Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lambeth Blog #8

Lambeth Blog #8
July 30, 2008
Sorry for the silence! It is not that there isn't much to say, but only sometimes a dearth of time in which to say it.
A quick update: Saturday the Episcopal Church was responsible for our Evensong. The Bishops and Spouses Choir provided most of the music. We were blessed to have our regular choir director Dent Davidson with us for a couple of days to get us ready and to be with us on the day. The music was lively and spirited and beautifully signed by Donna Scarfe, spouse of Alan Scarfe, the Bishop of Iowa. Michael Curry, the Bishop of North Carolina, and I read the first chapter of Genesis, as our meetings that day were devoted to the care of creation. The funny thing was that the print out of the lesson did not include the seventh day. I know it was an accident, but somehow it seemed emblematic of our schedule. So we restored the seventh day in our reading at Evensong on Saturday. Having ears to hear, Phil and I took real sabbath time on Sunday afternoon, going to the oyster festival in nearby Whitstable and then to the movies in the evening.

Last night the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an extraordinary reflection on where he thinks we are in terms of our differences. He took the part of the traditionalists first, saying what he felt traditionalists wanted others to know in terms of love of scripture, deeply held beliefs and the magnitude of the change they perceive in our actions to bless and ordain gay and lesbian people. I must admit, that I had no small trepidation when the Archbishop began to represent those of us in the church in America and in Canada, because as I have mentioned before, I hadn't felt we had been particularly well heard here even yet. My fears were unfounded. I thought he represented our position beautifully and accurately, and not just those of us who are in full support of these actions.

Two points in particular gave me great hope. The first was the phrase, that we feel traditionalists are "pouring scorn on our witness." This is the first public acknowledgment that our position is something even larger than an argument for justice, as valid as that might also be. We are witnessing to the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of gay and lesbian Christians both lay and ordiained. It is the same sort of witness that Peter made to the Council of Jerusalem about the full inclusion of the Gentiles in community of faith. (Acts 10 and 11) We understand that not all will agree with us, but the Archbishop has taken our witness seriously, and for that I am grateful.

The second point he made on our behalf is the solidarity of bishops in our house, including those who voted no on the consent to Gene Robinson's election. I believe that these bishops are setting an example and giving a model for the rest of the Communion about remaining in relationship despite our differences. Their commitment has gone largely unnoticed and unsung by those outside our House until now.

The Archbishop invited both sides to reflect on ways to set aside their differences and "to speak life to each other," instead of death. When he finished, the audience sat in stillness for some minutes absorbing the power of his remarks. The theme for yesterday was the Bishop as Shepherd. It was as if during his speech the Archbishop had picked up his crozier--his shepherd's crook--and walked ahead of us to lead us into more nourishing pastures.

Today's theme has been the Bishop and Scripture. It was a day full of rich sharing among people with very different approaches to the Bible. I am sure the Archbishop's remarks yesterday helped to make this sharing possible. More tomorrow...Many blessings!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lambeth Blog #7

Please do forward on to friends, family, parish family....Thank you!

Lambeth Blog #7
July 25, 2008

As hard as this may be to hear, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan may be showing the Communion a way forward. Recently the Archbishop of the Sudan made some very strong statements about Bishop Gene Robinson and the Episcopal Church. Since the Sudanese along with Liberian bishops and some others had been invited by our Presiding Bishop for a reception tomorrow afternoon, when we first learned of Archbishop Bul's statement to the press, we thought it signalled a rejection of us and a further splitting in the Anglican Communion. This does not appear to be the case.

We in the Episcopal Church have always said that we do not demand agreement with our positions in order to be in relationship. Now is the time to live into that commitment. The Archbishop of the Sudan was signalling to the rest of Africa, and I imagine particularly to the bishops of GAFCON who have stayed away from this conference, that he and the Sudanese are not being "bought" by the Americans. They do not agree with our actions, just as our other partners in Africa do not necessarily agree with us. And still they are choosing to be in relationship with us.

