Sunday, June 08, 2008

Time Magazine Profiles Martyn Minns and Gene Robinson

The first bishop married his gay partner in New Hampshire this weekend. The second bishop will be settling into a new house with his wife in a New Jersey suburb, chosen so that he can shuttle more easily between conservative churches opposed to the first one's theology and lifestyle.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church USA and Bishop Martyn Minns of the Anglican Church of Nigeria are the twin bookends of the current struggle within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Fallen bookends, one might add, insofar as they are the only two Anglican bishops so far to be dis-invited from the Communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this July by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

The tall, British-born Minns, 65, got the boot because he led a batch of U.S. Episcopal congregations, including the one where he was church rector, out of Episcopalianism and into the authority of the Anglican archdiocese of Nigeria — primarily out of dismay that Episcopalianism had elected the openly-gay Robinson to be the bishop of New Hampshire. And Robinson, 61, a chatty, gray-haired Kentuckian who once said he looked forward to being a "June bride," was blackballed from Lambeth, (which will convene in Canterbury), because Williams felt that the Episcopal church in the U.S. had made him a bishop in the teeth of advice by the Anglican leadership not to engage in such a divisive move.

So where does that leave the two antagonists this summer? In each case, the present is about family and the near future about religious politicking. Robinson got hitched Saturday to his partner of 20 years, Mark Andrew, at St. Paul's Episcopal church in Concord, N.H. in a civil union presided over by a justice of the peace, according to the Concord Monitor. In a recent essay he says he regretted the June bride remark, noting that he should have made a more sober statement about the longing of gays and lesbians to celebrate their own "faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned, holy vows," the kind of sentiment he also expressed in his recent book In the Eye of the Storm: Pulled to the Center by God.

Minns, meanwhile, is spending his weekend in Morristown, N.J, where he moved last month. His five children, ages 42 to 25, are all out of the house, although he quipped to TIME that with 12 grandchildren "I'm following the Abrahamic covenent" that promised multiple offspring to God's people. The move from his original base in Virginia, he says, was necessitated by a need to find "a good place near an airport," since his Convocation of Anglicans in North America, originally a handful of Virginia Episcopal congregations that embraced the authority of Nigeria's ultraconservative Archbishop Peter Akinola has now grown to 65 congregations spread country-wide.

On Monday, Minns will jump on a plane for Jerusalem to help prepare a meeting of conservative Anglican bishops in two weeks called the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon) that he claims will attract Anglican bishops from 27 countries.

It is distinctly possible that the GAFcon meeting will determine what actually happens at July's much larger Lambeth Conference, which may see bishops from 160 countries in attendance. That is because, as Robinson put it to TIME recently, Lambeth "is designed not to be productive in the conventional sense." Although long heralded as the potential Armageddon where opposing bishops could finally duke out a position on sexuality and biblical fidelity, Lambeth's planners intentionally left out any opportunity to produce a concluding statement, apparently turning the meeting into a toothless series of conversations.

One of the few things that might shift it could be the goading from the bishops gathered at GAFCon. Although observers have accused conservatives like Akinola of trying to force an Anglican schism, Minns, who acknowledges occasionally polishing Akinola's prose, says "schism will not happen." Instead, he predicts a Communion "realignment" with the conservatives as the new center, possibly catalyzed by the articulation in Jerusalem of a "new revised version of 'this is who we are''" featuring traditionalist positions on Christ's divinity, his virgin birth, and a conventional understanding of marriage." Asked whether such a statement could prove exclusionary to liberal Anglicans, he said, "it will be up to the American Church to see whether it wants to be part of that or not. "

Or, to the entire Lambeth conference to chew over a month later.

It is clear that Robinson, for one, wishes he had not been excluded from Lambeth. He will be present in Canterbury as the meeting is held; and on two evenings his fellow American bishops will invite small groups of their colleagues to "meet me, hear a bit of my story, and see that their brother bishop Gene doesn't have horns and wear a dress."

Meanwhile, as befits Minns' ambivalence about the power structure behind Lambeth, the conservative bishop plans to stay away. "I'm not invited," he says "so why go? I have a life." Yet his life will keep him in the general area. "It just so happens that I do have family in England," he says. "In Nottingham, Penzance, and the Isle of Wight. I'll be there for little bit." Just in case he's needed, one presumes.

BB NOTE: Guess who lives down the street from Bishop Minns.


