The first phrase of the title of this post is a phrase from a song that a priest introduced to the Cursillo movement some time ago in this Diocese. That priest is my good friend Hal Hutchinson. However, I am ashamed to be an American Episcopalian today, because I realize I am an Episcopalian in the Anglican World, a family, due to the remarks of the Presiding Bishop of Sudan who repeatedly today referenced the Anglican world. Watching this is what shamed me:
Now, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan’s words enthralled me earlier today. But, watching this diminutive (okay, so he’s six five – but he was humble and soft spoken) man speak, well, shamed me. Realizing that among the cuts of Ruth Gledhill’s video, he said things like this:
Because of the actions of the American church, “we are called infidels in the Islamic world when they hear of the same-sex blessings,” he said. “It will give [Islamist militants] reason to kill” Sudanese Christians he said.
The archbishop, known as an expert in the field of reconciliation said, “I am here talking to my brothers and sisters in America. We have experienced offense by their actions. I am not trying to offend them in return but tell them that I love them. We have had a painful experience and they must ask for forgiveness so we can go on together.
“If there is a cultural problem in America, it should be kept in America and not allowed to come into the Anglican world. I am not saying the Americans should all be excluded, but keep Gene Robinson away and we will find a way to help them.
“This issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion has a very serious effect in my country. We are called ‘infidels’ by the Moslems. That means that they will do whatever they can against us to keep us from damaging the people of our country. They challenge our people to convert to Islam and leave the infidel Anglican Church. When our people refuse, sometimes they are killed. These people are very evil and mutilate and harm our people. I am begging the Communion on this issue so no more of my people will be killed.
“My people have been suffering for 21 years of war. Their only hope is in the Church. It is the center of life of my people. No matter what problem we have, no material goods, no health supplies or medicine; no jobs or income; no availability of food. The inflation rate makes our money almost worthless and we have done this for 21 years. The Church is the center of our life together.
“The culture does not change the Bible; the Bible changes the culture. Cultures that do not approve of the Bible are left out of the Church’s life; people who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches. The American church is saying that God made a mistake. He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam.
“We will not talk to Gene Robinson or listen to him or his testimony. He has to confess, receive forgiveness and leave. Then we will talk. You cannot bring the listening to gay people to our Communion. People who do not believe in the Bible are left out of our churches, not invited in to tell us why they don’t believe.
“I have just come from a meeting of the African and Global South bishops who are here. There were almost 200 bishops there. They support the statement my Church made yesterday. That’s 17 provinces.
“The Authority of the Bible is always the same. You cannot pull a line out or add a line to it. That brings you a curse. We are saying no. You are wrong.”
Realize that this comes from a bishop that has not violated Diocesan boundaries, has not boycotted Lambeth, and has nothing to gain and everything to lose in helping TEC. He has people dying because of what we did at GC2003. Because, despite our asseverations of provincial independence, we are a part of a family – His family – which includes Sudanese Episcopalians. What we do in America affects our brothers and sisters over there. We as the American Episcopal Church have been completely unmindful of that. Moreover, Bishop Deng kept referring to Anglicans as a family. That is how he sees Anglicanism, and that is how those outside of Anglicanism see it as well. Provincial independence does not fit into family. Moreover, how could we not see that what we do as Anglicans in North America affects the people with whom we sit at the same spiritual table in Sudan?
Whatever moral authority the Archbishop of Canterbury had, whatever moral authority TEC had, has been lost this day. Lost to a diminutive bishop from the Sudan who asked for reconciliation and to help us. All he asked was for one country bishop to resign so 300 bishops who preside over Dioceses that contain people and parishes that dwarf most Episcopal dioceses, could be present at Lambeth, and he said he loved us and would help us.
I know that when I stand before the judgment seat of God, it will be far more important that I can tell the Lord that I was in fellowship and relationship with Christians all over the world than if I followed the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. I will not tell Him of my ties to historic Canterbury, or the American Episcopal Church, because those won’t really matter, but that I shared the love of Jesus Christ with those in prison, and that I was in Communion – an intimate relationship of fellow Christians – with people like the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. I pray that if our Diocese has to make a choice between Communion with Khartoum or Canterbury, that we choose Khartoum. I would not presume to know the mind of God, but I honestly believe it is what Jesus would do.
Or, as the Bishop said, “I have been a part of the Anglican world since I was a child. I should not be hesitating to come here.” Amen.