Stephen Bates of the Guardian reports today on something remarkable: a "senior North American bishop" says the Episcopal Church is willing to punish African dioceses financially if it is disciplined for consecrating Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop. Patrick Mauney of the Episcopal Church Center has previously said, "The disbursements are offered without strings attached." I reported in 1999 on Ronald Haines, then the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, applying financial pressure on the acting vice chancellor of Uganda Christian University -- and other bishops -- because of African bishops' votes at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
Bates' report does not mention, as an Associated Press report in his paper made clear in April, that some African archbishops already have told the Episcopal Church what it can do with its money and power.
Further, the threat that Bates attributes to this anonymous bishop is inconsistent with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's soothing letter to his brother and sister bishops about the forthcoming report of the Lambeth Commission.
When the Telegraph reported that American bishops, including Griswold, would travel to London for talks with Archbishop Rowan Williams, Episcopal News Service distributed a clarification from the Diocese of Massachusetts and a brief notice on Griswold's trip to London.
ENS has been silent so far about Bates' report. But we can be sure of this: If any American bishop truly has been talking about using money as a weapon -- something liberal Episcopalians normally decry -- it will attract many comments in conservative Anglican circles.
We may now count Archbishop Morgan as the highest-ranking Anglican bishop to use this remark widely attributed to Richard Hooker (without any textual proof, to date): "Pray God that none may be offended if I seek to make the Christian religion an inn where all may be received joyously rather than a cottage where some few friends or family might be entertained."
Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, whose use of this Snopes-worthy quote first attracted the critique of the Rev. Richard Menees, now refers to Anglicanism as a "roomy house" rather than a "roomy inn." Well, it's a step.
The way things are going lately, the Anglican Communion may become a balkanized global village before the end of the year, with plenty room for all Anglicans to do as they see fit.