RB said...

Guess who lives down the street from Bishop Minns.

Oh, OK. I give up. Who?

Mark Harris said...

could it be Bishop John Selby Spong? If so, ain't life grand!

Matthew said...

Well, Chatham is just a stone's throw from Morristown, so it could be Elizabeth Kaeton. Bishop Spong lives in Parsippany, I think, which isn't too far either.

Apropos of nothing, I used to live in Chatham Township and worshipped at St Paul's Episcopal in Chatham, many many years ago.

BabyBlue said...

Bingo, Mark. ;-)


1662 BCP said...

I spoke with a priest of the dicese of Quincy who has told me that a high ranking Cardinal has stated that in order for there to be any continued relations with the Vatican, that Anglicans must decide once and for all whether they are Catholic or Protestant. According to him this is something that will be raised at GAFCon. I have felt that there is an uneasy alliance between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals on the orthodox side and that at some point there may be a divide between them. I'd like to be able to think that at least by the end of Lambeth that we will know where this thing is going. They really need to go or get off the pot!

Ohio Joe said...

BB: "...they [Robinson and Minns] are the only two Anglican bishops so far to be dis-invited from the Communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference..."

Not exactly. What about the AMiA bishops, the Ugandan bishops and the Bolivian bishops?

Love your blog, just wanted to point out the oversight.


Andy said...

I've not read Time Magazine in years, but they seemed to have nailed the the polar ends of the present debate.

Only time and Providence will tell how this all ends.

BabyBlue said...

Joe, I think that the attitude from Canterbury in singling out these two bishops is that they are "diocesan" level bishops. Both are members of the House of Bishops from their provinces and all the other diocesan bishops from their respective Houses are invited while they are singled out. I think that's what distinguishes them from the AMiA bishops and their method of election. They were originally consecrated on the authority of particular primates and were not elected by the House of Bishops of those primates.

I believe AMiA's bishops are now members of the Rwandan House of Bishops as I recall and recognition of their positions was included in the Primates Communique out of Dar es Salaam. I am not clear whether the AMiA bishops are considered diocesan bishops now - Bishop Minns was elected by the Nigerian House of Bishops as a Diocesan Bishop which in Anglican polity meant that he is not irregularly consecrated, any more than Gene Robinson was irregularly consecrated. But both constituted issues for other provinces in the Anglican Communion and Rowan Williams chose to dodge that bullet by not sending either an invitation.

There are other bishops who were not invited in addition to the AMiA bishops, but they are not diocesan bishops with jurisdiction. Both Martyn Minns and Gene Robinson were elected by their respective House of Bishops as diocesan-level bishops with jurisdiction. That was why Katharine Jefferts Schori signaled out Martyn Minns in her testimony - she recognized that he was consecrated a regular Anglican Bishop, but he is crossing provincial boundaries due to the severe crisis in TEC, which continued to escalate over the weekend with the endorsement by the President of the House of Deputies to Bishop Robinson's civil union inside consecrated church property last Saturday.

It's quite clear that TEC no longer cares. And now the Diocese of New Hampshire has petitioned Rowan Williams to extend an invitation to Lambeth to their bishop. Guess we'll see how that turns out.

The Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam took huge strides by including AMiA and CANA in its Communique. But their directives are being completely ignored by the Episcopal Church, including Bishop Schori who voted for it before she voted against it, and Rowan Williams who seems to be terrified of conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it - even as it makes matters worse. It could be that he totally agrees with TEC (which may be why TEC is so darn frustrated with him - they know he agrees with them) in which case he has abandoned his principles. Or it could be that he does not, but is to afraid of the conflict to stand up against the TEC jaggernaut.


Kevin said...

So I guess the take away from Joe's short question and the LONG reply is some in CANA like self promotion?

(FYI - the history you have presented is not lining up with other sources).

Kevin said...


I'm not sure if I'm correct on the motivation on why BB felt she needed to go on a diatribe, but I have noticed this is a common pattern if anyone raises AMiA or Kenya or Uganda. To +Minns credit, he has actually kept a low public profile since some friction a year ago (hard to build coalitions if everyone is an egotist, so his answer might radically be different than BB's, mainly to not be an alagory of Gen. Montgomery and Operation Market Garden).

This REAL simple answer that she could have used is that these words are not hers, they are those of David Van Biema of Time Magazine.