The Archbishop of Nigeria on the South to South Encounter.

Well, it turns out the Archbishop of Nigeria seems to think the South to South Encounter will indeed take place in Alexandria...see his message posted today on the Church of Nigeria pages titled, "Statement of South/South Chairman Concerning the 3rd South/South Encounter in Alexandria, Egypt. Please note to that he clearly states that this is a "gathering of like-minded Anglicans." "The Encounter is not *a business* meeting." He says, "Our major concern is upholding the integrity and sanctity of the Word of God and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference guiding the integrity of our common historic faith. Any person or Church disregarding or flouting these are the ones to do a rethink about their status within our worldwide Anglican family."

So..it appears it is proposed to be in Alexandria after all, is a meeting of like minded Anglicans, does exclude the Province of Brazil (or at least its official leadership), and is not a business meeting, and concerns (among other things) upholding the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference.

Sounds like a gathering storm. And after the thunder and lightening, rain.


  1. I'll reiterate what I just said in response to your amendments to the last essay: It is a meeting (according to Akinola) of "like-minded Anglicans."

    Like-mindedness forecloses the possibility of "encounter", especially when it's based on response to a single issue, as this is.

    So, to continue to call the meeting a South/South "encounter" is, at best, dishonest.

  2. What Akinola doesn't seem to get (nor do most of us in the west either) is that like mindedness is a goal of Communion, hopefully an outcome. But it is not a given and cannot be achieved by the force of one hand against all others.

  3. J-tron, I've got to question whether or not "like-mindedness" is really a goal of communion. Difference and diversity enrich the church, rather than diminish it. Like-mindedness? It doesn't make us a fellowship or communion-- it makes us a herd.

  4. One might say that Akinola, once again, is trying to limit what kind of encounters other people can have.

    I think that Wendy and J-tron's exchange here points us to some important questions about identity, difference, and like-mindedness. What is meant by Acts 4:32?

    "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common."

    In Philippians 2, the question of having the mind of Christ frames an exhortation in terms of a pre-Pauline hymn. Having the mind of Christ leads to a certain disposition in our reltionships with one another.

    I would still resist the idea that unity has to be understood in terms of sameness. What an adequate social Trinitarianism would lead us to is the a community in which "none is afore, none is behind." Too often, Trinitarian and communitarian thought gets used to stifle legitimate self-assertion within community, in a way that reflects considerable patriarchal bias. To cite another patristic axiom, "Everything that is true of the Father is true of the Son, except that the Son is not the Father."

    Unity with difference should characterize the Church. Our unity is purely shaped by a common commitment to Christ and being taken up into the life of the Trinity.

  5. Yes, Bill, unity with difference. "The mind of Christ"? Who amongst us has the right to claim that s/he knows what it is.

    Disposition in our relations towards others? Yes, I would agree. But what is that disposition to be?

    As you know, I've done a tiny bit of work with the theology of Archbishop William Temple--and I think his approach of trying to understand why another person holds his/her views, especially when they differ from one's own, is the right disposition. Recognizing the truth in another's position, and the humbling but liberating fact that we need to look at the multifaceted nature of truth.

    It's what made Temple a great ecumenical leader, and we need a little of that sort of wisdom at this time.

  6. I would say that like-mindedness has to be a goal of Communion. Or, to put it more aptly, unity has to be a goal of Communion. We come together to be unified in the Body of Christ. This has to include a union in doctrine. Otherwise, what is it that unifies us? Altar vestments?

    I do think there's something to be said for unity with allowance for difference, allowance for dissent and for looking again at previously settled matters to determine if an error has taken place. But the Church is the Body of Christ. We are enmeshed into Christ, and we are nothing without the Mind of Christ to lead us, which is promised to us in the revelation of scripture.

