The world’s Anglican bishops met for three weeks this summer for their once-every-10-years Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, and it’s indicative of the low news value of that gathering that not one American newspaper sent over one of its staff writers to cover it.
I covered a Lambeth pre-event 30 years ago and covered the main event 20 years ago for the Houston Chronicle when there were a great number of journalists there to watch the debate on women’s ordination. That was the big controversy in 1988.
Not long after the conference ended, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts elected the world’s first female bishop, much to the dismay of many Anglican provinces who felt the Americans had hardly been given the go-ahead to do so.
Not that the Episcopalians are inclined to wait for permission to act; in 2003 they elected the world’s first openly gay Episcopal bishop despite being told not to do so. This latter move has split the Anglican Communion, which at 70-some million adherents is the world’s third largest organized Christian group after the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. (There are 400 million-some pentecostals but they belong to a wide variety of churches).
Anyway, the dearth of travel money kept many journalists from traveling overseas plus the way Lambeth was set up insured there’d be no major decisions on much of anything taken at the 2008 conference. Despite that, pressure groups from all sides were very much present at Lambeth and this blog tells of the in-your-face nature of some of the gay groups there.
I must admit I didn’t complain too hard this spring when I was informed there was no money to send me to Lambeth. Organizers were horrific with the press in 1998 and judging from all the blogs I read this summer, the media were more constrained than ever at Lambeth ‘08, rarely being allowed to cover anything meaningful. They weren’t even allowed to listen in when the Vatican’s Cardinal Walter Kasper addressed the Lambeth bishops, probably because what Kasper had to say was pretty damning. Essentially, the cardinal said, Anglicans have torpedoed Christian unity forever by ordaining women and homosexuals.
So I devoted myself to reading the blogs and the UK media, who were pretty good at spotlighting what was/was not happening at this conference. There was one particular blog that interested me, as it concerned Davis Mac Ayalla, a gay Nigerian activist whose application for asylum in the U.K. was accepted just as the Lambeth conference began. (He had claimed that his life was in danger in Nigeria, a country that sometimes deals out the death penalty to gays, chiefly because of the attitudes of the top Anglican bishops there.)
The asylum grant was big news. Now, Mr. Mac Ayalla toured the United States last year and I tried like anything to get an interview with him as he was visiting the Diocese of Washington. Although he did manage to be present for interviews with other newspapers, curiously, he could not find the time to talk with me.
So I was interested to find a blog entry from Josh, the man who served as Mac Ayalla’s handler during his tour of the States - and who refused to grant me access to the Nigerian, I might add. The blog is a rare find in the left side of the blogosphere: a liberal exposing another liberal. Now that asylum had been granted, Josh wrote, he could tell the truth about Mac Ayalla: how the Nigerian relentlessly pursued gay hook-ups and porn during his entire U.S. tour. It is an amazing read. “He was continually sexually predatory in ways both disgusting and laughable,” Josh wrote.
What’s also interesting are some of the furious ripostes underneath of the blog from folks who felt Josh should not be betraying such confidences.
The upshot of Lambeth is that the Americans are going to continue ordaining homosexuals and celebrating same-sex blessings and the conservative foreign Anglican prelates will continue trespassing into American Episcopal dioceses on behalf of beleagured conservatives. Nothing really changed.
And I didn’t think I could persuade my bosses here to dump tons of money into sending me overseas for three weeks just to find that out.
— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times