Monday, June 23, 2008

Church within a Church

June 23, 2008

There is a gathering of conservative Anglicans going on in Jerusalem called a Global Anglican Fellowship Conference (GAFCON). All the usual suspects are there including a reported 300 bishops from the US, Sydney, Uganda and Nigeria, England and elsewhere. The English press is reporting plans to provide a Church within a Church or some kind of global Anglican fellowship that sounds rather like the various groups we have known ‘within’ the Episcopal Church for a while. The Archbishop of Canterbury is being openly criticized (largely it seems for his remarks of Sharia law made a month or more ago (See entry for February 14, 2008). Ruth Gledhill reports in The Times today that there are a number of English parishes that would welcome such a fellowship if it did not mean leaving the Church of England. There are the usual protestations from some of the speakers about “our beloved Anglican Communion” and apparent intentions to remain in formal communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury but not The Episcopal Church or the Church of Canada. Once again, only this time on a world wide basis, we are seeing the strategy for a ‘takeover’, which will include all sorts of plans for people to request the oversight of bishops they like without having to leave Anglicanism for something else.

My views on this muddle change with some regularity. What I know is that I am wearied by the claims and the noise, especially claims such as the one made by Archbishop Akinola that western liberalism is akin to slavery. The Times quotes him as follows:

“Having survived the inhuman physical slavery of the 19th century, the political slavery called colonialism of the 20th century, the developing world economic enslavement, we cannot, we dare not, allow ourselves and the millions we represent to be kept in religious and spiritual dungeon.”

I don’t expect this summer to clarify anything much except to reinforce what we already know. The conservatives are unhappy. (They sometimes talk of their ‘pain’ at being part of such a dreadful, liberal and now ‘apostate’ church.) They are casting themselves as people who will soldier on bravely to save the church rather than be overtly schismatic. They will take the muddle they are fostering in the US and Canada worldwide and will continue to attempt to provide an alternative ‘center’ for Anglicanism marked, they believe, by fidelity to scripture, an exclusive belief in the power of God to save sinners, and clarity that no homosexual people are welcome. In the meantime they will not take communion with those of whom they disapprove. If they are challenged (especially in the courts) they will see this as further proof of the waywardness of the church that needs reforming and a sign that those who challenge them do not love them with the love of Christ. It is not a pretty picture is it?


Jerry Byrd said...

For the sake of accuracy, shouldn't this conference in its particular setting be called Gaffe-CON? -- Jerry Byrd.

Corinne Crammer said...

I was intrigued by the argument that Western liberalism is akin to slavery in that it is attempting to colonize Africa with alien values.

In fact, the somewhat contrary argument has been made -- that the colonization began with the missionaries. That is, the theology brought to Africa by missionaries -- indeed, even the act of proselytization -- is a colonization by Africa.

Many of the missionaries to Africa were Victorians with particular theological views within Christianity (that were not universally accepted in the West even then). With the Gospel, they brought their own values and views, and those reflect their socialization (the society in which they were born and raised).

These beliefs are, arguably, not linked to the teachings of Jesus but to the social views of Victorian England (and to some extent, the United States).

So -- if the problem is one of colonization of Africa by Westerners imposing Western ideas and values -- I think you have a better argument that this occurred beginning with the first missionary activities. Missionaries cannot divorce themselves from their culture or society, however much they may claim that they are proclaiming something universally true. To the extent that the missionaries were successful in converting Africans, they also -- for better or worse -- converted them to Western views on a number of issues, such as the gender roles.

Most Westerners have changed their views on these subjects. Even for individuals who are still conservative in the spectrum of the West, they no longer hold the same views that were taken to Africa so many years ago, even if they think they are adhering to the same ideas.

So -- the problem of colonization of Africa certainly exists, but I suggest that the real colonization has already occurred and has nothing to do with Western liberalism.

Joe said...

The argument was made that conservatives do not want homosexuals within their Church which is an absolute distortion of the truth. In fact we are all sinners and fall prey to tempation. What conservatives will not stand for is marriages, unions, or ordaining of openly homosexual persons into the clergy. This isn't a mean spirited predjudice, it is simply following the word of God. For the homosexual, this stand is in direct opposition to his or her core and demands accountability for ones own actions. Accountability which the liberal movement cannnot face. Whether you like it or not, this Church will redeem itself, will unite as conservatives and will prevail.