10/19/2005

Some thoughts on influence peddling.

The question of influence peddling has come up again in the exchanges between Archbishop Akinola and Archbishop Eames, carried out indirectly by way of Akinola’s various public messages and the reports of an Eames interview and remarks from his press officer. Both these Anglican leaders are reacting to issues they believe to be particularly difficult, and the result is a rather bumpy sort of unfolding concern about influence peddling. In my article on Archbishop Akinola I wrote of the concerns about funding, not believing that the matter would be raised in such sharp terms by the Archbishops within twenty-four hours. I had of course seen the report of Archbishop Eames’ comments. That report is as follows:

“During an interview at the college, Eames expressed concern over the role that wealthy conservative donors in the United States were playing in the current controversy. He said he was “quite certain” that many church leaders in the developing world had been offered financial inducements to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

“I think it is happening, I just don't think it is moral,” Eames said. “Is it the might of finance that will influence a theological outlook, and then that outlook come to dominate the Communion?

“It raises a serious question for me: what is the real nature of their faith and their Anglicanism? It is certainly different from mine.”

Conservative leaders have said they are simply trying to help poor provinces that cannot in good conscience accept financial support from provinces that differ with them on the issue of homosexuality.”

(From an article by Jim Naughton, Oct. 7, 2005 on Episcopal Diocese of Washington web pages )

That triggered my own thinking about funding issues, issues which I believe are not resolved by looking solely at the rumors that circulated about influence peddling at the Primates Meeting, rumors that Steven Bates believes were unfounded.

Still, the report on the Eames conversation was out there, and Archbishop Akinola responded in a letter on Sunday,

“It is reported that you, without citing specifics, are ‘quite certain’ that some of us have been bought. I have always had great respect for you and considered you a friend and a great leader of our Communion but such irresponsible accusations are outrageous, uncharitable and untrue. If you have any evidence of such financial inducements I challenge you, in the name of God, to reveal them or make a public apology to your brother Primates in the Global South for this damaging and irresponsible smear. I have always made it clear that there is no price-tag on my head – I am not a slave to anyone – I have been set free by the blood of the One who died for us all.

I must also respond to your misleading comments about our constitutional provision to establish Convocations and Chaplaincies outside of Nigeria. As you well know such a provision has long been the tradition in Europe. I wonder why it is acceptable for one part of the Communion and not for the other – perhaps the yoke of imperialism still survives?”

( From The Church of Nigeria website)

I commented on October 19th, on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list on the second part of Archbishop Akinola’s quote. There I said,

“He (Archbishop Akinola) asks a questions that indeed requires answer..."perhaps the yoke of imperialism still survives," but prefaces that question with a serious misreading ( by accident or on purpose) of the "tradition in Europe." Anglican jurisdictions appear to overlap in Europe and indeed there are all sorts of questions that may be raised about the odd configuration of chaplaincies, mission work and national catholic expressions there, but the jurisdictions are in reality quite separate in their history. History does not determine future form, of course, but it does slow the process of the building of mutual regard and trust so that common concerns can be shared and go forward. Bishop Whalon and his predecessors have done a good bit to build such mutual regard and the fruits of that work will I hope become clearer as time goes by.

But in the meantime it is inaccurate of the Archbishop of Nigeria to point to the Anglican presence in Europe as a parallel to his own establishment of chaplaincies in ECUSA. Among other things the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, and the Churches of Spain and Portugal are not separated by virtue of one group believing the other has gone astray.”

About the question of continued imperialism, there is more to be said, more that relates to Akinola’s ire at Archbishop Eames’ reported comments on financial inducements. The reporter wrote, “He said he was “quite certain” that many church leaders in the developing world had been offered financial inducements to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.”

The author of this article, Jim Naughton, writes well and I believe reflected what the Archbishop said, although one must note it was not a quote, save for the “quite certain” reference. The nub of the issue is the reference to being “offered financial inducements.” To that Archbishop Akinola took offence, and quite rightly. Archbishop Eames press officer responded the next day with this remark, reported by George Conger, “Janet Maxwell, Archbishop Eames’ press officer told The Church of England Newspaper the Irish Primate’s remarks had been misconstrued. Archbishop Eames “in no way questioned the sincerity of theological conviction” of the Global South nor was he “suggesting votes were purchased”, Ms Maxwell stated. What he had said was that he “expressed concern that too much emphasis has been placed on the role of funding relative to theological perspective”, she told us, as requiring aid donors and recipients to share theological and political convictions was “not a moral way of looking at issues”.

So, the accusation is not that votes were purchased at the Primate’s meeting, i.e. that influence was peddled for votes. The matter has to do with “the role of funding relative to theological perspective.”

