The Rt. Rev. Richard Holloway was so upset he did something sophisticated church leaders rarely do - he said precisely what was on his mind.
The Anglican primate of Scotland told reporters he felt "lynched," "gutted" and "shafted" when Anglican bishops assembled at Canterbury strongly affirmed centuries of doctrine that sex outside of marriage is sin. This was a stunning blow for bishops who support gay rights in pulpits and pews. Thus, Holloway lashed out at the Africans and Asians who dominated the vote.
"We tried to understand that they live in Islamic countries and therefore Islamify Christianity, making it more severe, Protestant and legalistic," he said.
Holloway could not have tossed a more infuriating verbal grenade at the African and Asian bishops, many of whose families and flocks had been torn in bitter conflicts in the Sudan, Uganda, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere. But he didn't stop there, as he addressed the major role that Two-Thirds World bishops are beginning to play in Anglican affairs. They must learn to use reason, he said, not just simple displays of authority, if they want to change minds in "northern Atlantic" and other "post-traditionalist" societies.
Perhaps the Africans and Asians weren't to blame. Perhaps they were manipulated by American conservatives who wooed them with free barbecues, strategic advice and technological support throughout the 13th Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering that ended on Aug. 9. Holloway wasn't alone in suggesting many had been swayed by "chicken dinners."
Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda wasn't amused at the charge. "We have chicken back home in Africa, you know," he told the Christian Challenge. "Only one thing bought me and still buys me, and that's the cross and nothing else."
Actually, lobbyists on both sides worked overtime. The left said conservatives waved money at bishops from lands that desperately lack resources. Activists on the right said many in the Anglican establishment were poised to cut mission grants to bishops who rejected the ordination of women and other modernization efforts.
Meanwhile, conservative groups did share a high-tech headquarters. While they cornered bishops during dinners and seminars at the Franciscan Centre, progressives pushed the gay- rights cause during open-bar sessions at Canterbury's Bishop's Finger pub. Also, the First World enjoyed its usual advantage in the Lambeth staff offices. As Lambeth veterans say -- Americans pay, Africans pray and the British write the resolutions.
It's reasonable for the left to feel threatened, right now. Africans and Asians are considering traveling to the First World as missionaries, to pray at altars supposedly under the jurisdiction of other bishops. Thus, Anglicanism's old guard won a key victory when the Lambeth conference voted, in its final business session, to urge bishops not to invade each other's dioceses. The resolution urged primates to remind bishops in their provinces not to "exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission ... of the ecclesiastical authority thereof."
This was part of an effort to convince Bishop John Rucyahana of Shyira, Rwanda, to cancel an upcoming visit to one of his missions - the newborn St. Andrews Church in Little Rock, Ark. Shortly after the diocesan-borders resolution passed, Rucyahana said he would take the vote seriously. However, he also said, "we must defend the Bible and the doctrines of our church, above all else. We will find some kind of strategy to do this."
Early this week, Father Thomas Johnston said he has been assured his African bishop will visit his flock in Little Rock on Sept. 20, whether Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze and U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Tracy Griswold III want him to or not. Ironically, Newark Bishop Jack Spong -- who recently rejected theism, the resurrection and other basic Christian doctrines -- will be in town, with Maze's blessing, on the same weekend.
"So we will have two episcopal visitors in Little Rock," noted Johnston. "Bishop John will represent the clear direction set by the Anglican Communion, as expressed at Canterbury. Bishop Spong represents a 180-degree turn away from Lambeth. ... We couldn't ask for a more symbolic pair of visitors, now could we?"