Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reading between the lines

Several years ago I had tea with a dear old friend in London. We met at one of those well-healed tucked-away-from-glaring-eyes boutique establishments in the heart of Knightsbridge. We sat out on what we might call in Charleston (for it reminded me of of the grand old homes near the Battery) a delightfully enclosed veranda, but perhaps in London might be called a solarium. In Virginia we call it the porch. Our tea was brought on silver plates with appropriate sandwiches and scones and jams and cakes and little silver spoons. It was all quite delightful.

My dear friend spoke in sullen tones, almost into his table napkin, outlining for me his experience of observing the most recent meeting of the Primates. It was somewhere in Oporto, Portugal and he had spent most of the meeting in a hotel room gazing through binoculars. Or at least that's how I remember it, perhaps he added that in for affect.

What I learned while we had our tea and sandwiches was that it was far more about reading between the lines, and not what one was fed in the press room (which of course, the Primates did not even have back then - now the Archbishop of Canterbury sends out a babysitter from time to time to pat the press on the head lest they become too feisty). In fact, what mattered was what one said discreetly to the side. Or did not say.

Riazat Butt has posted a few reflections that recall this sentiment from years ago, especially since there is for all intensive purposes a media black-out underway in Alexandria, despite the occasional head pats from the Archbishop of Brisbane.

On one hand, we have this little tidbit being spread through the small handful of journalists and activists assembled in a conference room at the Helnan Palestine Hotel, which Riazat delightfully comments on briefly:
So the Anglican Covenant might not have teeth and it might not have sanctions. The worse that could happen – for ordaining a homosexual to the episcopate, extraordinary intervention or blessing a same-sex union – is not being invited to a meeting. Well, knock me down and call me Rowan.
That ought to be welcomed news to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (certainly the lone activist present is pleased) and unfortunate news to the Archbishop of Uganda. But no, Riazat has another little tidbit:
Away from the discussions, which are nowhere near as heated as they were in Tanzania, the primates are cheery. The Most Tall and Most Rev Henry Luke Orombi has been especially jolly, although the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, looks knackered.
The primates are wary of the press we're told (and probably wonder what they are doing there and not back in their hotel rooms with their media-issued binoculars as in days of old - and yes, the press probably wonder about that too) who are now back to engaging in their more British-forms of diplomacy, with an exception perhaps of that one member who's monarchical-ties were cast off with a violent war.

Do pass the tea and scones, if you will. It may be a long winter.

PM UPDATE: Anglican TV now has both media chats hosted by the Archbishop of Brisbane now online here.

1 comment:

TLF+ said...

a delightfully enclosed veranda, but perhaps in London might be called a solarium. In Virginia we call it the porch.

In South Dakota, not until May.

But seriously, thanks for this piece and the reminder that we are still in a rumor and inference stage, susceptible to human misinformation and demonic deception. The old word "sober", used broadly, comes to mind. Wait, pray and do not react until there is actual news from reliable sources (in my case, I will wait to what someone like ++ Deng Bul has to say when the meeting ends.