The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has invited all bishops in North America, except Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, to the Lambeth Conference of the world's Anglican bishops scheduled next year in the United Kingdom.
There were strong reactions to Bishop Robinson's exclusion, with some of his fellow American bishops calling it "oppressive" and saying they would raise the matter during their meeting with Archbishop Williams scheduled this fall. Earlier, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. rejected the ultimatum issued by primates of the Anglican Communion to cease same-sex blessings and the consecration of additional gay bishops by Sept. 30 and instead sought a meeting with Archbishop Williams.
Archbishop Williams also did not consider inviting Martyn Minns, a breakaway priest from the Episcopal Church who was recently consecrated bishop and head of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) by the primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola. Archbishop Akinola has threatened to boycott the conference, held once every 10 years, suggesting that withholding an invitation to Bishop Minns would be viewed as "withholding invitation to the entire house of bishops of the Church of Nigeria." Another primate, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi issued a statement May 30 indicating that the bishops of the Church of Uganda would not attend the conference. Rwandan bishops also said on June 19 that they would not attend.
Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said: "He (Bishop Minns) wasn't even being considered. He wasn't eligible to be considered ... because the Archbishop (of Canterbury) has decided that CANA and AMiA (another breakaway group called the Anglican Mission in America) are the same class." He noted that at the time that AMiA consecrations took place in 2000, then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said that "he couldn't accept them as regular consecrations; that he would not regard himself as being in communion with the bishops concerned, and the primates agreed to that."
Archbishop Carey disagreed, however, saying the Communion was not as divided as it is now. "It is not too much to say that everything has changed in the Anglican Communion as a result of the consecration of Gene Robinson," he "wrote in the Church of England Newspaper.
The decision not to invite Bishop Robinson, meanwhile, was based on "widespread objections" to his consecration as a bishop in the Episcopal Church and the recommendation of the 2004 Windsor Report, said Canon Kearon.
"The primates' meeting in 2003 and 2005 recognized that the bishop of New Hampshire had been duly elected and consecrated according to the canons of the Episcopal Church," said Mr. Kearon in a telephone interview. "However, for the archbishop to" give full recognition to him at this conference would be to ignore the widespread objections to his ministry in many parts of the Communion." He added that the Windsor Report, issued by the Lambeth Commission created by Archbishop Williams to seek ways of healing the rift within the Communion over human sexuality, had encouraged the Archbishop "to exercise very considerable caution in inviting him to the councils of the church."
Archbishop Williams is, however, considering inviting Bishop Robinson to the conference as a guest, he said.
Bishop Robinson said he had received the news about not being invited to Lambeth "with great disappointment."
In a statement, Bishop Robinson called the refusal to include him "among all other duly elected and consecrated bishops of the church an affront to the entire Episcopal Church." He added, "At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a 'listening process' on the issue of homosexuality, how does it make sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from the discussion? …