Lambeth Report #6 Tuesday afternoon, July 22, 2008
Cherie Wetzel reporting from Canterbury, England
We have just had a briefing with the Archbishop of the Sudan, the Most Reverend Dr. Daniel Deng Bul. He informed the press room this morning that he would come and speak with us, since the Anglican Communion News Bureau running this conference, would not schedule a time for him to address the press.
The archbishop is young – I would guess that he is in his 40’s. He is very articulate and has an earned Ph.D. By his own admission, he has been an Anglican since he was a very small child.
His words are responses to questions asked. I think the questions are self-evident.
“Gene Robinson should resign for the sake of the Church and the entire Anglican Communion. We are pleading with them (the others at this conference) for the Anglican World, to not throw that away.
“We do not want to throw any people away, either. But we are here to determine how to remain united. That begins with forgiving one another for errors made. Gene Robinson is an error. The American church has not admitted they are wrong and we cannot forgive them until they do.
“I do not see a way out of these problems with the Indaba groups. The main issues have not been touched.
“300 bishops are not here because of Gene Robinson. Can he not resign to allow them to come? Why has he not done that?
“He is a human being and we are not throwing him away but the norms of the Anglican Communion have been violated. The question is not if Gene Robinson comes but what are we being challenged to do by GAFCON?”
“Let the Anglican world be united and be a normal, respected Christian body.”
“We have not punished the American church yet. We are asking them to repent. I am talking about the institutional church in America, no specific bishops. I am here to speak within the House. I cannot be silent on this issue; I must speak to the House for the reality I know with my people. I should not hesitate to be here since I have been an Anglican since I was a child.
When asked what would happen to the Communion if Robinson did not resign, the archbishop continued, “I cannot predict what will happen if he will not resign.”
Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London asked the archbishop who would pay for this conference, reportedly 2.6 million pounds in debt at this minute, and not able to pay for this by the parishes in the Church of England, if the American church was not invited. He replied very gently, “Issues of faith cannot be mixed with materialism.”
I do hope he means that, because you can bet the province of the Sudan has seen its last American dollar. It is rumored that liberal elements in the American church paid all or a significant part of the cost for the Sudanese to attend.
The archbishop, known as an expert in the field of reconciliation said, “I am here talking to my brothers and sisters in America. We have experienced offense by their actions. I am not trying to offend them in return but tell them that I love them. We have had a painful experience and they must ask for forgiveness so we can go on together.
“If there is a cultural problem in America, it should be kept in America and not allowed to come into the Anglican world. I am not saying the Americans should all be excluded, but keep Gene Robinson away and we will find a way to help them. (Imagine the American Episcopal Church actually acknowledging that they need the help of the Sudan!)
“This issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion has a very serious effect in my country. We are called ‘infidels’ by the Moslems. That means that they will do whatever they can against us to keep us from damaging the people of our country. They challenge our people to convert to Islam and leave the infidel Anglican Church. When our people refuse, sometimes they are killed. These people are very evil and mutilate and harm our people. I am begging the Communion on this issue so no more of my people will be killed.
“My people have been suffering for 21 years of war. Their only hope is in the Church. It is the center of life of my people. No matter what problem we have, no material goods, no health supplies or medicine; no jobs or income; no availability of food. The inflation rate makes our money almost worthless and we have done this for 21 years. The Church is the center of our life together.
“The culture does not change the Bible; the Bible changes the culture. Cultures that do not approve of the Bible are left out of the Church’s life; people who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches. The American church is saying that God made a mistake. He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.
“We will not talk to Gene Robinson or listen to him or his testimony. He has to confess, receive forgiveness and leave. Then we will talk. You cannot bring the listening to gay people to our Communion. People who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches, not invited in to tell us why they don’t believe.
“I have just come from a meeting of the African and Global South bishops who are here. There were almost 200 bishops there. They support the statement my Church made yesterday. That’s 17 provinces.
“The Authority of the Bible is always the same. You cannot pull a line out or add a line to it. That brings you a curse. We are saying no. You are wrong.
Archbishop Deng Bul then talked about the humiliation his country faces with the indictment of their president by the International Court. He feels it reflects badly on the whole country and will make more people in Darfur die. He spoke of a recent attack in Sudan by the Lord’s Resistance Army from the Congo and Uganda. They came across the border and slaughtered a whole town of people.
When asked if he knows any gay people in the Sudan he replied, “They have not come to the surface. We do not have them.” The press from TEC that were in the room did not laugh out loud at this statement, but nearly.
He concluded by saying that he felt the purpose of the Lambeth Conference is for the bishops to act as counselors to Rowan and the Primates. They will take these matters under discussion and decide on a way forward. The Archbishop of Canterbury will then act on the counsel he receives from the bishops. We will help him determine what is good for the Communion.
The final question was about the women and ordination, an issue that is still a smoking topic in the Church of England. “Yes,” he said. “Women are human beings that have ministered with the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Lord Jesus Christ.” He does believe in the ordination of women.
Archbishop Deng Bul was accompanied by his Canon, the Rev. Francis Loyo.
As they left the pressroom, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said he had a short statement. He clarified that the Episcopal Church has had a positive relationship with the Sudan for many years and has been there with the intention of making a difference. They have succeeded in doing that. The Episcopal Church expects to continue that relationship and continue to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of the Sudan, finding a way to move forward from yesterday’s statement. Canon Robertson declined to answer questions.
People ran to their laptops to get the message out on the Web. I had a chance to personally thank Canon Loyo for their statement and told him that it would cheer and encourage many faithful Episcopalians in the United States. I hope YOU have been encouraged by this. No matter how it might feel. We are not alone!