Michael Kimindu and I are now in Mombasa after a long and tiring bus journey from Nairobi. The plus side, Michael’s brother-in-law is the manager of the hotel, and very up-market beach front hotel. We are staying in an apartment free of charge, paying only for meals. It was bliss this morning after yesterday’s dust and traffic to swim first in the hotel pool and then in the Indian Ocean.
This morning we had a meeting arranged with Bishop Julius Kalu at the diocesan office next to Mombasa Memorial Cathedral. The cathedral is a curious mixture of Islamic and Norman styles. The last time Bishop Julius and Michael met, I had caused a hiatus by mistakenly reporting that the diocese had failed to pay Michael for one year. Wrong diocese – it was All Saints, Nairobi. When in Mombasa, Michael was a Navy chaplain. It was most unfortunate that the bishop learnt of my mistake when he was in Canada and was challenged by pro-gay Anglicans there. I apologised, and by way of restitution presented him with a purple clerical shirt. I was forgiven!
Bishop Julius was generous with his time and his welcome. He had been present at Lambeth 1998 and said he was fulfilling the commitment made in Lambeth 1.10 to listen. He has been doing this at the international level and also has a small group in the diocese which is addressing the issue.
Our conversation was broad ranging. Both Michael and I talked about the Anglicans we had met in Kisumu from the Diocese of Maseno South, of the way in which LGBTI people abandon the church to protect themselves from anti-gay sermons, of those gay men who are married and have gay partners, and the resultant spread of HIV to their wives, of the secrecy and dishonesty which results from church attitudes.
We talked about the possibility of Michael speaking to the archbishops and of being invited to speak with others to the House of Bishops for 20 or 30 minutes about homosexuality. The House meets next week in Mombasa but given that Archbishop has been avoiding Michael ever since he was described in the press as a gay campaigner (he’s straight) and the Archbishop declined to meet me when Michael phoned and told him I was coming, next week’s meeting may be too soon.
I asked the bishop for his analysis of GAFCON and his assessment of where the Communion is moving. He thinks that following the retirement of key Primates, those who were campaigning for a split have lost ground. His own commitment is to bring the Communion back from the extreme positions adopted by some on either wing and restore the centre ground. The drive to adopt and anti-gay position and push towards schism not derive from bishops and Primates but from clergy, he said. Some clergy are actively working to destroy the Communion (or something close to that). When I invited him to expand, he immediately named an English priest, a Canon from Oxford, who is wreaking havoc behind the scenes. I knew whom he meant.
I’m grateful to Bishop Julius for engaging in conversation for well over and hour when many other people were waiting to see him. He has a generous, open spirit and has been committed to the listening process since Lambeth 1998 and Resolution 1.10. He seems to have realised then that those urging the adoption of an extreme anti-gay position were misguided.
Today’s meeting has added to my confidence that there are many bishops in the Communion who are still committed to the vision of GAFCON as a spiritual force, but not to GAFCON as a focus of the anti-gay agenda. There are African bishops who are quietly committed to Lambeth 1.10 in its entirety, and others who focus on 1.10 and listening rather than on the original motion based on the anti-gay rhetoric of the Kuala Lumpur statement.