Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Part the second: The Blasphemy of GAFCON

While it is good news that the conservative movement may be shifting its focus and thus averting any threat of a true Communion crisis, no Australian accent can erase the pain a number of inflammatory statements have caused. These statements have come from both Akinola and Orombi, as well as Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Duncan, whom I have heard numerous other bishops describe as power-hungry (which this should confirm), addressed GAFCON a few days ago, saying:

"Re-defining the Lambeth Conference and not calling the Primates Meeting are exercises of colonial control. But the inexorable shift of power from Britain and the West to the Global South cannot be stopped, and some conciliar instrument reflective of the shift is bound to emerge as the Reformation Settlement gives way to a Global (post-colonial) Settlement."

Wounded Bird’s reaction is priceless: "That statement led me, along with others, to ponder why a white man is moderator of the gathering." I find much similarity between Duncan’s description of the Archbishop of Canterbury as "colonial" and the religious right’s cries of persecution when a majority of the US Senate declines to amend the Constitution. Neither Canterbury nor The Episcopal Church seek to tell Africa how to run its church, but Africa does seek to dictate events here. When Africa is unable to gain that power, its allies cry "colonialism!" Certainly colonialism mars the western past and present, but to claim you are oppressed because you have been kept from oppressing others smells of Bovidae stool.

Moving on, Nigeria’s Archbishop Akinola description of the western church as "apostate" has attracted the most attention, but what turned my head was this quote from a speech he gave:

Paradoxically, that which was universally hailed as the triumph of biblical truth was, soon after the [1998] Lambeth Conference, lamented by a self-conceited typical American bishop, Jack Spong of Newark (now retired) as a disastrous condescension to stone-age logic. He actually said that the Africans were theologically "animistic and superstitious" and ignorant of scientific advancement.

I had to re-read that twice before I could believe it. John Shelby Spong, *TYPICAL*???? HA! I read Spong not because I like what he has to say, but because he challenges me – FROM THE LEFT! The Church has no one closer to Unitarianism, and the Anglican left no one more controversial, than Jack Spong. No one calls him typical. Someone in my office said to me, “He wouldn’t even call himself that! In fact, he’d probably even be insulted [that Akinola did]!” And surely Akinola knows this, so dare I say this was an intentional misportrayal of the American church? A, how do you say, lie?

But the most galling performance had to have been yesterday’s press conference. This was where Akinola and Orombi lost all credibility and Jensen stepped to the plate. Iain Baxter – "the only gay at GAFCON" – asked Akinola about bishops who tolerate the torture and persecution of homosexuals. Akinola said he was unaware of any. Given the specific example of a woman named Plessy, the archbishop replied, "OK. Every community, every society, has its own standards of life. In ancient African societies we had what are called 'taboos', things you should not do, and if you break the taboos there are consequences." Yes – because apparently good Christians know the consequences for disagreeing with the church are rape and torture. That’s what Jesus would have wanted.

Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi added that it is not the place of the church to legislate, but to preach, and said that homosexuality is against God’s word. He did not directly address the question of torture or murder. When pressed by another reporter, he pointed out that “the gay” recently held this one rally and no one was hurt, then denied that there is any public knowledge in Uganda of such persecution. Bishop Jensen recognized what was going on and stepped in to condemn violence, but by then it was too little, too late.

Any man who refuses to condemn the torture and rape of a harmless woman is not fit to be a cleric, let alone an archbishop. Shame on Akinola and Orombi for this blasphemy, and shame on the media for enabling them.

Finally, I can’t help but muse – when the bishops of Uganda or Bishop Nazir-Ali of Rochester announce that they will boycott Lambeth, aren’t they behaving a bit like John McCain and George W. Bush when they decline to talk to Hamas or Iran? I suppose there is one key difference. The historical precedents that turn McCain and Bush’s stance on its head are Gorbachev and Kennedy meeting with the Soviets. Bishops who refuse to enter into the Lambeth dialogue don’t face Gorbachev and JFK so much as they face Jesus Christ, arguing with the Pharisees and refusing to turn Nicodemus away.


Jordan said...

So I see your comparing second world nations to state sponsors of terrorism, that's certainly not a non-sequitur. < /sarcasm >

McCain's stance is more similar to General Sherman and FDR's stances on unconditional surrender than to anything JFK ever "did."

Nathan Empsall said...

I'm not comparing nations to nations, I'm comparing dialogue to dialogue. The demands aren't the point, even Sherman was willing to meet with CSA leaders. But you, you're comparing two all-out total devestating wars that killed hundreds of thousands and needed to be solved to diplomatic standoffs about the future where no one has yet attacked us?