Hold in mind the words of Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo to me when we first entered into a partnership for Carpenter's Kids. "We do not agree with your decision [concerning Gene Robinson] but we think the division is the devil's work to keep the church from ministering to a suffering world." Of course, Bishop Mdimi said those words to me in private and the Archbishop of the Sudan went very public very unexpectedly. Nevertheless, I believe we should keep this particular door wide open. The Sudan is one of the places where extreme poverty and extreme violence combine to produce some of the greatest suffering on this earth. As long as the bishops choose to be in relationship with us, we can move ahead to minister together to this suffering world.

While we are on the subject of a suffering world, I confess to you that I almost lost my temper in our Indaba session this morning when one bishop said he thought that our focus on the MDG's was a distraction from the issue of human sexuality. I responded, trying to remain as civil as possible, that no matter what we might choose to discuss, the world's suffering is not a distraction for a gathering of bishops from around a Communion riddled by poverty, violence and catastrophe.

I have never heard a bishop from the developing world call the MDG's a distraction. For those of us in the developed world, suffering seems to us an abberration from a life intended to be free of it. Hence, we often ask "Why me?" when we experience the inevitable sufferings attached to being human. We are reluctant to recognize that for the vast majority of human beings on this planet, suffering is a way of life. And for some, extreme suffering is a daily occurrence. (If you would like some figures on this, I encourage you to google

It is as Gordon Brown said yesterday, people of faith can make a difference. The Anglican Communion does make a difference. Let us not spend time worrying about who is the wheat and who is the tare, but simply grow together in God's garden, trusting in the abundance of God's grace to get us through.


Lambeth Blog #5

Another post from Bishop Catherine in Lambeth

Please do forward on to friends, family, parish family....Thank you!

Lambeth Blog #5
July 23, 2008
Just a brief blog tonight, as the hour is late.

Some of us hit a bit of a wall today with sheer fatigue. The pace has been relentless and the walking distances back and forth and around the campus very long. Someone told me that the buildings and campus lay out were a response to student unrest in the sixties, the point being to design a campus which would make demonstrations difficult. I don't know if that is true, but it certainly could be. The campus is assymmetricaI and some of the buildings themselves have been compared to rabbit warrens. It is often hard to know which is the direct route to a particular building, campus maps notwithstanding.

Fortunately, most of this afternoon's offerings will be repeated, so I noticed quite a number of us took some down time for an hour or two to take a nap or do some laundry or just to have some quiet time.

In this morning's bible study we read John 8:1-20, the story of the woman taken in adultery. This is the second bible study on chapters in which a woman takes center stage, the other being the Samaritan woman at the well, which is quite unusual for gatherings such as these. The focus of our group was on God's mercy and Jesus's lack of condemnation. Repentence and amendment of life are more apt to come from understanding God's love and mercy than they are from accusation and blame.

Our indaba was a bit rocky this morning.. Our topic was The Transforming Society--the Bishop and Social Justice, a subject we all warmed to. We were shown a short video in which Hellen Wangusa, our Anglican Observer at the U.N. spoke about the Millennium Devleopment Goals. The difficulty came afterward,when a number of us expressed concern that the indabas are now too organized to allow for in depth discussions, which is precisely what indabas are meant to allow for! I expect the leadership is going to make some adjustments.

Supporting the MDG's from a Christian standpoint cannot simply be about good works or charity. Even working for justice does not entirely cover it. Sharing wealth and resources is the inbreaking of God's realm, Mountains of wealth and resources are lowered and the valleys of poverty are raised so that the path may be made straight for the coming of the Lord. Therefore, those who give are need of those who receive, because it is only working together that the roadway can be leveled.

This evening Province I of the Episcopal Church gave the first of two receptions and presentations for Bishop Gene Robinson to meet bishops and spouses from around the Communion who might wish to get to know him. It was well attended and I believe went a long way in fostering understanding and charity towards one another.

Tomorrow we go to London to take the Walk of Witness in support of the Millennium Development Goals. We will then go to Lambeth Palace and after that to Buckingham Palace. (A bit ironic as to the combination of events, but that is the schedule.) It will be a very different sort of day, which I look forward to writing to you when we return to Canterbury.

