Next came a panel discussion with all of the Rwandans and the two American bishops. Steve Breedlove moderated, took the questions and gave the respondents time to think on several subjects before responding.
The Opening questions consisted of asking about whether the bishops reconcile, what the new structure will be, and who the new leader will be. Also, the bishops were asked ‘What sins can you acknowledge?’
Archbishop Rwaje said (paraphrased), “I’m willing to make steps towards him (Murphy).” But he said that this meeting (Moving Forward) should involve the people in the room, not those absent. “Anyone here who has been wounded by me, come and talk to me and I am willing to talk to him or her.” He said that reconciliation between he and Chuck, is another level of reconciliation. Then, reconciliation of both of them as leaders is on another level still. But he said that the process has started.
Next was a question on women’s ordination.
Archibishop Rwaje asked Bishop Alexis to address women’s ordination in their context. “As a part of us, what are we thinking.”
Bishop Alexis said: “I don’t know why he has given me this very hard question!” (laughter) Alexis said that whatever needs to be handled, the Rwandans will deal with it!
He then circled back to reconciliation, and said that there are no shortcuts to reconciliation. There are four steps: 1) mending my relationship with God, 2) be reconciled myself with myself. 3) I go to my neighbor 4) I reconcile with creation.
Alexis said that we are here to get right with God, and to get right with each other. “My hope is that when you leave, you have at least done step 1.”
“My dear friends, there are problems that require time, they require prayer. We cannot leave here with all the answers. There is going to be a period of healing. Then we start dealing with some of the issues on the table. we agonize, we pray, we consult with one another.” He said this in regard to women’s ordination.
Bishop Mbanda was asked to respond to a question about structure: Who is going to determine the structures? He replied: “His Grace will decide! No, just kidding!” Within the Anglican tradition there are acceptable structures within our tradition. Those that God has put in our tradition. We need the time to heal, we need to come together – later we can answer what context, where are we, what will serve us better to be able to do the work that God has called us to do? Then we will determine a direction.
On the question of reconciliation, Bishop Mbanda referred to Nairobi and said that there is a process, the first steps were put down.
The bishops were asked again “What is it that this group is sorry for? Someone else asked where are we deriving our identity from as Anglicans (i.e. Lambeth or other things). Someone else mentioned Rwaje’s letter to Murphy being immediately in the press and asked “Do you all know who leaked it? Is that something that ought to be apologized for?”
On the issue of owning sin, Bishop Thad said that anytime there is a break in relationship…if we point our fingers and blame we enter the wrong path. There is a dynamic sense when you read the Scriptures, Daniel and Nehemiah, “Lord we have sinned and our fathers have sinned.” He said:
We in the Council of Bishops were not able to reconcile and do the hard work of relationships..In the pursuit of all the things we’re about and doing, why didn’t I realize the hurt I was causing around me? The decision that we made in 2010 [to step back from Ministry Partner status from ACNA] I didnt know until yesterday that it hurt Archbishop Bob and the folks at ACNA.”
Thad praised the courage of Terrell. “I cannot tell you how hard it was in November to watch Theresa and Terrell leave the room and to go on with business. I have lost really good friends in this and I’m responsible to begin the work to make a difference.”
“I am sorry of the offense to my Archbishop for not listening to his council and the united council of the House of Bishops when they brought discipline to us. For the anger that I have for the hurt … that has caused so many people in the field to be divided.”
And then, in one of the most moving moments of the conference, Thad looked at Archbishop Duncan in the audience and said, “Bob Duncan we are sorry for the offense we caused.”
Archbishop Duncan yelled back, “sorry received; forgiveness given!” The crowd broke into applause and these bishops later hugged. Praise God for this tangible example of restoration, and really, it was so easy, so, so easy.
Terrell addressed his sin by saying “I’m sorry I haven’t loved my wife as I should. The one (sin) that I struggle with the most and I’m still trying to get light for is the resignation from the COB. On the one hand, it’s a place to which I believe I was led in the interst of relationships and not wanting to maintain a facade that all was well. But the moment I resigned I hurt many people. I know that I will spend a long time dealing with that. I struggle with the deep hurt I’ve caused many people especially those I was charged to giver oversight to.” He asks forgiveness from those he hurt. He said that “we’re so confused about where we are that we don’t know where to go next.”
Regarding who put the private letter on the internet: Bishop Louis said, “only God knows. I’m not an internet expert, I don’t know who did, but it’s unfortunate. I feel sorry, I feel hurt.”
Archbishop Rwaje: “There are many things on the internet. From December to January we got more information that we should not get. And this we read on the internet. Who does that? But, in the House of Bishops, when there was a leakage of the private letter written by the HOB to our colleague, to the Council of Bishops (and) two days later, we read it on the internet. Whoever did it, we condemn that.”
Archbishop Rwaje said that in Nairobi, the Rwandans expressed that are very sorry for that.”
Bishop Alexis said that “We are very sorry as a House of Bishops for signing some documents that we should not have. We trusted people who brought it to us.” He clearly referred to the canon law debacle.
Bishop Mbanda said that the issue is not the internet, but the heart issue that drives people to the internet. What is the root cause?
On the issue of Anglican Identity, Bishop Terrell said “we’re going to draw our identity from the internet!” (laughter) Terrell said, “The internet as a device is not a sin.” Malice, hatred, bitterness, and accusation can be sins. It is not the tool, but its’ use.”
On identity again, he said the Scriptures and tradition of the Church guide us – all of that. We’re not there yet in terms of figuring that question out. Our identity right now comes from Rwanda. ACNA has lately provided assistance on the West Coast. They offered and we’ll take them up on it.
Finally, Bishop Alexis stood and gave an impassioned, cheerful defense of himself against the attacks on him and worse, his wife as being mentally ill. He discussed his long record and indicated that it would be absurd to think it could have been accomplished by someone with mental illness.
During the Evening Prayer, we were treated to a message from the Rev. Dr. Lyle Dorsett. I confess to being ignorant of him before tonight, but what a blessing he was! He was impassioned, often fighting back tears and asking us if we “love his appearing”? Do we love Jesus so much that we long for his appearance or are we dry? I was moved at many points of his sermon, and it was a gift of God to us to provide us with such conviction today. All praise and glory to the Lamb who sits on the throne, both now and forever, Amen.