Friday, August 8, 2008

Colonialism and the Church

August 8, 2008

In the course of our internecine struggles within Anglicanism we have heard a fair bit of (largely, but not exclusively) African triumphalism over against ‘the West that brought us Christianity’, ‘American (but, interestingly, not Canadian) arrogance and occasionally ‘colonialism’. Recently Archbishop Orombi of Uganda accused Archbishop Williams of ‘betrayal’ by inviting American bishops who approved the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference. In the same article he said that having the Archbishop of Canterbury as the de facto primus inter pares was something he had come to see as a vestige of colonialism. (Read it here:

A teacher of post colonial studies at Cambridge University called Priyamvada Gopal wrote a fascinating opinion piece in the Guardian in which she points out that Archbishop Orombi himself is a product of and representative of a colonial institution. She talks, at least as I read it, of how the rhetoric of anti-colonialism is a remnant of the very colonial arrogance that is purportedly being denounced and which is serving to generate extreme intolerance among the faithful in the Archbishop’s charge. You can read it here:

I had not previously thought of mixing in the colonial heritage of some African Churches along with the consequences of high doctrines of authority promulgated by missionaries of many a theological stripe and married to the assumptions about power and privilege that go with traditional African tribal leadership transposed into the episcopate. I do not believe that any of these things are or were necessarily or self-evidently ‘bad’, but they have left us a potent and (to me) deeply unattractive intolerant form of arrogant and probably totalitarian fundamentalism.

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