4/11/2005

The Archbishop Makes A Mess

On April 7, 2005 The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola published “A Word to Nigerian Anglicans in North America.” (http://www.anglican-nig.org/prlttr_northamerica.htm)
In this letter the Archbishop announces the formation of “the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.” He states that “Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches.”
Of course this is a challenge and an intervention and to think otherwise is foolish. It is an action that grows from a condemnation of the actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Archbishop claims he is primarily interested in Nigerian Anglicans and their spiritual safety. But, one wonders, might he not also admit non Nigerian participants, and non Nigerian parishes?
What are we to make of the press release by certain members of the Church of the Ascension in Montgomery, Alabama: “Christchurch (the new church being formed) will be under the jurisdiction of an international Anglican archbishop, at the direction of an American bishop and will be a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”?
The press release also spoke of a North American Province, “a thus-far uncounted, but large number of parishioners walked away from the Episcopal Church to form a new parish in the Anglican Communion's soon-to-be launched North American Province.”
So three days after Archbishop Akinola announced the formation of the Convocation a group forming a breakaway church in Alabama speaks of taking refuge under the jurisdiction of an international Anglican Archbishop, under the direction of an American bishop, and part of the worldwide Anglican Communion forming a new North American Province.
Whether or not the specifics are all in place, the scheme is clear: The race is on for the formation of a usurping “Anglican” church in North America. The coup d’eglise is underway.
This intervention by the Archbishop, providing direct oversight in US congregations, has come not only because of the actions of General Convention. According to the Archbishop’s letter, matters of diocesan oversight, funding, and dismissal of a Chaplain for Nigerian Congregations (itself an somewhat strange pasted together position) have all become part of the mix.
The Archbishop’s letter is not a pretty thing. Whatever the pledges of the Primate’s meeting, the admonitions of the Windsor Report, and whatever the protestations of the Archbishop, this paper confirms active intervention and interference in the life of a member church of the Communion on an organizational level and more, it signals a power play in the scheme that has been foretold. And behold the madness is here.
Ecclesiastical power is a mysterious thing. It makes for strange pew mates. The Archbishop will, he says, be working in cooperation with The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (aka The Anglican Communion Network) to provide Episcopal visitors prior to the appointment of a suffragan bishop for the Convocation.
But power, power, who has the power? In this shell game it appears that Nigeria is opening a branch office in North America. But who will actually be in charge, Network bishops? And the Archbishop intends to appoint these persons as Episcopal visitors. Can bishops in the American House be appointed to Episcopal office by a bishop outside that house? And will disaffected parishes other than those which are Nigerian congregations, be admitted under oversight of this sort? And when the Convocation is up and running with its own suffragan bishop (if there ever is one) will that bishop be Nigerian or American?
And the Elephant in the room is ever larger: will this Convocation be the instrument for the Network gaining a real link to an already existing Province of the Anglican Communion and therefore bolstering its argument that it is indeed the parallel province some have sought?
The whole scheme for this Convocation calls up the worse sort of Anglican enterprise. The parallel Anglican jurisdiction here being inaugurated arises out of enmity and condemnation, and in no way from a commitment to a common future (unlike the other parallel jurisdictions in which there is such a common commitment, including the one just announced in the Fiji Islands.)
This parallel Anglican agent is proposed to save people from a second Anglican agent, viewed as an agent that has “jeopardized your lives and ministries.”
This is a mess, and will only get worse. The addition to the muck up of it all is that this new Convocation plans to work in cooperation with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. And where will that go? Who will be in control here?
The end of all this is bitter and putrid. I see no good in it. Otherwise brave and caring people will walk away in disgust.
If it were not for the fact that these people are mucking around with the Church I love I wouldn’t give them the time of day. I’d say let them play it out, stew in their own juices, we’ve got better things to do.
But these people are digging around looking for some way to claim they found the grail, the proof that they are the real Anglicans. Of course in digging around they are digging their own grave. The Archbishop and the Moderator (peace be upon them both) do not good Anglicans make separately, and together we can only hope they will be the end of each other.
Better we should stop it now. We should call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the instruments of unity of the Anglican Communion to condemn this action and to call the Church of Nigeria to withdraw. And if they will not or cannot do so, all bets are off regarding our need to be accountable to Canterbury and the instruments of unity as well.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Archbishop of Nigeria hasn't made a mess, the diocese of New Westminster and those who elected Gene Robinson are the ones who have made the mess. They have turned their backs on Biblical authority, the agreement reached at more than one Lambeth conference, the thirty-nine articles and the history of accountability and due process that have been the backbone of the Anglican church since its inception. They have betrayed their vows and have forced the greater communion to now develop ways to discipline rogue leaders that hasn't been necessary until now. That is what I consider a mess.

Matt Chen said...

