Wednesday, November 02, 2005

From the Global South

By now most of you have probably read the statement from the Global South conference. I was pleasantly surprised to find the statement to be much milder than I had anticipated. No calls for specific punitive actions. No official break with the Anglican Communion. No enthronement of Archbishop Akinola as Pope.

I'm still inclined to believe that the original intention was to make a break at this meeting. This belief is not based on some conspiracy theory, by the way. This intention was first announced in an interview released in June of Archbishop Malango of Central Africa by the Rush Limbaugh of Anglicanism, David Virtue:

...MALANGO: We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there. We can then start from an historical basis. The third trumpet is going to produce the right thing for us.
For reasons unknown, a "new Anglican Communion" was not set up. We can only speculate as to why.

I would suggest that a good possibility is the work done by Archbishop Rowan Williams. In this instance, he has proven to be able to build an amazing bridge across our cultural differences. His address to the Global South is quite powerful, and worthy of being slowly read and reflected upon. He calls us to always remember to keep our focus on Jesus Christ, as that is where we find our unity. Here is a small excerpt:

...Just in passing, I mentioned in passing ‘the instruments of Unity of the Anglican Communion’. I would be much happier, I have to say, if we spoke of the servants of Unity in the Anglican Communion’, because whatever the instruments of unity are, I don’t think that they are in any sense conditions to be met for Christian faithfulness. They are human institutions which seek to serve the unity of Christ’s body and I would put all those instruments of unity, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury, under the rubric of St Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3; ‘it is not ourselves that we preach, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake’. Whether it is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, the Primates or the Lambeth Conference, that must be what they hold in front of them. I think someone recently said that ‘the path to heaven doesn’t necessarily lie through Lambeth’. I agree entirely. The path to heaven lies solely through Jesus Christ our Saviour and the unity he gives, and the only use and integrity of the instruments of unity is when they serve that...

...The more we are focussed and drawn in to the mystery of Jesus, the more these things become not matters that we passionately struggle to work to master for ourselves, but things that flow form our relationship with Jesus. Now I don’t suggest that we can forget the practical questions before us; the many appallingly burdensomely difficult question that are laid upon us at the moment in our Anglican fellowship. But I do say that we shall never begin to answer them adequately unless our eyes our minds and our hearts are with Jesus, where Jesus is. Out of that who know what will come, and as we are prepared to be silent and patient with the lord, like John at the Last Supper, who knows what God will do. John listened at the supper; his head resting next to the heart of Jesus, just as Jesus rests next to the heart of God...
What is beautiful about the Archbishop's words are that they are able to powerfully move me, a product of Western culture, and apparently had the same powerful effect on those of the Global South who received them. Dr. Williams offers us his gift; building bridges over the chasms that separate us by drawing our focus back to where it belongs; on our Savior Jesus Christ. I would like to think that these wise words tempered the statement prepared at the end of this gathering.

The Global South statement does not leave the West unscathed, of course. There is a call for an "Anglican Covenant". Support is offered for the Network and Archbishop Akinola's "missions". They thank Dr. Williams for "recognizing" the Network (what Rowan "recognized" was that the members of the Network were Anglican. He clarified that he was not recognizing them as an alternative province). They expressed their appreciation for the Southern Cone "stabalizing the volitile situation" in Brazil.

The most frustrating section of the statement is subtitled "The Current Crisis provoked by North American Intransigence". This section opens with these words:

The unscriptural innovations of North American and some western provinces on issues of human sexuality undermine the basic message of redemption and the power of the Cross to transform lives. These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture. The leaders of these provinces disregard the plain teaching of Scripture and reject the traditional interpretation of tenets in the historical Creeds.
Nothing we haven't already heard. The section continues with more of the same. There is one minor point worth noting at the end of the section:

Unscriptural and unilateral decisions, especially on moral issues, tear the fabric of our Communion and require appropriate discipline at every level to maintain our unity. While the Global South calls for the errant provinces to be disciplined, we will continue to pray for all who embrace these erroneous teachings that they will be led to repentance and restoration.
Living a "disciplined" life is indeed an essential part of the Christian walk. But I am quite uncomfortable with the way the term isused here. They call for the errant provinces to be "disciplined". In other words, we must be punished. We are the unruly children, who must be paddled "for our own good." I find such a demand to be unacceptable. This blatant threat of "punishment" is extremely offensive.

After first getting in their jabs at the West, the statement continues to make some good declarations regarding poverty, HIV/AIDS and corruption. These sections are much shorter, which causes my cynical side to wonder if they were, to some degree, an afterthought.

Once back on his home turf, Archbishop Akinola reverts to his more familiar style of rhetoric, as evidenced in the statement that appears on the Church of Nigeria's site:

...To the revisionists bent on enthroning immorality in the church, the communiqué regretted that they are yet to show any evidence of repentance and may thus end up walking apart...
Enthroning immorality...catchy phrase.

Meanwhile, while Akinola and friends were having a grand old time in Egypt, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, an organization which has recently challenged Akinola, and eight other members of Changing Attitude Nigeria, were beaten, arrested and jailed.

I know that Dr. Williams is right, and appreciate the bridge that he offers. I will attempt seek the face of Christ in Archbishop Akinola. But I must also see Christ in the man lying in the streets of Abuja, beaten and bleeding. I find it difficult to do both simultaneously. But to not respond is no longer an option. Consequently, I find it is my Christian duty to stand with those who are in the greatest need; those who are bullied and bruised by the powers and prinicipalities of this world. If I am wrong, I pray for God's mercy. But I cannot passively submit to such behavior. As Carter Heyward said, "Oppressed people can either identify with, and mimic, the oppressor or we can commit ourselves, again and again to the struggles for liberation, for others and ourselves."

And so the struggle continues.

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