From the Abilene reporternews [boldface mine]:
The career of Bishop Catherine Roskam of the Diocese of New York has been built on her skills as a cross-cultural ambassador for the modern Episcopal Church.
She led the International Concerns Committee of her denomination's executive council, helped create her diocese's Global Women's Fund and has worked as a consultant on issues of cultural sensitivity. In some circles, she is known as the bishop who dared to rap during a "Hip-Hop Mass" a few years ago in the Bronx.
"My sistas and brothas, all my homies and peeps, stay up -- keep your head up, holla back and go forth and tell it like it is," proclaimed the bishop, in her benediction.
Thus, the diminutive, white-haired assistant bishop was an unlikely figure to inspire bold, angry headlines during the recent Lambeth Conference of bishops from the global Anglican Communion. . .
It was especially important not to inflame already painful disputes between Third World traditionalists and liberals in the United States, Canada, England and elsewhere.
Then, during planned discussions of domestic violence, Roskam spoke out on an unlikely topic -- bishops who beat their wives.
"We have 700 men here. Do you think any of them beat their wives? Chances are they do," argued Roskam, in The Lambeth Witness, a daily newsletter for gay-rights supporters in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
"The most devout Christians beat their wives. ... Many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife. In that regard, it makes conversation quite difficult."
The key, she added, is that "Violence against women, and violence against children for that matter, is violence against the defenseless. With women, it goes hand-in-hand with misogyny."
The New York bishop's accusations rocked the conference, which was already tense because of the absence of about 280 conservative bishops -- many from Nigeria and Uganda -- who declined to attend because of the presence of U.S. leaders who backed the 2003 consecration of the openly gay and noncelibate Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Only 617 Anglican bishops preregistered and some of those failed to attend, according to a report in The Living Church magazine. Thus, nearly a quarter of the bishops in attendance came from the small but wealthy U.S. Episcopal Church.
The most damaging part of Roskam's pronouncement was her tone of moral and cultural superiority, noted commentator Riazat Butt. It was easy for bishops from the Global South to read between the lines and find painful traces of colonialism.
"What bishops should be ... concerned about is her insinuation that a nonwhite culture leads to domestic violence and that white, Western culture is too civilized and too advanced to allow such atrocities to occur," argued Butt, in The Guardian. "Roskam fails to recognize that domestic violence affects people regardless of their class, ethnicity, religion, gender or geography.". . .
Now, a decade later [after Lambeth 1998], a female bishop from a liberal diocese in America provided new evidence that these kinds of cultural stereotypes are hard to bury.
This kind of guilt-by-association game is not going to ease tensions in the Anglican Communion, noted Archbishop of York John Sentamu.
"I have never beaten my wife, although I can't talk about other people," Sentamu told the London Times. "There is a danger of stereotyping people because of the culture they come from and assuming they must surely be doing it. ... I hope Bishop Catherine has got figures and numbers and people. Because if not, she is in danger of causing an unnecessary rumpus."
Read it all.
You know, I read about this at the time and debated whether Bishop Roskam was being racist or arrogant in making the assumptions she did.
I've now decided her words and actions were both:
- racist (and misandrist) because she reproved only non-American/non-European male bishops, and
- arrogant because she implies that those non-American/non-European places are culturally inferior. She says, "Many of our bishops come from places where it is culturally accepted to beat your wife. In that regard, it makes conversation quite difficult." In other words, conversation is difficult because while we recognize that physical abuse is wrong, you don't and so you won't be able to understand our superior perspective.
I hope Archbishop Sentamu continues to ask for those "figures and numbers and people" so we will all know exactly to whom Bishop Roskam is referring, but I wouldn't hold my breath.