Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and bishop of Juba, Tuesday said Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, must resign for the sake of the unity of the Anglican Communion, which has been deeply divided over the issue of homosexuality.
Archbishop Deng Bul and his fellow bishops have also issued a statement calling on both the Canadian and American churches to “refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishops or priests,” to refrain from approving same-sex blessings, and to “respect the authority of the Bible,” among others.
The Sudanese bishops said that the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the approval by the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster of same-sex blessings has “seriously harmed the Church’s witness in Africa and elsewhere, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-ethnic world.”
Archbishop Deng Bul came to the media centre Tuesday afternoon to explain the statement issued by Sudanese bishops attending the Lambeth Conference at the University of Kent here. “I’m representing my people in the Sudan and (same-sex relations) is not what’s found in the Bible,” said Archbishop Deng Bul. “Gene Robinson should resign. For me, if he says he is a good Christian, he should resign for the sake of the church. The Anglican norm has been violated.”
Asked how Bishop Robinson’s resignation would halt a breakdown in the nearly 80-million strong communion, he said, “I think there’s already a breakdown. You have 300 bishops who have stayed away because of Gene Robinson. Can’t Gene Robinson not resign to allow the 300 bishops to come back to the house?”
He said that some bishops have boycotted the conference despite the absence of Bishop Robinson who was not invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury because “the question is not whether he comes in or not. The question is what is the statement for dealing with Gene Robinson?”
Archbishop Deng Bul said he and other bishops opposed to the consecration of Bishop Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster decided to come because he wanted “to make this statement. I came to make this statement because I have to speak here, not from outside.”
He also said that bishops present at the conference who have consecrated Bishop Robinson “should confess to the conference because they’ve created an outcry for the whole Anglican world.” He added: “We are pleading to them, we are for the Anglican world and we want it to be united. We are not throwing anybody away but to say that this is not the norm of the Anglican world.” Archbishop Deng Bul said there are no homosexuals in the Sudan. “They have not come to the surface. We don’t have them.”
The Sudanese bishops’ statement as well as those issued by Archbishop Deng Bul have provided the first indication that the conference, which had been off to a quiet and peaceful start, is now moving into shakier ground as discussions have began on how to address the fractured unity of the communion.
Archbishop Deng Bul said he was uncertain whether indaba, the African way of settling disputes where people are divided into groups, which has been adopted by the conference, would work in settling the divisions in the communion. “I cannot tell what’s going to come out, but we haven’t seen the way out. People are talking about how to stay together, how to listen, but the main issue we came for hasn’t been discussed,” he said.
He said that about 150-200 bishops representing the “Global South” met Tuesday afternoon to discuss and exchange their views on the progress of the conference. He did not elaborate.
In their statement, copies of which were released to the media, the Sudanese bishops said: “We have come to attend the Lambeth Conference, despite the decision of others to stay away, to appeal to the whole Anglican Communion to uphold our unity and to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the church.”
Shortly after Archbishop Deng Bul’s press conference, Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, issued a statement saying that the American church “has enjoyed fruitful collaboration” with the dioceses of Sudan. “Our goal has been to make a difference… to respect the dignity of every human being and it hasn’t changed,” he said.
As of press time, the Anglican Journal was unable to get reactions from Canadian and American bishops who are attending closed-door sessions.