I don't agree fully -- in the sense that there are many sides to the current Anglican dispute. There have been major juridical interventions by some, and major theological interventions by others. No single party holds all the culpability. As a still-young Anglican, I grieve that the church I joined as a teenager in part because of its mixture of both Protestant and Roman Catholic to produce a distinct Anglican 'bridging' Christianity no longer can itself be a bridge, or so it seems.

Ray Ball said...

I agree that the Archbishop of Nigeria's proposed intervention is a mess -- but so is just about everything else in the Anglican Communion today. It seems to me that until the General Convention of ECUSA agrees to recognize an authority higher than itself, and until the Communion agrees that the decisions of Lambeth, ACC and the Primates are binding decisions on all members, we will never settle the issues brought up by the Robinson affair. We call ourselves a Communion, but we have less authoritative structure than the Lutheran World Federation. It is a crises of identity and authority which will not be settled until we can agree who has what poweer and where.

Anonymous said...

God is still God and God's Will will be done. Because of what our leaders have done God is destroying our church. That is obvious and we have left but have been waiting to see what happens but we see no hope as it just keeps getting worse. Just look at what is happening in Connecticut this week end. We are in the eye of the storm.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I'm a little puzzled by your comments. A group of conservatives from Church of the Ascension left the Episcopal Church, leaving their property behind. I don't understand why this causes you grief; indeed, your past comments suggest that this is what you would encourage conservatives to do. And frankly, what difference does it make whether they tie themselves to Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, or the Southern Cone (any of which would keep them connected to the Anglican Communion)?

There is a long history of conflict between Bishop Parsley and the Church of the Ascension, documented at www.standfirminfaith.com (just use their search engine). Whether fairly or not, they will claim to be traditionalists who are persecuted (which of course the Episcopal Church says isn't happening). All this didn't happen overnight. Similarly, the Convocation has been in process as well. I can't point to the references, but I know Akinola has been concerned about Nigerian Anglicans in America who cannot find a home in the Episcopal Church, and has been planning to provide something for them.

I am simply amazed that the Episcopal Church is extremely flexible in terms of doctrine and ethics, and utterly inflexible in terms of structure. If the Episcopal Church is unable to accomodate immigrant third-world Anglicans in their midst, and their own more long-term conservative members, then perhaps they should let them go to form their own structures, and form ties to those overseas with whom they share common interests and beliefs. If they are not comfortable with this, then they should find ways to accomodate them. It really is as simple as that -- or as complex as that.

If there is indeed a conspiracy, following your suggestions would aid it tremendously. If the conservatives are intent on setting up a new Anglican province to replace ours or exist alongside ours in the Anglican Communion, nothing would be better than for the Episcopal Church to refuse to be accountable to Canterbury and the instruments of unity.

RB

bls said...

There's a serious contradiction in the last poster's comments.

First s/he says that "...Akinola has been concerned about Nigerian Anglicans in America who cannot find a home in the Episcopal Church."

Next, s/he says that "If the Episcopal Church is unable to accomodate immigrant third-world Anglicans in their midst, and their own more long-term conservative members, then perhaps they should let them go to form their own structures, and form ties to those overseas with whom they share common interests and beliefs."

First of all, whoever said that "the Episcopal Church is unable to accomodate immigrant third-world Anglicans in their midst"? Is this even true? Where did this idea come from? What would this even mean? Refusing to allow people to come to worship services? Refusing them Communion? What? This is a red herring, I'd say, based on Peter Akinola's own problems with ECUSA.

Second, even if any of it were true, to what sorts of "accommodation" are you referring? Are you referring to allowing people to act on prejudice against gay Anglicans? To refusing to receive Communion together with them? What? If the latter, why should the Episcopal Church allow this, since it goes against the very heart of our own teaching on Communion?

Does "accommodation" here mean tolerating intolerance? Why is this required? Doesn't this go to prove the point, in fact - that this is merely about intolerance and prejudice, rather than about theology? Nobody's saying, after all, that "long-term conservative members" aren't welcome.

Just asking. I'd say this is pretty much the heart of the problem, all right: how to tolerate people who won't tolerate us.

Karl said...

This is all so sad. You sound like anonymous southern baptist...the very racist, homophobic crap I thought I was leaving. You are all disgusting. Don't forget that this very faith you are destroying was founded on a divorce...and you've been in schism ever since. Schism is nothing new. O.K. so you don't like women praying over you and it upsets you that your priest might love someone of the same sex. I don't think God will deny you the gates of heaven if you are touched by these people. God is looking at them...but he is also looking at you. Are your actions those of a christ-like person? What would Jesus do. My Grandmother use to tell me "it's not what's in the heart of the man in the pulpit that gets you to heaven, but what's in the heart of the man in the pew".
You know something, forget the communion of the church, and the community of you. I think right now it's best that I consider my own salavation and increase my donations to the American Red Cross and just stay home on Sunday mornings. I wish you all the best...really. Just, don't fight so hard for your faith you lose your souls.