Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Archbishop Akinola Becomes Indignant, Again

I will be continuing a review of various chapters from Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report within the next few days, now that I have received confirmation that I will not be infringing on "fair use" rights by doing so. But first I wanted to pause for a moment to comment on a couple of statements that have recently been made by two of our Archbishops.

The first set of statements come from Archbishop Robin Eames, Primate of Ireland and chair of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which authored the Windsor Report. Here are a few excerpts from Jim Naughton's report of Archbishop Eames' recent lecture series at Virginia Theological Seminary:

...In its synod last month in Onitsha, (Archbishop Akinola's) church removed all references to communion with the See of Canterbury from its constitution, replacing them with a provision that placed the church in communion with all Anglican churches, dioceses and provinces that "hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."

"I was personally very, very anxious when I heard about this development," Eames said. "What happens when an individual province redefines orthodoxy? It is cutting across the due process that I and others have lived by.

"My plea to my brother Peter, the Primate of Nigeria would be, 'Pause, Peter, pause, because we are all in this together, because a preemptive strike like this would have the consequences of making the tensions greater and therefore, I ask that you would pause and take on the reservations that the rest of us have"...

...At its meeting in September, the Nigerian synod also formalized the creation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA) which, according to a news release, was formed "to give a worshiping refuge to thousands in the USA who no longer feel welcomed to worship in the Liberal churches especially with the recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin."

Eames said this action raised concerns about Akinola's commitment to the Windsor Report and the communique from the Primates meeting at the Dromantine resort in Newry , Northern Ireland in February, 2005. The Windsor Report chastised bishops who cross jurisdictional boundaries to minister without invitation in other dioceses and provinces. In the Dromantine communique, the primates said they would commit themselves "neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions"...

...During an interview at the college, Eames expressed concern over the role that wealthy conservative donors in the United States were playing in the current controversy. He said he was "quite certain" that many church leaders in the developing world had been offered financial inducements to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

"I think it is happening, I just don't think it is moral," Eames said. "Is it the might of finance that will influence a theological outlook, and then that outlook come to dominate the Communion?

"It raises a serious question for me: what is the real nature of their faith and their Anglicanism? It is certainly different from mine."
As one might have expected, Archbishop Akinola was offended by these words. He does not mince words in his response:

...in this era of "post colonial Anglicanism" our primary commitment is not to an institution or structure, no matter how beloved or historic, but rather to the living Word of our living God. The actions that we have taken and the changes that we have made are for the best interest of our Church and not for any personal agenda.
Preparing to break with the Church of England is a result of being in "post-colonial Anglicanism"? Does that mean that the Episcopal Church, which has no desire to break with Canterbury, is still responding as a colony?

...It is reported that you, without citing specifics, are "quite certain" that some of us have been bought. I have always had great respect for you and considered you a friend and a great leader of our Communion but such irresponsible accusations are outrageous, uncharitable and untrue. If you have any evidence of such financial inducements I challenge you, in the name of God, to reveal them or make a public apology to your brother Primates in the Global South for this damaging and irresponsible smear. I have always made it clear that there is no price-tag on my head - I am not a slave to anyone - I have been set free by the blood of the One who died for us all.
Does the Big Man think that we have all forgotten about the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians, which was used to funnel funds from the American Anglican Council and the Network to their supporters in Africa, Asia and the Southern Cone? Would the Archbishop care to tell the world where he found the funds for his recent United States tour, purportedly to visit his "missions"? If he claims to have used Nigerian funds for this extensive, (and presumably expensive) trip, one must wonder how he can justify such a lavish expenditure when his own people are so desperately in need. Yes, we are "quite certain" that if one was able to follow the money, it would lead back to a handful of wealthy extremist Americans. No need to mention names; we all know them quite well by now.

...I must also respond to your misleading comments about our constitutional provision to establish Convocations and Chaplaincies outside of Nigeria. As you well know such a provision has long been the tradition in Europe. I wonder why it is acceptable for one part of the Communion and not for the other - perhaps the yoke of imperialism still survives?
The tradition in Europe is a mistake. To allow it to occur in North America would be even a bigger mistake, in light of the current tensions. There cannot be more than one diocesan bishop within a specific geographical area. As Bishop Mark Dyer, another member of the Commission which authored the WR, recently said at a clergy conference I attended, "The bishop is the bishop is the bishop!" What Archbishop Akinola is doing is obvious; he is ignoring the specific recommendation of the WR regarding respecting diocesan boundaries. His charge of imperialism is a weak attempt to turn the focus onto an area in which he erroneously believes we are vulnerable. He is attempting to pillage the Episcopal Church. By so doing, he has lost any creditablility as a spokesperson for the WR.

...Finally, I was astonished by your declaration that ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada have satisfied the requirements of the Windsor Report. I note that you acknowledge that this is merely your personal view but where is your evidence?
I heard Bishop Dyer echo the words of Archbishop Eames just this morning. He said, "At this time, the Episcopal Church is in compliance with the Windsor Report." Both Bishops Eames and Dyer wrote the document. One can assume they know a bit more of the original intention of the WR than Bishop Akinola. Bishop Dyer described it as "an attempt to make a space for reconciliation to happen." Nigeria seems to think the document was intended to punish North America.

...In our Dromantine Communique we said that "there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion"...
What Archbishop Akinola continues to not understand is that statements from the Primates' Meeting are not under consideration. It is the recommendations of the Windsor Report that will be addressed by General Convention in 2006. In light of the recent aggressive actions by the Primates, it is doubtful if their authority will ever be accepted by the Episcopal Church. Their claim to power does not make it a reality. As I've said before, Yanks do not care for a hierarchy which excludes three of the four orders.

...I was present in Nottingham for the recent ACC meeting and heard both Presiding Bishop Griswold and Archbishop Hutchinson, and their teams, try to justify their innovations. They failed. They made clear that there is no turning back and they did so with little or no reference to the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures or the devastation that their actions have brought on us all.
Such statements cause one to wonder if the good Archbishop has bothered to give To Set our Hope in Christ even a cursory read.

Soon, we will know what Archbishop Akinola's true intentions are. I continue to suspect that we will hear of a new entity being born out of the meeting in Egypt.

It seems to me there is a new "line in the sand" emerging. It is rooted in the question of authority, and is made manifest in the new forms of polity being proposed from various sources within the Anglican Comunion. I cannot imagine the Episcopal Church ever willingly being placed under the authority of the Primates. To do so would be to deny our heritage, and to act contrary to our understanding of our identity, and our unique witness to the world.

For a more thorough discussion regarding Archbishop Akinola, I commend to you Mark Harris' latest essay, Some Thoughts on the Archbishop of Nigeria.


No comments:

Post a Comment