Thursday, 31 July 2008

Rowan: a word from the Sudan

I was immensely struck by Ruth Gledhill’s refreshingly self-aware account of a conversation today with a Sudanese Bishop here at Lambeth:

I met a bishop from Sudan. The Sudanese caught the attention of the world early on in the conference with their statement that Gene Robinson should resign.

“What are you planning to do now?” I asked the good bishop, meaning what cunning strategy did they have devised to make things go their way at Lambeth.

He looked at me thoughtfully.

“Now, we are planning to get on a train and go to London and go shopping with our eyes.”

I was not to be deterred.

“How has the Archbishop of Canterbury done here? What do you think of him?”

His eyes lit up.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is like a saint. We are so impressed. We have never known anyone quite like him. He has had all these important people here, the Coptic archbishop, the Orthodox, the Chief Rabbi, all these Cardinals. Every time he puts them on the podium and lifts them up above himself. It is as if he is saying, listen to these people before you listen to me. Oh he is such a leader. He is a true Christian. He is so humble. His witness has been so powerful. That is the message we are taking back to Sudan.”

I have to say I have been moved, almost to tears at times, by stories from the Sudan in Indaba and elsewhere. Here are people whose faithfulness is tested every day by official and unofficial persecution, war, poverty, injustice and hardship. They have also been very clear that they value the Communion, and do not want to break it up. They have also absolutely clear in standing up for what they see as Biblical standards against Western interpretations. How those principles can be put together is something we have to work out; and how to offer the good bishop and his colleagues real solidarity.

I should also say that this bishop’s words about Rowan were echoed by a conversation I had last night with some of the stewards who have been looking after us, and had been similarly struck.

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