    Anglicanism has traditionally left more room open for this discernment than other Catholic traditions. We have very little dogma for instance. And we allow for a very long time to process discernment. But currently, we are without a global method of discerning and clarifying doctrine, even if we agree that dissenting voices are possible. We have a bunch of organizational structures with no substance to them (Lambeth, the ACC, the "primates" meeting). Our current global crisis over human sexuality was inevitable. If it hadn't been this it would have been something else. It's a symptom of the fact that we never intended to become a global Church. We grew up and out and around in spite of ourselves. And now that we're there, we're left trying to catch up with ourselves.

  7. J-Tron,

    While your hope is comendable, it's too late, and no structure is going to save us. Windsor was meant to move us there, but it has been used as a weapon by the likes of ++Akinola when ECUSA and the ACofC backed off, and while I was willing to accept Windor, the fact that I've not seen a single incarnation of those blathered about hearings and listening while gay people elsewhere have become the targets of an increasingly intersected church-state attack--Nigeria being just one example in Africa, suggests to me that all of those fancy words were lies. We've been waiting years from Lambeth to Lambeth, for a real commitment to listen. I see no process, I doubt there will be. I don't trust any thing the Communion might set up to listen to us at this point. The rest of the Communion (++Williams included) is all too happy to be silent when vicious words are spoken against us...how can we come to such a table on equal footing to bear forth the most intimate parts of our lives? The process, what little there is, is entirely weighted toward maintaining the status quo or schism. This isn't catholic, it's uniformity.

    The mind of Christ is willing to suffer with the one suffering before us. What gets passed around as unity an awful lot is really uniformity, and for those of us in a minority, unity talk is worthy of being suspect. Changing that requires those who have the power to coerce and do (which is not the mind of Christ) to humble themselves as equals in Holy Baptism. I don't see that happening.

  8. I don't see unity in doctrine as valuable. The enforcement mechanisms that you need are worse than the problem of heresy. I do believe and teach the Catholic creeds. In the eschaton, doctrine, faith, and creeds will pass away as we participate in the one perpetual Eucharistic offering of Jesus, celebrated by the Lord himself. Until then, baptism into his death and resurrection is the basis of our unity, rather than correct teaching.

  9. To my mind, the problem with like-mindedness as a requirement is that it leads to a "confessional" model of the church, rather than a "communal" one. I favor the good old Anglican minimalism that keeps confessions neat and concise (like the Creeds). I have no beef with folks that want to be part of a Confessional church in the broader sense; or a church that emphasizes a central authority as the determiner of who's in, who's out (as King Lear said). But I prefer the elastic charity of classical Anglicanism. I think when the dust has settled we will find the bulk of the present Anglican Communion still willing to abide by that principle. If not, it will be a sad day for the loss of a church bold enough to admit that churches make mistakes.

  10. Well said, Bill.


    We come together to be unified in the Body of Christ. This has to include a union in doctrine. Otherwise, what is it that unifies us? Altar vestments?

    At the risk of being hopelessly sentimental, I would say it has to be (Christ-emulating) LOVE which unifies us . . . or why bother?

  11. I agree with Tobias on this one, I think, though even with regard to the Creeds, I think we need to be careful about enforcement mechanisms. To use Bishop Spong as a test case, I don't agree with the good bishop about most things, and I think his views on the resurrection in particular are inconsistent with the job description of a bishop. At the same time, is a heresy trial the right way to deal with him? Maybe once upon a time I thought so. If I read him right, J-Tron still thinks so. In other words, even the minimalist position disturbs me if we have the wrong approach to promoting assent to the Creeds. I prefer preaching, teaching, catechesis, and liturgy, preserving liberty of conscience even about things that matter. I think that this is more faithful given the fundamentally personal, rather than propositional, character of truth for Christians. Some propositions are more adequate than others. Some are downright false. Nevertheless even dogmas are inadequate to the mystery with whom we have to do. Jesus is himself the Truth. Respect for the provisionality of doctrinal claims and the abiding pluralism of the Church follows as a consequence.

  12. Bill Carroll said, "Respect for the provisionality of doctrinal claims and the abiding pluralism of the Church follows as a consequence."

