Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Response to Gerson's Praise of Akinola

Last week Dennis alerted us to an op/ed in WaPo by Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for George Bush, who brought us the infamous "axis of evil" line. Since some may have difficulty accessing the article, here's part of it:

...This month, Archbishop Peter Akinola, shepherd of 18 million fervent Nigerian Anglicans, reached the end of his patience and installed a missionary bishop to America...The American presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, condemned this poaching of souls on her turf as a violation of the "ancient customs of the church." To which the archbishop replied, in essence: Since when have you American liberals given a fig about the ancient customs of the church...

...the religion of the global south has a great virtue: It is undeniably alive. And it needs to be. A mother holding a child weak with AIDS or hot with malaria, or a family struggling to survive in an endless urban slum, does not need religious platitudes. Both need God's ever-present help in time of trouble -- which is exactly what biblical Christianity claims to offer...

...the largest adjustments are coming on the religious left. For decades it has preached multiculturalism, but now, on further acquaintance, it doesn't seem to like other cultures very much. Episcopal leaders complain of the threat of "foreign prelates," echoing anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 19th century. An activist at one Episcopal meeting urged the African bishops to "go back to the jungle where you came from." Not since Victorians hunted tigers on elephants has the condescension been this raw.

History is filled with uncomfortable turnabouts, and we are witnessing one of them. Serious missionary work began in Nigeria in 1842, conducted by a Church Mission Society dedicated to promoting "the knowledge of the Gospel among the heathen." In 2007, the Nigerian outreach to America officially began, on the fertile mission fields of Northern Virginia. And the natives here are restless.

Jim Naughton has responded with a letter to the editor entitled The Price of an Archbishop's Crusade:

In his May 16 op-ed column, "Missionaries in Northern Virginia," Michael Gerson did Christians in the developing world a disservice by assuming that leaders such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria have their best interests at heart.

Mr. Gerson wrote: "A mother holding a child weak with AIDS or hot with malaria, or a family struggling to survive in an endless urban slum, does not need religious platitudes." Yet he failed to mention that Archbishop Akinola and others in his movement would deny that child food, medicine or a mosquito net if it were provided by a donor with whom they differ over theology.

Children die, but the bishops retain their reputation for righteousness among their conservative supporters in the United States. This is an inversion of the Christian ethic. No longer do I sacrifice for others; they sacrifice for me.

Mr. Gerson predicted that this brand of faith is about to sweep the country, but after four highly publicized years of trying, Archbishop Akinola has won the loyalty of only one-third of 1 percent of the parishes in the Episcopal Church, in part because his support for draconian anti-gay legislation in his country has alienated potential allies.

The archbishop's grass-roots support is trifling, but he remains useful to high-profile cheerleaders such as Mr. Gerson who are willing to ignore his egregious views, and their effects on African Christians, in order to gain advantage in the American culture wars.

Canon for Communications and Advancement
Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Excellent response, Jim.

Let me take this opportunity to say a word about sources for news on the net. I often assume most visitors know where to go to get the latest update on things Anglican. Possibly that is an erroneous assumption.

In regards to what is going on in the Episcopal Church, Jim Naughton's writing is the best out there, in my opinion. Jim is a former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post and has authored a few books. His expose of the behind the scenes manueverings of the extreme right in TEC, Following the Money, is the singular document that resulted in finally capturing the House of Bishop's attention at their last meeting. Quite a few of us have been sounding the alarm for a few years, to no avail. Jim understands the world of communications. He made it possible for this important information to finally be heard by our leaders.

Jim is also the editor in chief of The Episcopal Cafe. The Cafe is a collaborative effort from contributers from all around TEC. It grew out of The Daily Episcopalian, a blog hosted by the Diocese of Washington. It is by far the highest quality resource we now have available. News can now be found at the Cafe on The Lead. This is an essential daily read.

In regards to "official" news sources, there is Episcopal Life Online, which was formerly known as the Episcopal News Service. I agree with someone who recently mentioned that this site will probably continue to be referred to as ENS. Sorry, but ELO will always be a reference to Electric Light Orchestra. This is where press releases, official statements, and good resource materials will regularly appear, making it also a daily read.

Another relatively new resource is EpiScope, which is usually written by the Rev. Jan Nunley, another professional communicator. The big advantage of this site is that Jan does most of our work for us. If there's anything out there in the media about TEC, you'll find it here, with the added benefit of Jan pointing out the bits that the reporters got wrong.

Expanding out to things Anglican, the Anglican Communion News Service is the official source for news. Thinking Anglicans is probably the best overall source for Anglican news. It falls in the "daily must read" category. Anglicans Online is also a good resource, although it is only published weekly. Check out their News Centre on Mondays.

Regarding good commnetary on the news, there are just too many sites to list them all. But, a bare minimum of daily reads would have to include Mark, The Episcopal Majority, Susan, Tobias, Elizabeth, Dylan and Richard.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but enough to keep you happily clicking for awhile, I hope!


UPDATE: Now that MadPriest has returned from his holiday, of course he must be included among your daily reads.

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