Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?

As I’m sure you’re all aware, over two months ago Rowan Williams wrote to Gene Robinson, refusing to grant him the right to preach or preside at the Eucharist whilst he was over here in Blighty during the Lambeth Conference. Having already completely ignored the prohibition on preaching last night at St Mary’s Putney, now it looks as though he might be getting ready to go one better.

On the 20th of July (this coming Sunday) at 14:30 he will be attending a picnic outside St Stephen’s Church, Canterbury which is billed as "Eucharist". The Rector of St Stephen’s, Justin Lewis-Anthony, is operating as chaplain to the Inclusive Church / Changing Attitude / Integrity team of volunteers for the Lambeth Conference. I was intrigued as to who was going to be presiding at this event so I batted this email off to Changing Attitude:

Who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th?


Short, sharp and to the point. I was expecting an answer on the lines of "That’ll be Justin seeing as it’s his parish" (which would seem reasonable), but the response was different:

Hi Peter

Hope you will be able to join with many other loyal orthodox Anglicans from many provinces as we break bread together and pray for the Bishops as they meet in conference.


Brenda Harrison
Hon Administrator
Changing Attitude

OK, I admit that there are times when I myself am busy and don’t read emails properly, so I thought I’d give Brenda the benefit of the doubt:

I don’t believe you answered my question, so let me ask it again.

Who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th?


It’s a simple question isn’t it? All Brenda has to do is to either give me a name or tell me to take a running jump (both of which are, I guess, reasonable things to do). Hmmmmm….

Hi Peter

I didn’t answer your question, which strikes me as disingenuous. What is your real question?

Our hope that you will join us in celebrating our Lord’s Supper remains. The table is God’s not ours, all are welcome.



lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

Now I’m really not sure that I fit into any of those brackets. I’m being absolutely frank about what I want to know (who is presiding), there is no lack of candor as I’m being totally open and I really am sincere in wanting to know who will be saying the magic words. I mean, that’s the reason I asked her. I could have pretended to be a journalist or used another email address so she wouldn’t realise it was me asking (Changing Attitude love me…) but I didn’t. I just came out and asked a straightforward question.

Shall we have yet one more go? No pretence, no messing about, let’s just get a straight answer.

My real question is simply who is planned to preside at the Eucharist? I don’t believe that’s disingenuous in the slightest. The picnic is organised by Changing Attitude and within the Parish of St Stephen’s Canterbury, so whoever is presiding at an Anglican service will need to have been given permission by the Rector of the parish and, by extension, the diocesan.

If you simply don’t want to tell me then say so.


Y’see, you don’t even need to tell me Brenda. I’m asking you a simple straightforward question – just give me a simple straightforward answer. In fact, if you want to tell me to go mind my own, then just do so. I won’t mind – I’ve told you so.

What’s the big secret?

The picnic and Eucharist is organised by Changing Attitude and Integrity USA. All due permissions have of course been sought and granted – I assume that was your real question?

Er no. My real question was, "Who’s going to preside at the Eucharist"? That’s why I asked you "Who’s going to preside at the Eucharist". But that issue of permissions is interesting.

But hey, we’re dealing with people who are inclusive and loving and forgiving and just want to talk and listen, so in the spirit of unity, let’s have one more go.

OK Brenda, I’ll try gracefully one more time. Are you able to tell me who is going to preside at the Eucharist on the 20th of July? If you don’t want to tell me then simply say so, but please let’s not beat around the bush like this.

I guess I will have to take a non-answer as a refusal to tell me.

And the response?

Hi Peter

We are not publicising names of participants in the Eucharist service – we want folk to join with us in worship and prayer, not focus on personalities.

I don’t really understand why you want to know who is presiding – as an evangelical Christian I have never put great store by the identity of the President at communion. It’s enough that we recognise each other in the body of Christ broken for us.

I do hope you will be among the worshippers on Sunday as we pray for our Bishops.

It’s very simple Brenda. I want to know who’s presiding because I’m curious. Precociously indeed you might argue.

By the way, and bringing up that permissions thing you spoke about, I have it on the highest authority that the Changing Attitudes team have had it spelt out to them in no uncertain detail what the implications are if Mr Robinson as much as waves a finger towards anything vaguely resembling the elements.

So obviously Gene won’t be presiding.

And that’s obviously why it was so easy for Changing Attitude to simply say to me "Don’t worry, Gene won’t be presiding".


99 Comments on “Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?

  1. “Where are the Royal Marines when you need them most???”

    In each others’ bunks: that’s the whole problem!

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

  2. My husband and I were married in a (then) Episcopal church in California by a friend of ours who was at the time the vicar of a church in the UK, and he had to have a license granted to him by the local diocese to perform the ceremony, even though he was assisted in the wedding and Eucharist by the rector of the local church. That’s just the way it works. It’s all about boundaries….. and boundaries are generally good things.

    This whole thread had me laughing myself silly. Who’s being disingenuous here? Sounds like a case of projection to me!

    By the way, e-mail has to be regarded as public communication. Everyone knows that. For something to be considered ‘private,’ it needs to have the appropriate legal wording at the bottom of the e-mail (or on the envelope and/or at the top of the letter, in the case of snail mail). Check any e-mail you receive from (most) large firms and you will see the confidentiality clause at the end. Even with that, most mildly informed people know that anything that is written in an e-mail could be relatively easily intercepted along the way, and easily forwarded to the multitudes. Or posted on a blog. A friend of ours who is on the board of an investment company has a rule: ‘Never put in an e-mail something you don’t want to read on the front page of the morning papers.’ She actually said ‘The Wall Street Journal,’ but I am paraphrasing to contextualize the point.

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