Rowan Williams peace plan of two tiers is, I think, rightly
rejected by the Nigerians. The second tier gives credibility to
clearly wrong behavior and teaching. If Williams favors acceptance of
homosexuality, as seems to be the case, even though he is against accepting it
now, not until the whole Church does, he will find it hard to speak the truth to
them about the matter, and will always be wanting to find some place for that
behavior in the Church. He is right insofar as he is seeking to keep open
dialogue. But he must first ask them to be honest about
what they want approved, and
to face open critique about that -- precisely so that the Church can make an
honest decision about the matter. E. Fox]
By David W. Virtue
The Anglican Church of Nigeria has given a thumb's down response to Archbishop
Rowan Williams' peace plan to keep the Anglican Communion together.
And before a whole host of "enlightened" Western liberal clergy, and such
liberal British broadsheets like the Guardian newspaper call the Africans
Neanderthals and fundamentalists about theology and sex, it should be noted
that the Nigerians have been joined at the hip in their views by two
Australians - an Archbishop and a Dean - who share the Nigerian's view of
So this is not an East-West, North-South, black-white thing at all. It is not
about cultural differences, racial differences, educational differences
(combined African bishops have more earned doctorates than the British and
American bishops put together), nor is it a matter of linguistic niceties.
Nor should you believe that it is Frank Griswold's take that it is a "lack of
perception by the other", or requires a plain wherein Sufi Rumi dwelleth
'beyond good and evil', perhaps a "deeper place" or even the "diverse center"
that we should all be looking for, to hold us together.
The outgoing Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London opined, after making wild
assertions about a gay 'witch-hunt' in the church, that the Anglican church
must adapt to global conditions.
"It has to be recognized that we live in different cultural contexts, and
pastoral questions which are deeply sensitive might have different solutions
in different places," said Dr. Moses, thought to be one of the most
influential members of the Church of England. "We are preoccupied with one
small matter and it is being presented as a question of Biblical truth and
fidelity to scripture. I think this is simply not good enough."
But it is precisely this kind of cultural paternalism argument that infuriates
Africans who have said repeatedly that the issues are biblical and theological
(not cultural) and, despite the Dean's talk of "preoccupation", it IS
"Biblical truth and fidelity to Scripture" that occupies center front stage in
the minds of Nigerian Anglican leaders, and indeed for most of Africa's
Anglicans. African Christians abandoned polygamy precisely because it did not
measure up to the biblical standard of matrimony (one man, one woman) and it
is why they are just as hard on divorce and remarried persons being clergy, as
they are on homosexuality. They are equal opportunity "offenders" if you will,
but they hold themselves to the same high standards as they hold others.
It is also the same "preoccupation" of archbishops' like Peter Jensen of
Sydney, Australia, who said recently that the present crisis in the communion
is only the presenting issue of a set of deeper and more significant problems
revolving around authority and mission. In effect the church in the west is
being strained by significantly different theologies.
So it is entirely reasonable that the Nigerians should look at the Archbishop
of Canterbury's, "The Challenge and Hope of Being Anglican Today" and see in
it a flawed solution to a complex problem.
The Nigerian leaders acknowledge as much when they wrote, "that anyone who
holds our historic worldwide Communion and its leadership, close to heart, and
in prayer will fail to grasp the tensions that the Archbishop wrestles with in
an attempt to hold together a fragile Communion that is threatened by the real
possibility of disintegration and fragmentation."
But then they rolled out the big guns: "The issue at stake is not just a
crisis of identity, but also a shopping for palatable answers in a situation
of contending convictions and shifting values. The dilemma, and therefore the
challenge is whether to revisit the old paths of our forbears or to fashion
out a novel establishment that is elastic enough to accommodate all the
extremes of preferred modes of expression of the same faith."
Now unless you think this was written by a PR firm in London or Lagos, think
again. Some Nigerian Anglican bishops have more earned degrees than the
largely theologically invertebrate Episcopal House of Bishops, and they can
put together a statement that speaks to the crisis as well as any Cambridge
The Nigerian leaders go on to tip their hat to Dr. Williams when they say,
"his analysis of the situation is quite lucid, and the liberal and post-modern
tilt of some interpretations is apparent. But we must commend the fact that it
appears we have finally come to that point of admitting that we are truly at
crossroads as a Communion and the time to decide on the way forward can no
longer be wished away."
