Invitations to Lambeth: Much Ado About Little  

Posted by Joe Rawls

The invitations to Lambeth 2008--specifically who got one and who got left out--have generated much ecclesiastical dish, a good bit of heat, but little light.

Integrity and many of its supporters are calling for the American bishops to boycott the meeting because Gene Robinson of New Hampshire wasn't invited. Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria threatens to boycott Lambeth because Martyn Minns, his agent in the US, was snubbed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Ugandans have already said that they're sitting this one out. Other elements of the Global South may well follow suit. I didn't get an invitation either, but of course I'm not a bishop. If I had one, would I go?

At first blush, Lambeth 08 doesn't sound all that interesting. Lots of Bible study, plus workshops on episcopal leadership, whatever one might imagine that to be. Perhaps on the last day, right after the group photo, they'll form a gigantic circle on the University of Kent athletic field, join hands, and sing "Kumbaya". If I were spending 3 weeks in England, I'd experience much more spiritual growth by attending Evensong at St. Pauls,' High Mass at All Saints Margaret Street, hanging out at the British Museum, or eating lots of Indian food (not necessarily in that order). Not getting invited to this thing is sort of like being in high school and not getting invited to a party thrown by a bunch of geeks who drink Red Bull and go to Star Trek conventions.

However (and there's usually a however in these things), when one takes a wider view, +Gene is still a serving bishop, the other bishops in the Episcopal Church have their invites, and big chunks of the extremist evangelical faction are poised to stay away. From my viewpoint, that's a net gain, especially considering how things looked right after the Primates' communique in February. A progressive boycott would leave the field to whatever reactionaries might show up, plus the rather bland types who put maintaining the institution above either gay rights or doctrinal orthodoxy.

So,if I were a bishop, I'd go to Lambeth, speak my piece, try not to look at my watch too often, and schedule an extra week for Indian food.