As Anglicans around the world try to resolve their deep rift over homosexuality, the gay American bishop at the center of the fight is offering a concession to his critics. New Hampshire Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson said Friday that he has volunteered to reduce his role at one of the most important meetings of Anglican Communion leaders, if it would mollify conservatives who believe his consecration
The Anglican Communion is the worldwide association of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England; the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. "I understand that my election and consecration has caused problems around the communion, and I'm trying to be as sensitive to that reality as I can," Robinson said.
The meeting is a once-a-decade gathering called the Lambeth Conference, which brings together Anglican bishops from around the world. Many conservatives from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have said they would boycott the next meeting in 2008 if Robinson attended.
It remains unclear whether Robinson will even be invited to the meeting--a possibility the New Hampshire bishop acknowledges.
While it is standard practice for all Anglican bishops to attend, an October report on whether the association can remain unified raised the possibility that he would not be included. The Windsor Report urged the archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the communion, to "exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting him."
Robinson said that about three months before the report was released, he told Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that he would be willing to attend the conference "in a diminished capacity," such as an observer, if that would help bring conservatives to the table. However, some traditionalist bishops have said they would not even want to share church sacraments with him. Robinson said he would not agree to withdraw from communal worship.
The Reverend Kendall Harmon, a traditionalist from the diocese of South Carolina, called Robinson's offer "charitable" but said it would not appease conservatives. "His consecration was completely opposed to the teaching of the communion, and to have him be present would be to legitimate the breach of that teaching," Harmon said.
Robinson said that if he were not invited, some liberal bishops may decide to boycott the conference in support of him. "I hope that I will be invited. I hope all of the African bishops will be there because I think that's the way forward," Robinson said.