They further acknowledge that the mere fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury
now proposes a two-tier membership for the Anglican Communion is his
acceptance that the wound caused by the revisionists has become difficult, if
not impossible, to heal. "The idea of a Covenant that would ensure this
two-tier membership of Constituent Churches and Churches in Association is
brilliant as the heartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the
Church by accommodating every shred of opinion no matter how unbiblical, all
because we want to make everyone feel at home."
"Archbishop Rowan candidly observes that our Anglican Decision-Making lacks a
set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the
diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global
communication and huge cultural variety and that we need to be clear about
certain age-old assumptions to be sure we are still talking the same language,
aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ.
The Nigerians further acknowledge that Dr. Williams puts the blame where it
belongs - at the door of the Episcopal Church where there had been no
agreement or any kind of consensus over the ordination of Gene Robinson. He
also noted that recent General Convention resolutions failed to produce a
complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report. The Nigerians
wondered out loud if such blatant disregard should not be reprimanded.
The Nigerians then lay it on the line. The differences are so severe, the
divide so great (and it is not cultural) that the Episcopal Church, indeed
Western post-Christian liberalism is now so entrenched that the "cancerous
lump" should be excised from the body to avoid the death of the patient. They
then pled with the Archbishop of Canterbury to persuade those who had chosen
to walk apart "to return to the path chosen by successive generations of our
The Nigerian Synod later ratified the Anglican Covenant which they saw as a
project to "defend the faith committed to us against present onslaught from
ECUSA, Canada, England and their allies." They damned those who would redefine
and/or re-determine those who are truly Anglicans" and said a covenant becomes
"urgent, imperative and compelling."
The even more compelling question is will they wait the "six to eight years"
that Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, told
the Episcopal House of Bishops in Columbus, Ohio it would take to formulate
such a Covenant. One doubts the Nigerians or indeed the orthodox in the
Episcopal Church or Canada can wait that long, bearing in mind that large
lumps of the Episcopal iceberg are falling off with each passing week.
But then the Nigerians really laid it on the line. They said that if the See
of Canterbury failed to prevent further impairment of the unity of the Church
and that it was clear that the bishops of ECUSA, Canada and parts of Britain
had abandoned the Biblical faith of our fathers, they would have no option but
to abandon the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in 2008 and have one of their
In very precise language they said that the leadership of the Global South and
Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) will hold their own Conference
of all Anglican Bishops in 2008 (presumably at the same time as the one is
being held in Canterbury) thus making it clear that the Anglican Communion as
we now know it, is all but dead.
This would make moot any proposed future Covenant unless the ECUSA fully
repented of its theological and moral waywardness. Any Covenant that was not
100% biblically orthodox is dead on arrival despite all the fine talk about
"listening" to the voices of gays and lesbians.
Furthermore events are moving so rapidly in the Anglican Communion that one
wonders if the separation of dioceses going on in The Episcopal Church (eight
to date with more coming); the consecration of an Episcopal priest to be a
bishop for some 19 Nigerian Anglican (CANA) parishes in the US; the departure
of cardinal parishes with thousands of Episcopalians, can continue at the pace
it is without a major implosion. Furthermore the Anglican Communion Network
led by Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan has put forth a proposed Theological
Statement of the Common Cause Partners that will only isolate The Episcopal
Church's concept of "mission" which is largely socio-political in nature,
being pushed as it is by its presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
The lines are hardening almost by the day. A great cloud of witnesses has
descended on The Episcopal Church's abandonment of 'the faith once delivered
to the saints' they can no longer sweep their political pieties with vague
theological pronouncements under the table any more. That day is done. The
Internet has changed everything.
The Episcopal Church is being held accountable at the highest levels of the
church, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury fails to follow through; the
Africans, (and the rest of the Global South) led by the Nigerians will do it
for him, and the Anglican Communion, like the temple, will be rent in twain,
never to be restored.