Notes from Dromantine 2005

The intense hostility of conservative churches within the Anglican Communion over the issue of gays has been alluded to several times on this blog. As I explained in the previous post, it would be hard to claim that the divisions are purely matters of theology. The battles within Anglicanism are also a direct out-working of other wider struggles that are taking place across the world, most notably the push by the political right in America to obtain power and influence over their opponents. Where there is politics in America, there is nearly always someone who is motivated enough and wealthy enough to throw a great deal of money to support the chosen cause. The struggles to promote the cause of the extreme conservative right against the liberal mainstream within denominational Christianity in America have drawn considerable sums of money from right wing foundations in the States. There are in fact five secular organisations which ‘throw’ money at any situation which might promote the ultra-conservative position. There is also a notorious individual called Howard Ahmanson, a follower of Rushdooney, who supports with his interest and money the Anglican conservative cause which has as its target, the ‘gay lobby’ within the church. The money flowing from all these sources has allowed a small of activists to mount campaigns of considerable strength against the Episcopalian Church in the States, particularly after the consecration of Gene Robinson, the gay bishop in 2003. These funds support right-wing lobbying groups such as the so-called American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. American money also reaches conservative groups in the UK, in particular Anglican Mainstream.

We cannot on this blog uncover all the strands of activity that have been unravelled by careful investigators over the years. But enough material has been gathered to indicate their methods and allow their opponents to cry ‘foul’ at some of their machinations. In this post I want to focus on the activities of lobbyists at one particular meeting, a gathering of Anglican Primates at Dromantine in Northern Ireland in 2005. The meeting was supposed to be a private gathering of bishops under the chairmanship of Archbishop Rowan Williams. In fact it was the interference of those outside the gathering that dominated the proceedings of the conference. One the issues to be discussed at this meeting was how the Anglican Church as a whole was going to react to the American Episcopalian Church after Bishop Robinson’s appointment. Was the Episcopalian Church to be removed from the Anglican Communion? Some of those present, the Archbishops of Uganda, Kenya and the Southern Cone were closely working with the organisations in the States who were lobbying hard for this outcome. The situation of the meeting began to descend into farce as the Primates in the meeting were being in part coordinated by activists who were staying nearby. Notes were being passed to conservative sympathetic Primates as to what they should say and how they should vote. Expensive dinners were organised (and paid for) by the American lobbyists and it appeared that everything said at the meeting was reported to these same activists. It was even claimed that Archbishop Akinola was having material drafted for him to say and even the final communiqué was altered by the lobbyists on the outside. The discussion on this final text went on into the late evening, after Archbishop Akinola staunchly defended this lobbyist text.

The highly respected Archbishop Robert Eames who had been brought in by Archbishop Rowan to assist with the process of holding the Anglican communion together declared that he was ‘quite certain’ that African bishops were being offered money to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church. Archbishop Akinola challenged Eames to produce evidence but the claim was supported from other sources. The provincial secretary to the Uganda Archbishop confirmed that US conservatives contributed towards the salaries of provincial staff from 1998. Archbishop Akinola hinted strongly in a sermon to his fellow African Anglicans that the resources of the conservative Anglican Communion Network were only available to those who had cut themselves off from ECUSA, the mainstream American Anglican body.

Enough has been said to give the flavour of the way things were operating in the years that led up to the founding of GAFCON in 2008. The claim of this blog once again is to say that the so-called divisions in the Anglican church have much more to do with politics and psychology than to theology. Of course the Bible is quoted and used but one suspects that political agendas are at the foundation of many of the disputes that take place among the churches. I for one would feel greatly cheated if my church started to pursue right wing political objectives but wrapped them up in the language of piety and holiness. That is, in fact, precisely what seems to be happening right across the world in conservative congregations. We have to face up to the fact that the rich can choose to use their money to obtain power and influence in church and society as they wish. What they can do, they often will do. The church, as with other institutions need to guard against this invasion of political manipulation by the wealthy. The cause of honesty, truth and integrity needs to be defended against those who would destroy it in the name of what we would identify as an abusive manipulative form of Christianity.

2 comments

  1. EnglishAthena

    Gene Robinson is actively gay, and has a partner. This is a little different from someone like Jeffrey John, who decided to become celibate after the church’s ruling. The man is a saint! And although in America Bishops are elected, which is fair enough, this came after a request that no church would do anything to add flame to the powerful brew that was stewing. I feel sorry for Archbishop Rowan. I do think the Episcopal Church in the excited states was deliberately holding the cat’s backside to the fire. The details you provide are depressing in the extreme, but no surprise at all to this old cynic. It was ever thus. I’m afraid the church in this country is largely corrupt, and run on the lines of favouritism and bullying. It needs those who are not directly affected to speak out. But they lack the courage.

  2. Stephen Parsons

    I believe that Gene Robinson is no longer with his partner, but the point you make about the appointment being somewhat provocative is worth bearing in mind, English Athena. No doubt ECUSA might have held back on appointing Robinson, but the sheer nastiness of the right wing opposition to any concession on this issue, means that one has sympathy for the way they acted in 2003. As I have pointed out many times on this blog, there is no dialogue with people who have the ‘truth’. If you are dealing with dysfunctional psychology and politics, as I believe you are in this case, then there has to be firm resistance to the opposition you face. If it really is theology you are arguing about, then you can find a way forward. Dromantine shows us that the opposition to liberal values is sometimes sneaky, dishonest and all about power and little to do with God and his will.

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