Many blessings!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bp. Roskam on Lambeth

Read what Bishop Roskam is thinking about as Lambeth begins!

Lambeth Blog #3

July 21, 2008

Because of time constraints and computer availability I am not able to blog every day. Normally, I will only blog for the current day and just skip or summarize briefly those days when I have had no access. Except for today, when I am going to tell you about yesterday.

I would be remiss if I did not try to capture the beauty and grandeur of Sunday's service at Canterbury Cathedral. While in 1998, we were only permitted to wear cassock, this time we were invited to turn out in full choir dress, scarlet rochet (floor length red vest) and white chimere, which one might describe as a long, full, floor length shirt with full sleeves, gathered at the pleated cuff by scarlet bands. Over that most wore a black tippett (scarf) or festal stole. The few bishops that did not wear rochet and chimere nevertheless wore colorful cassocks of different shades of purple and crimson, or light colored tropical vestments.

One of the most moving parts of the service was actually the procession in, which took close to half an hour, as we walked up the aisle two by two to the accompaniment of glorious music. The colorful lines of bishops split and then rejoined in order to circumnavigate the free standing altar at the top of the nave. Then we continued through a narrow opening into the great chancel, where the second altar stood and also the ancient stone seat or cathedra of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (I urge you to google some of the pictures available at various sites on the web.) [Editor's note - click here] The bishops and our ecumenical partners filled every corner of the chancel. The music was diverse as well as traditional and often accompanied by wonderful drumming. One of the high points within the service was the gospel procession in which Melanesian dancers in their native dress danced up the aisle with a small canoe like boat on their shoulders. The golden gospel book was place in the boat and then danced down the aisle in the midst of the people for the reading of the Gospel, the same one read in all our churches, in which Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the tares.

Duleep De Chickera,the bishop of Colomba in Sri Lanka and the chair of the planning team preached the sermon. He shocked the gathered community with his forthrightness when he said as part of his exhortation to be an inclusive church, "There is space equally for anyone regardless of color, ability, gender or sexual orientation." The air was electric. ( If you would like to hear the sermon, just google Bishop De Chickera's name and you will find it easily both in taped and text form.) [Editor's note - click here] Bishop De Chickera ministers in a very challenging and insecure part of this Communion. His courage and inclusiveness of spirit was particularly appreciated by those of us who found it hard to sing the concluding hymn "All Are Welcome" when one of our number does not appear to be.

Nevertheless, I was deeply moved by the service and immensely grateful for the experience. It is a privilege to be here and to be a part of the history of Anglican bishops dating back to Augustine of Canterbury in the fourth century. We have a rich history and tradition that I greatly treasure. I was aware during the service that this will be my last Lambeth, as I will be retired in ten years and only active bishops are invited to atttend, and so I was intent on savoring every moment.
After the service I did some interviews with the BBC and the AP, went for a quick bite with my husband Phil, Bishop Sisk and Archdeacon Kendall and then headed for St. Stephen's Meadow for an outdoor eucharist sponsored by Inclusive Church (UK) and Integrity (US) and attended by about 200 people, including Bishop Gene Robinson and about 20 of the bishops from the morning service.. We got back to the campus just in time for the opening session of the conference at 4 p.m. I will say more about that tomorrow and about the format we are using now that the conference has begun in earnest.

Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008


We are having Rockland's first U2charist on Friday, July 11 at 7:30. It will be a standard communion service featuring the music of the band U2. Join us for this exciting opportunity. All the proceeds will be donated to ending poverty in Africa.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pastor Susan's Book Club

Every summer we pick a book to read over the summer and then gather togather to discuss it. THis year we will have an extra special treat because one of Pastor Susan's friends, The Rev. Timothy Schenck has published a book entitled: What Size Are God's Shoes?

It is a humorous book of essays about what it is like to have young children and all the demands of that and trying to have a spiritual life at the same time. A topic that couldn't be more appropriate for St. Stephen's.

You can order the book from Amazon or from Morehouse publishing company.

I also ask you to save the date for Friday, September 12 when Tim will come here to do a book reading and signing for us. Childcare will be available so be sure and save that date!