THE ARCHBISHOP’S VOICE
In that effort the Archbishop has become for many the voice of an emerging Anglicanism, in which true freedom is found in obedient service to the faith “once delivered.” For others, he is the enemy of that which they believe Anglicans hold most dear, the belief that true servanthood in the Lord Jesus is perfect freedom, and that out of that servanthood grows new duties to meet new occasions.
I am to be numbered among those who find the Archbishop of Nigeria to be the enemy of what I understand the Anglican Communion to be. At the same time I admire his willingness to take on the Anglo-centric focus of the so called instruments of unity. He is on some level driving the last nail in the coffin of colonial Anglicanism.
He is not necessarily consistent in his attack. The
The Archbishop speaks his mind on many occasions, and what he says is often intriguing, sometimes hurtful, sometimes constructive and occasionally destructive.
He has said horrid things about gay persons:
"I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things." (The Atlantic online)
And about gay and lesbian persons:
“God created two persons — male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third — a homosexual, neither male nor female, or both male and female — a strange two-in-one human.”
“The acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as normal is the triumph of disobedience; the enthronement of human pride over the will of God. This lifestyle is a terrible violation of the harmony of the eco-system of which mankind is a part. As we are rightly concerned by the depletion of the ozone layer, so should we be concerned by the practice of homosexuality.” (Both from Why I object to Homosexuality and Same-sex unions)
His arguments – that homosexuals are a “two-in-one human” and that homosexual lifestyle is somehow related to the eco-system – are amazing in their profound misreading of both homosexuality and humankind’s role in the eco-system. His suggestion that not “even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things” turns out not to be completely true, but worse it makes the dreadful hierarchical comparison where, as President Mugabe of
On the other hand, the Archbishop does speak out against tribalism, for integration of all peoples of
“I appeal to you by the mercies of God, let us unite to make this Church great. The potentials are enormous. If only we can catch the vision of a strong, united Church… the hope of
And he speaks clearly about the need to address real problems in the social and political climate in which he works and lives. The “Message to the Nation,” sent by the synod over which he presided, mostly concerns the realities faced in
He has made an amazing plea to the nation in the midst of great political and social struggle,
“Lately, our nation has been impaled with rumours of chaos and the political class(es) are not helping matters as scheming for the 2007 elections seem to override every other consideration. The Church is also impaled with the complaints of the wretched of the earth- the poor, the jobless, the oppressed and millions of Nigerians who continue to groan under abject want and poverty in the midst of plenty.
The brokenness of our entire society including the
Occasionally the Archbishop is given to moments of pique, as when he wrote in response to concerns about what was going to take place at the South to South Gathering in
“A lot of the misinformation has been due to the figment of imagination of protagonist wishing to introduce alien ideas into our historic faith. Some even go as far as to suggest it is a power tussle affair. This pitiful reasoning is far from our minds as we do not seek such.
It is pertinent to state that we are not concerned with power as being published in the media. 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.”
In wanting to straighten out the media and internet bloggers (me included) he can’t resist a last taunt, “Any persons or Church disregarding or flouting these (the Word of God and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference) are the ones to do a rethink about their status within our worldwide Anglican family.” With that kind of taunt one wonders how the meeting in Egypt CANNOT be mostly dealing with realignment.
The Archbishop has some sense of his apparent power. He signs off as “The Primate of All Nigeria.” There are Archbishops of the internal provinces of the
Archbishop Akinola is complex, outspoken, a person of considerable power. I gather from those who know him that his is a person of some real charm. He is willing to use his power, charisma and charm to ends he believes are central to his life and ministry. There was a fine article in the Atlantic Monthly on him, and much of what is written there fleshes out the man. (See The Atlantic Monthly, November 2003 ) He is a force to be reckoned with.
That reckoning is taking place. In the past few weeks there have been several important essays critical of the Archbishop of Nigeria and in particular of his church’s changes in the
The Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of Washington, has taken the Archbishop to task on some of this. In his recent article in the Diocesan paper, he said:
“With the Archbishop’s reference that “no Church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity,” I must ask myself who has been left with the ultimate authority to interpret the teaching of the Bible? Certainly such important work has not been left up to the Archbishop of Nigeria alone. And if the Church is to really focus on the issues of the Bible’s teaching and the core teachings of Jesus Christ, why does this Archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty, illiteracy and violence? Where is the strong voice of the Nigerian Anglican Church in opposing the continued neglect of vulnerable women and children, or in advocating on behalf of the poorest of the poor? Jesus was very clear in his hard teachings that one could always tell the righteous from the damned by whether they lived into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger and visiting those who were in prison.” (See article at http://www.edow.org/news/window/sept2005/chanecolumn.html )
Bishop Chane may have made a stretch near the end of this quote, given what the Archbishop and Synod said, but the first part is clear and I think appropriate.
