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©2002 The Society of
Archbishop Justus, Ltd


Hallo again to all.

This week is the 143rd anniversary of the death of the patron (dead) bishop of Anglicans Online, the Right Reverend GW Doane. Once again we travelled to his grave, planted some forget-me-nots, rosemary, and heart's ease, and listened to the church bells toll their annual salute to him. Later in the day we read a sassy article in The Guardian (London) in which the writer pondered a great episcopal mystery:

'The Bishop of Wakefield' adds the report 'was robed and in attendance.' Robed, in attendance, and doing precisely what, may I ask? I have frequently seen this formulation in reports of church services, and that question is never answered. Is it really the case that the bishop, having arisen betimes and taken the train to London, robed himself and attended but played no further part in the day's proceedings?'

Non-communicating attendance?

The next morning we read a press release describing the 'Action Plan' produced at the recent meeting of Anglican primates:

A think tank was proposed to do some further work exploring the possibilities, within the inherited legal framework of our tradition, of non-geographic networks within our geographically structured dioceses and the appropriateness of such specific ministry networks transcending diocesan boundaries.

Here at AO, we've always believed there is merit in non-geographic networks. We're quite certain that we are one—and so are many of the online communities and online groups in the Anglican world. Whilst we're probably the largest and oldest Anglican publication existing only in online form, there are plenty of other good examples.

Through the years we've seen a great deal of speculation about just what might be the proper set of abilities and skills for a bishop. In Bishop Doane's day, surely the ability to ride well was important, so a prelate could get round his diocese. Decent penmanship was no doubt useful as well, so that people could read episcopal missives with some degree of ease. Today we often hear people argue that a bishop should be a CEO or a pastor, a manager or a fundraiser, a healer, a preacher, or a moral exemplar; often, 'all of the above'. We venture no opinion about these matters and leave them for others to wrangle about (especially dioceses embarking on an episcopal search). But we do care a great deal about how bishops communicate, which will matter even more in 'non-geographic networks'.

In the online world, we're not quite certain what the equivalent would be of 'robed and in attendance'. For all we know, the robe that a bishop is wearing as part of an online network could be his dressing-gown. If he hasn't mastered the medium enough to be able to talk to us, then just what does it mean for a bishop to be 'in attendance'?

As the 21st century draws on, we suspect it will become ever more important for bishops to make their presences known online, whether primarily as a part of their own diocesan network or in a more global, communion-wide way. In the online Anglican world, 'robed and in attendance' suggests a bishop who is remaining mute. Eventually episcopal silences may echo oddly, if clergy and laypeople all round the communion are talking, planning, dreaming, caring, loving, building bridges, and advancing the Kingdom of Heaven in this 'non-geographic network'. Hello? Hallo?

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 28 April 2002