The announcement this week that New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson will not be receiving an invitation to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops was a sad day for the Anglican Communion and a new low for the beleaguered Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is sad that the once proud-of-its-diversity Anglican Communion has allowed itself to be blackmailed into bigotry by those unwilling to accept into their midst a duly elected brother bishop solely because of his sexual orientation. And it is clear that Rowan Williams’ failure to exercise differentiated leadership has enabled the Communion he leads to continue to spin out of control.
The Archbishop had an explanation for his decision not to include Bishop Robinson: “I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.”
What he doesn’t have is an explanation for the stunning hypocrisy of excluding the Bishop of New Hampshire because he is gay while including the Archbishop of Nigeria who supports legislation criminalizing gay and lesbian people so draconian that it has been condemned by the international Human Rights Watch.
What he doesn’t have is a response to those who increasingly use the word “irrelevant” to describe a church more interested in how many bishops will attend the elite gathering at Lambeth Palace in 2008 than it is in how we can help end the AIDS pandemic by 2008. Or stop the spread of malaria. Or find a way to end the genocide in Darfur.
“Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these,” is the only criterion Jesus gave for being on his invitation list. Both the Communion and the Gospel would be better served if the Archbishop of Canterbury would go and do likewise.
Rev. Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest, is president of Integrity USA.