I don't even know him!

Why do two non-attending bishops feel the need to send a book (by another non-attending bishop) to a bishop who is attending? Why did they do it anonymously? Surely it should be possible to engage face to face; we are a Church after all. I hardly think they lack courage or are afraid of me.

In fact, why didn't they just come to Lambeth, join in, and say to me what they seem to have wanted to say?

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