Since a great deal of what I wrote to the Times was beautifully edited into a very short paragraph, I want to share with you the original context of the last two questions that I was asked, and my full response:
- What do you think of the decision not to invite Gene Robinson to the conference?
- Is he right to go to the conference? What impact will his arrival have?
This was shrewd – a way around an impasse – In this Archbishop Rowan is being wise as serpent but innocent as a dove. The gate remains open for all as it should. The lack of invitation sends an invitation to those who are troubled.
This is not ‘gate-crashing’ since the gate, Christ himself, is open and all are invited to come. If anyone, bishop or not, has entered into that gate, where words are ‘neither noise nor silence, but one equal music’*, then perhaps the optimum possible impact is that there will be a late invitation extended to Bishop Robinson even by those who are opposed to his state. Perhaps they too will see mercy instead of judgment and we all will be given an impetus to return to the true Shepherd and Bishop of our lives.
* John Donne XXVI Sermons (1660) preached 29 February 1627/8
To address this question, we need to understand the nature of leadership and the nature of the invitation. Is Gene Robinson’s leadership acceptable? Certainly by his Diocese it is. Is the leadership of the council of bishops acceptable? It has a shorter history than the Roman curia and the nature of being an overseer or bishop is complex. All Christians would acknowledge the leadership of Jesus, the Bishop of their lives as noted in 1 Peter, but Christians appoint human overseers in various ways depending on their tradition and the overseer who prays for those overseen learns to contain in prayer the strengths and weaknesses of all in his or her own person. This is true of business leaders too if they so learn Christ.Is Gene Robinson’s invitation disallowed? I understand that he has no invitation to Lambeth – but has he an invitation implicit in his office? Are invitations even necessary? We as humans have certain protocols and acts taken in privacy or in secret counsel. But who in the case of disputes over religion has governance over the council of God’s people?
To turn the question around – is the gate in the question open or closed? Gate and door are a common metaphor in the Scripture and in prayers of many traditions. Gates determine who is safe, who is in or out. John Donne uses the image in his famous sermon:
They shall awake as Jacob did, and say as Jacob said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven, And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no Cloud nor Sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.The Gate is open – it is narrow, requiring purity and righteousness beyond the normal.