Thursday, June 26, 2008

More News and Hypocrisy from GAFCON

The same trends we’ve seen all week at GAFCON continued today: there will be no schism, and the archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda are on the outs while Archbishop Jensen of Sydney is on the ins. Here are some recommended links about the latest GAFCON developments, and my own deconstruction of the movement’s latest hypocrisy. (I should make it clear that despite my harsh rhetoric, I do not consider all GAFCON’s attendees or all Anglican conservatives to be hypocrites – just their outspoken leadership.)

In place of schism, the conservatives are now demanding a new and separate structure within the Communion for “faithful” persons (because apparently I hate the Gospel, even though it never once mentions homosexuality). Elsewhere, conservative backlash against the violence of Archbishops Akinola and Orombi continues, thus naturally keeping the cooler head of Archbishop Jensen also in the news. Episcopal Café’s the Lead looks at some troubling questions about Jensen’s past, and an informative discussion about the evangelical makeup and structure of the Anglican Church in Australia is taking place in the comment section of Father Jake’s post, "The Schism Has Been Postponed." The most compelling story of the day, however, comes, astonishingly enough, from Time magazine. David Van Biema’s "Threat of Anglican Schism Fizzles" is perhaps the first truly decent article about the Anglican Communion I have seen from the mainstream press:

The would-be Anglican rebels gathered with storm clouds brewing around them. But now, even though the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFcon) has not concluded its meeting in Jerusalem, the secession it threatened to bring to the 78 million-member Anglican Communion looks like a confused bust.

This all comes as a bit of surprise to the press, which — with ample encouragement from the Church's right — had been framing GAFcon as a decisive step toward schism in the Anglican Communion, the third biggest global religious fellowship. GAFcon seems to be falling apart on several fronts. First came the venue problems: the conference ping-ponged embarrassingly at the last minute from Jerusalem to Jordan and back to Jerusalem.

Then there was attendance. The clerics at GAFcon were really supposed to sit out the Communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in July. But it turns out several key conservatives did not even show up at GAFcon (or simply made brief appearances) and will go on to the church-wide meeting in Canterbury in July. Meanwhile, conservative Southeast Asian bishops have fallen out with some GAFcon leaders.

The article goes on chronicle Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola’s fall, and credits Episcopal Café’s Jim Naughton with having accurately predicted the fall and its many details. It’s a good read.

Bringing up Akinola, of course, provides a good transition to a discussion of the latest GAFCON hypocrisies. Our first culprit is Bishop Wallace Benn of Lewes, in the Church of England. And what exactly is wrong with him? Oh, where to begin.

Liberals within the Anglican church have "torn up the fabric of the communion" and should be barred from a debate over the church's future, an English bishop has warned.

The Rt Rev Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, said he could not attend the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference with liberal Americans who went against Scripture by consecrating an openly gay bishop and who are trying to drive out conservatives…

Bishop Benn added that the Gafcon conference in Jerusalem, where 303 Anglican bishops from around the world have gathered, would find a way out of the crisis by returning to the teachings of the Gospel….

“How am I meant to set down at a table with people who are persecuting my friends?

First of all, “the teachings of the Gospel” say absolutely nothing about homosexuality. Never comes up. Poverty, yes, dialogue, yes – but never mind heeding those passages attending a dialogue about poverty and Scripture, ‘tis more important to claim a single interpretation of Leviticus and the Epistles is the same thing as all that. Second, who is persecuting whom? Anglican liberals and moderates are not demanding that the conservatives elect gay bishops or bless gay unions in Africa and Australia, nor are they requesting those provinces leave. All we want is to go our own theological ways within the same Communion. It is the conservatives looking the other way when actual violence happens and demanding that we change our ways, and yet we are accused of persecuting them? As I wrote before, this reminds me of the American religious right. Unless they have complete control, they develop the world’s biggest victim complex and cry murder. Finally, Bishop Benn has a lot of nerve claiming that liberals should not be invited to the discussion. This arrogance suggests, flatly, that there should be no true Anglican discussion – only a sermon to the choir. And how can he suggest liberals have torn up the fabric when it is the conservatives ignoring jurisdictional boundaries and canons?

Benn is, of course, not the only bishop refusing to talk to people who think differently than he; he is only one of the more arrogant. I have to ask, what’s the point in a discussion or a convention if the decisions have already been made? Although maybe they’re on to something… just think what this country would be like if we passed a Constitutional amendment banning conservatives from Congress… per Benn’s logic, I should be all for it. And yet, it strikes me as a terrible idea.

The other ongoing GAFCON complaint is the decrying of colonialism. I agree that colonialism is a terrible, patronizing, insulting, immoral thing. I don’t agree, however, that it is colonial to consider Africa an equal rather than a superior. From the Guardian’s intrepid Riazat Butt:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is stuck in a colonial mindset and does not trust the ability of churches from developing countries, a conservative Anglican leader said today. Canon Vinay Samuel, a member of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) leadership team, said Rowan Williams did not adequately appreciate the intellectual subtlety and depth of the developing world… "Rowan Williams is too much of a relic of the old left ideology which is not pragmatic enough. I think it's that rather than racism…

Anglicanism, [the conservatives] said, had moved from being a loose assortment of colonial churches into a configuration of independent national churches with indigenous leaders wanting and needing to make their voices heard.

"I would dismantle Canterbury and Lambeth, they have little influence and do not reflect the reality of the world," Samuel said.

Look. Anglicanism is a religion of worship and liturgy. It has a set of very loose doctrines, and beyond that is about kneeling together before God and taking communion despite our differences. If you don’t like that, you don’t join it and then demand the religion changes; you find a different church. You don’t create a second, redundant Pentecostal structure and tell the original Anglicans they now have nowhere to go; you go join the actual Pentecostal church yourself. There is nothing colonial about saying, “This is the church of dialogue, and the Americans have chosen to make their part in this dialogue a discourse of inclusion. You can make your part in this dialogue a discourse of fundamentalism. That’s fine. The Lord be with you.” This should not be a power struggle – neither America nor Canterbury wish to impose their views on Africa. Why does Africa wish to impose its views on us? And how can we claim the ones trying to get along are the colonialists and the ones trying to dictate beliefs are the victims? If power is to be the issue, we have to wonder about the motives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Anglican Communion will remain God-centered, Spirit-directed as it wallks in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. The 39 Articles is a wonderful confession thta crystalizes what Anglicans believe.