In a question and answer period following Archbishop Eames’s two talks at Virginia Seminary in early October, Jim McNaughten reported that Archbishop Eames said, in response to the Church of Nigeria’s constitutional change removing references to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
“My plea to my brother Peter, the Primate of Nigeria would be, ‘Pause, Peter, pause, because we are all in this together, because a preemptive strike like this would have the consequences of making the tensions greater and therefore, I ask that you would pause and take on the reservations that the rest of us have.”
Archbishop Eames, in his lecture at
The decision by the Synod of the
The lack of real enthusiasm about this move by Nigeria is, I believe, for two reasons: (i) There are those who would turn away from the Network’s movement if it really led away from Canterbury, and (ii) the Archbishop of Nigeria has in fact made it possible to sidestep Canterbury and perhaps the “West” altogether, and form an alternative collection of Anglicans on an international level, thus raising the question as to whether the Network is in the long run necessary at all.
It is not clear just what part the Network leadership might play in such an alternative Anglican community. On the one hand the Moderator of the Network has been well received by the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Network has been included in the list of invitees to the South to South Encounter, etc. On the other hand the Network is very much made up of people of the “Global North” who have the same temptations to use money and power in the same ways that have irritated the churches of the Global South perceived the “West” doing at other times.
Although I would hate to see the rupture happen, it would be most instructive to see how a new “Global South” oriented international church would play out with its North American partners its concerns about western colonial attitudes. And, of course, if the Network was troublesome to ECUSA, what is to say it would not be troublesome to this new thing?
Archbishop Akinola’s various remarks, papers, and official briefings give every indication that he clearly is his own man, save for his obedience to the Word of God as he has received it. It is not at all clear that he is willing to live again in a world where deference is given to a church leader simply because that person is leader of the English church.
Whether or not he is his own man in reality is yet to be seen. He is the chair of CAPA, the Council of Anglican Provinces of
The effort to realign the Anglican Communion has given rise to the creation of a wide variety of agencies and organizations, some more a reality than others. All the meetings, travels, lectures, caucuses, consultations and encounters necessary to put this together costs a great deal, and there is considerable lack of clarity as to where the funding comes from.
There is no question that the funding of the
Archbishop Eames describes the realignment of the Anglican Communion sought by the Network and the Archbishop of Nigeria as “proposals for groupings which can share one overall concept of Anglicanism and an exclusion from new structures of those who are interpreted to be in denial of true and traditional Anglicanism. I cannot overstate the dangers I see in such developments. Not alone do I view them as leading to a fragmented concept of the Communion we have inherited from generations of worship, witness and practice, I see them as a threat to the very word Anglican itself.” (The Berkely lecture, referenced above.)
The reckoning will come – from other primates and Anglican leaders who see him as destructive, from fellow bishops who question his particular hold on the Gospel, from a wide range of people who feel his anti-gay statements are over the top. And strangely, a reckoning will come from western conservatives who may find that the
The emergence of the Perfected Anglican Communion is of course no Anglican Communion at all. The Anglican Communion is provisional, unperfected, messy, and finally NOT a world church. To bad. No wonder the Archbishop of Nigeria must look elsewhere for what he wants, and when he gets it it will not be the Anglican Communion at all.
RETURNING TO THE ARCHBISHOP
I believe we need to honor Archbishop Akinola for making us more aware of the colonialism still present in the automatic assumption that the Englishness of Anglicanism is essential to its existence. Could there be an Anglican Communion without the Archbishop of Canterbury as the primary focus of unity? I think so. Can a church be an Anglican church and not finally “like” the Church of England? I hope so. Could there be an Anglican Communion without communion with the see of
The Archbishop is an icon of our unity, but the unity itself is not dependent on the office. The core of Anglicanism, Archbishop Eames states, is found in the return to our sense of community. He stated in the Pitt Lecture at
The Windsor Report suggests a strengthening of the “Instruments of Unity,” with a particular role for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The suggestion is that he become the “focus of unity” and the other instruments (the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings, the Anglican Consultative Council) become the instruments of communion. This in a way places the Archbishop of Canterbury in a unique position, separate from all the other instruments of our way of being church.
I am not sure that this is the way to go. Perhaps it would be better to have the Archbishop of Canterbury be one principle of unity by virtue of his “invitation” list – the list in the Constitution of the Church of England of those churches with whom the Church of England is in communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury then unites when he invites. Thinking of the circle of churches in the Anglican Communion as an ellipse instead, the Archbishop is at one foci. The Anglican Consultative Council (with some work on what counts as representative government there) becomes the second foci. The Primates would be defined as the chief bishops of those churches part of the Anglican Consultative Council. So the two foci would be the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference as its Episcopal instrumentality and the Anglican Consultative Council with the Primates as its Episcopal instrumentality.
Anglicans are drawn together by being in churches related in a family way to the Church of England. All we sisters, cousins, are drawn together finally by the desire to do so and by the suspicion that in doing so we are helping somehow to restore the unity that is the fulfillment of our Lord’s prayer that we might be one. Such bonds of affection and mutual regard can continue, even when the move beyond colonial Anglicanism requires a recasting of our relationships. I hope Archbishop Akinola can learn with us all how to recast our relationships without negating what has been our real sense of common life and community.