    I have long been a supporter of the notion of provisionality re doctrinal statements, but believe it is the statement that is provisional, not the underlying truth. For example the physical state of Mary the Mother of Jesus vis a vis the conditions under which Jesus was born - her being a virgin - may be claimed, denied or held provisionally (as a matter of faith), and the reasons for speaking of her as the Virgin Mary may vary. But there may be an important truth behind the provisionally held doctrine of the Virgin Birth that say something true beyond, or under, the "mere" facts. So I might hold the doctrine of the Virgin Birth provisionally, assuming that a better way of telling the underlying truth might be found, and still hold to the underling truth. That truth is hard to state, but is something like this: Jesus is God with us, and he is also humanity fully one with the Father. Even that is a provisional statement, but behind that is the awe and reality of faith, that in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

    So when someone criticises the Creeds, questioning the Virgin Birth for example, I don't think enforcement mechanisms are what is needed to bring the questioner back in line, rather the questioner should be encouraged to try to state his or her provisional response to the question, "So, who do you think Jesus is." If the answer turns out to be past tense only, or about a "really really really good person," or about God with us only and not about God incarnate, then we need to push back, not at the doctrine of the Virigin Birth, but at the ground of the questioner's faith.

    I know that is what enforcement mechanisms were meant to do - challenge the questioner - but unfortunately they became ways to quiet the questions. The questions are basic to faith development, so we want them. They can occure at any time in a persons struggles in faith. It is when the answers are proposed not as provsional themselves but somehow as the right answer to what was formerly known as provisional that I begin to worry.

  13. I find this helpful, Mark. The Virgin Birth, of course is a relatively peripheral case. (I speak as someone who accepts both the Assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary.) Even with respect to the claim, "Jesus is God," or better "Jesus is fully divine," we face similar issues about provisionality and pluralism. What does it mean to say he "rose again on the third day." That he returned to life. Yes, and much more. No matter how central a mystery one selects, e.g. the paschal mystery, one is confronted with imperfect understanding and a need for an ongoing process of interpretation. Even heresy helps move the process forward. Anglicanism at its best has been open to precisely the kind of questioning you're talking about. I've always admired the preface to the "Outline of Faith, Commonly Known as the Catechism," which makes it clear that it is not a definitive statement but a point of departure for the teacher. In the sacred conversation, we keep the horizon of God's loving mystery (when I put a face on it, it is the face of Jesus) before us. Even a woefully inadequate interpretation of Jesus can be a sign of genuine saving faith and can advance the conversation, which is a means of grace for us all.

    I wish those who want to practice a confessional Christianity well. They can even practice it within Anglicanism to a certain extent, if they wish. I will resist any effort to make the rest of us conform. I prefer simple trust in the loving, grace-filled, disruptive power and presence of Jesus in our midst that is comfortable with variety of interpretations, even though I myself remain committed to a highly traditional interpretation and think that at the end of the day, it will be vindicated. It is more about how we hold on to our commitments than what commitments we hold. Charity invites us to make room for another.

  14. [Ack: the Immaculate Conception, Bill? My Mary's a sinner like me!;-)]

    My ideal of a minimum "Anglican Confession" is thus: when the priest pronounces "The Gifts of God for the People of God" WHATEVER it is that propels the legs (or wheelchair, to the altar---in extremis, just to open one's mouth)

    . . . that's enough. :-)

    [* The only exception I can think of, is if someone explicitly told me---as celebrant---beforehand, that they intended to receive the host/wine, only to defile it. Other than that: Come One, Come All!]

  15. I do not think that J-Tron's question, "what is it that unifies us?" has been answered sufficiently. We hardly need the Archbishop of Canterbury to love each other or share the Eucharist together, and we are not the only Christian communion to baptize our members into Christ's death and resurrection. (I dare say Mormons do that, according to their unique understanding of it.) You may have discovered a fine basis for ecumenical unity, but I question whether we need another WCC centered around the Archbishop of Canterbury. It's a nice basis for theological discussion, but a rather limited one for mission, if mission is understood primarily (as many still understand it) as forming disciples of Jesus Christ. Churches exist for mission, not endless discussion.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.