Davis Mac-Iyalla and I have both prayed and meditated for 1 hour this morning, beginning our day in the presence of God, open to his love and goodness, listening to his quiet voice in our hearts. We are here thanks to the generosity of Inclusive Church which is funding our presence in Tanzania, representing all who are working for a church inclusive of all.
I need to begin with an apology this morning, to my brothers David Anderson and Chris Sugden. Yesterday I wrote that I had detected a certain reticence on their part to meet and acknowledge Davis Mac-Iyalla‘s presence and wondered why conservatives are so discomfited by meeting a gay Anglican from Nigeria. I was wrong. David and Chris were not introduced to Davis yesterday, and my memory of reticence was totally wrong, and I am sorry for any embarrassment I have caused them in publishing this. Yesterday Bishop Martyn told Davis that he had read a lot about him and greeted him very positively.
This morning, Davis and I arrived for breakfast and found David and Chris having breakfast with Bishop Martyn Minns. David and Chris both rose to meet me and expressed their disappointment and I apologised to them. Davis was introduced to both of them. A fourth person was sitting at table with them, who didn’t rise and to whom neither Davis nor I were introduced. Later, we learnt that he was Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda.
Bishop Martyn, David and Chris were rightly angry and disappointed with me. They do not want to be misrepresented, especially as being reticent in meeting Davis. My own prejudice was at work, anticipating discomfort from some people here at being introduced to Davis Mac-Iyalla, who’s visible presence as a gay Nigerian Anglican has clearly angered other people.
I have subsequently reflected on the image of our relationships in the Communion that my error has mirrored and that is being acted out here in Tanzania. There is a high level of anxiety and real and proper concern when we misrepresent each other. I am still left with questions about trust and openness between us who are Christians and members of one Communion.
Yesterday evening, Davis, Caro and myself enjoyed a lively supper around a large table at the White Sands Hotel, joined by Scott Gunn from the USA, Steve Bates, Jonathan Petre and George Conger. As Scott has described on inclusivechurch.blogspot.com, we were of different sexual identities, race, nationality, gender and theological positions. This diverse group around the supper table felt to me what it means to be Christian and Anglican.
Later, Andrew Hutchison, Primate of Canada and Mauricio Jose Araujo de Andrade, Primate of Brasil, left the Primates’ enclave for our ‘open’ area of the hotel. Davis Mac-Iyalla was introduced to both of them and also to members of the ACC, Canon Elizabeth Paver from England, Ms Nomfundo Walaza from South Africa and Mrs Philippa Amable from Ghana. These introductions were all warm and open. The people we are meeting in the White Sands hotel make me feel secure in my relationship within the Anglican Communion as a gay man. There is a warm, familiar openness of Christians meeting together, part of one family.
Other parts of our Anglican family are staying in a nearby hotel where they have been developing their strategy for the Primates meeting, the group including both Primates and other bishops and leaders of key conservative groups. Tomorrow their strategy, and it’s success or failure, will be revealed.
The discomfort that has occurred between Bishop Martyn, David Anderson, Chris Sugden and myself is not surprising. Our membership of the Anglican Communion brings us into personal relationship with each other. The strategy which they are working on is designed, I assume, to diminish my ability to remain in the Anglican Church with integrity. I am gay and I do not believe I have a vocation to celibacy. If their strategy is to exclude Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from the Primates meeting because she is not ‘Windsor compliant’ and because of her involvement in the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, they will at the same time exclude me from feeling that I am welcome. They are attempting to make the Communion a place which is not open to the presence of partnered, sexually active LGBT people, lay, ordained, and consecrated as bishops. The church will become more dishonest. LGBT people will be pushed back into the closet. We will be at greater risk of discrimination and abuse, especially in countries like Nigeria.
This morning after the encounter with Martyn, David and Chris, I sat at breakfast with Davis refelcting on the mistake I had made. They say rightly that I have abused their friendship with me, a friendship based on the reality that we are members together in the Anglican church. I wondered why, in this case, they didn’t introduce Davis and myself to Archbishop Henry Orombi. I write this knowing they will read it, and that later today or tomorrow they may further challenge me. If they had come to my table where I was sitting with someone unknown to them, I would certainly have made an introduction.
This whole Primates meeting is about personal relationships being abused and damaged.