Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Most Agonizing Case of False Witness and Selective Memory

Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria, has issued yet another treatise in which he tries to paint himself as the victimized champion of the true faith, whose generosity and merciful forebearance has been strained to the breaking point. Anyone who has followed this man's angry outbursts for the last four years knows that this depiction is so far removed from the truth that it enters into the realm of absurdity. Also, based on the record we have from his past tirades, it is pretty obvious that this latest contribution was penned by a ghost writer.

Let's take a closer look at just a few of the more bizarre statements found in the Archbishop's statement:

We have been on this journey for ten long years. It has been costly and debilitating for all concerned as most recently demonstrated by the tepid response to the invitations to the proposed Lambeth Conference 2008...
He then goes on about what a shame it is that there is such a lack of enthusiasm for Lambeth. Note that Akinola announced some time ago now that he and his bishops would not attend because Bp. Minns did not receive an invitation. He has encouraged others to follow his lead. In light of that, I do not believe his pretense of sadness. I think he is voicing his wishful thinking. He is hoping that others will also boycott Lambeth. The reality is that quite a few of the provinces in the Global South have indicated that they will be present for Lambeth. The responses to the invitations have been slow in making their way to Canterbury. Akinola is quick to interpret this as a groundswell of support for his foolhardy call for a boycott. No doubt he will be greatly disappointed when Lambeth does convene, and there will be no one present to represent his perspective.

...There are continual cries for patience, listening and understanding. And yet the record shows that those who hold to the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints” have shown remarkable forbearance while their pleas have been ignored, their leaders have been demonized, and their advocates marginalized...
"The faith once and for all delivered..." We've been over this quite thoroughly recently, but such a phrase does cause one to wonder what exactly he is talking about. Circumcision? Gentile converts? Kosher laws? Re-baptism? Penitence? Just war? Slavery? Birth control? All matters in which the Church has struggled, and come to different conclusions than the "once and for all" original teaching. So exactly who are "those" who hold on to this faith? Certainly no Church that currently exists.

But we know who he thinks deserves this title. The three or four Global South Primates and their North American allies who want to outlaw certain relationships within the Church. The claim is made that they "have shown remarkable forebearance"...really? So, the Archbishop's regular declarations that those who disagree with him are hooligans, lower than animals and a cancerous growth signify his forbearance? His establishment of CANA, a North American mission within another Province without any consultation with the leaders of that Province, is forbearance? Spare me your spin, Archbishop. It has a very false ring to it.

...We made a deliberate, prayerful decision in 1998 with regard to matters of Human Sexuality. It was supported by an overwhelming majority of the bishops of the Communion. It reflected traditional teaching interpreted with pastoral sensitivity. And yet it has been ignored and those who uphold it derided for their stubbornness. However, we have continued to meet and pray and struggle to find ways to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...
First of all, most folks are now aware that Lambeth 1998 was manipulated by a handful of bishops and Abp. Carey to get the end result they wanted. Second of all, Akinola has certainly ignored the clauses of Lambeth 1.10 that called for a listening process. Instead, Akinola publicly advocated for legislation to jail all gays and lesbians and their supporters. Why "meet and pray and struggle" when you've found the solution; incarcerate.

...The journey started in February 1997 in Kuala Lumpur...
Maybe the Archbishop thinks that's where "the journey" started. I would suggest that there are a number of other starting points that could be suggested.

For instance, I think an argument could be made that the "strain on the bonds of affection" began at Lambeth 1988 with the approval of the request from some of the Global South bishops that polygamist converts be allowed to be baptized and confirmed, along with their wives and children. Bringing this up is not throwing in a red herring. It is extremely relevant, as it established what was thought to be a precedent.

Even though polygamy was thought to be contrary to the teaching of scripture and the tradition of the Church, it was decided that the local bishops were the best qualified to respond appropriately to this pastoral need. It was then assumed that in 1998, when the pastoral needs of some of the North Americans were under consideration that the same model would be followed. That was not to be the case. We were told that we were not fit to respond to the pastoral needs of our people. Many North Americans, myself included, saw this arbitrary line in the sand drawn by some of the Global South to be a severe strain on the bonds of affection between our Provinces.

...The leadership of The Episcopal Church USA (TECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) seem to have concluded that the Bible is no longer authoritative in many areas of human experience especially in salvation and sexuality...
Regarding areas of human experience in which the bible's authority has been questioned, I refer the Archbishop to my previous list. Does he really expect us to believe that he follows every word of scripture? And then, of course, he has to throw in the issue of "salvation," which is supposed to remind us of all the false accusations of heresy tossed out against TEC as a smoke screen to hide their only real problem; the "ick factor" in regards to gay sex.

There appear to be pieces left out of the selective history provided by the Archbishop. The section regarding the Windsor Report abruptly ends in mid-sentence. As one might expect, in what does appear, there is no mention of the clear rejection in that report, and later ones, of the border crossings which resulted in CANA.

...A much-awaited ECUSA General Convention in 2006 proved to be a disappointment as resolutions expressing regret for the harm done to the communion were rejected as well as one that tried to emphasize the necessity of Christ for salvation...
Might I remind the Archbishop of Resolution A160, which was passed by both Houses:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of “the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134), express its regret for straining the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences which followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within our Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another.
Regarding the resolution that emphasized the necessity of Christ for salvation, one must assume that the Archbishop is referring to D058. The reality is that the resolution was presented near the end of Convention and was recommended to be discharged by the Evangelism Committee because it had already been addressed at previous General Conventions. The House of Deputies voted to discharge the resolution. The resolution itself was never debated or rejected. You can read more about the history of that particular resolution here. Abp. Akinola managed to fit two false accusations into just one sentence. Imagine that.

...We want unity but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed...
Who exactly is the Archbishop accusing of "relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’"? For your information, Archbishop, Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior, the Incarnation of God, the bridge between heaven and earth. As a Christian, I find your accusation quite offensive. And please point out to me the chapter and verse of Christ's teachings that I am disobeying by advocating for more faithful relationships in Christ's Church?

The Archbishop concludes with a quote from John Bunyan:

...John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, describes the Christian life as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. On his journey, Pilgrim is confronted by numerous decisions and many crossroads. The easy road was never the right road. This is our moment of truth...
On this point, we agree. The easy road would be to exclude a minority group for the sake of unity. But if we did that, we would reveal ourselves as unworthy of the claim to be the sacrament, the outward and visible sign, of Jesus Christ, who has set the prisoners free. Will we be Christians, or will be just another exclusive club? This is indeed our moment of truth.

J.

UPDATE: The formatting problems have been corrected and the missing text has been added in Abp. Akinola's original letter. The additions are now included in Thinking Anglican's copy, to which I linked at the beginning of this post.

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