The whole thing is well reported by Thinking Anglicans and by Fr. Jake, whose essay is so good that I have to guide you too it even though he also references mine on Archbishop Akinola.

The problem at hand, however, is a larger one: When does financial support cross over into that grey area where it becomes an inducement for the receiver of funds to either keep silent about actions and statements of the donor or alternately to support such actions and statements?

Every religious organization has to deal with this. We in ECUSA have a long and complicated relationship with the Federal Government with whom we from time to time enter into contract. Certainly we have also on parish and diocesan levels felt the constraints that come from grants, gifts and offerings that had strings – either real or understood - attached. Offending donors large and small is always a problem of immense moral importance. It is appropriate to ask just how much and how the church feels constrained by such gifts. Internal issues of influence peddling arise once and a while, and every preacher knows the constraints that come when wanting to speak to difficult national issues such as preemptive strikes.

So it is appropriate to ask about major donors to the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, the American Anglican Council, and about the extent to which they in turn are major donors to the international work of the Archbishop of Nigeria and other Global South leaders.

It is also appropriate for Global South bishops and Primates to ask to what extent they have felt constrained in their truth telling by having received monies from donor churches with whom they disagree. I believe it is destructive to the mission we all have that some monies have been rejected out of hand. That seems to me to be about proving righteousness, as in “I will have nothing to do with unclean things.” Since there is no proof of righteousness regarding money, given whose image or name is on the face of the coins, there are always clean and unclean things to be said about the source of funding for every effort. Is money that bears the US name less unclean because it does not come from the Episcopal Church?

What would have been helpful is to ask for full disclosure of the “strings attached.” Was there any, or would there be any, expectation from Episcopal Church donors that recipients would withhold their criticism of ECUSA? Would the distance they took from the actions of ECUSA put those grants in jeopardy?

If full disclosure indicated that with the funds came expectations, then ECUSA could be accused of influence peddling. If not, then the money could be accepted in good conscience.

Public disclosure is a real issue. Influence peddling takes place behind closed doors, and the solution is not to simply toss accusations but to look for transparency.

There has certainly been a good deal written on conservative sources of the funding for the Network and AAC, just as there has been concerns about the funding for the ACC and the Anglican Communion Office.

Funding for the ACC and the Anglican Communion Office comes from donor Provinces, on the basis of an asking. ECUSA’s support come from the General Convention budget. Additional sources of funds, from The Compass Rose Society, wealthy parish granting agencies, etc, are received, but they are directed towards ends already determined by the ACC or the Anglican Communion Office.

While it may be argued that the considerable support by ECUSA to the ACC gives it undue influence, events of the past months would suggest that its influence is not as great as might be imagined. ECUSA has been asked to withdraw its representation to the ACC for a time, and has complied. Given the continued support of the ACC office it is hard to suggest that ECUSA is involved in influence peddling, or at least peddling that works.

There have in the past been questions raised about the bias of various officers of the Anglican Communion Office, and while folks in those positions have to take the heat sometimes, they are also accountable to other parts of the “instruments of unity.” That accountability involves transparency as it relates to funding sources and their “strings attached.”

The Network, the AAC and in turn its assistance to international bodies, has no such synodical budgetary grounding, and no general mandate from the Communion, and they have no accountability beyond their own boards of managers and their donors. Funding comes from “like minded” organizations and persons and it has every business in turn making grants to like minded Provinces, leaders and international organizations.

Unlike ECUSA’s engagement with the Anglican Communion structures, where the level of support is known and the supposed bias of ACC officers can be challenged (and often is), the Network and AAC funding support for like minded international agencies, persons and other Provinces is not easily know, nor is much known about agreements with its own funding sources as it relates to the international work of these organizations.

Some work has been done, and Fr. Jake’s article references in particular an article by Kevin Jones, on the Every Voice Network .

So, although Archbishop Akinola is quite right to challenge the statement attributed to Archbishop Eames as to the facts, the concern expressed by Eames is appropriate. The question of financial support being an “inducement to distance themselves…” still stands.

Organizations, like the Network and the AAC, that have no synodical authority, accountability or mandate may do as they wish. But unless they are in some way as transparent as the agencies of the Church there is no way to disentangle wishes of their donors, their own actions and the persons and organizations that receive funds from them.

One assumes that the AAC and the Network are in the best sense of the word partisan. The question is: are their contributions to the work of the Archbishop of Nigeria or other leaders BECAUSE these leaders share their values, or do these contributions INFLUENCE these leaders to share their values? And, if the latter, are staff and leaders from the AAC and the Network present at various meetings primarily supportive or directing?

Archbishop Akinola was indignant when he said, “It is reported that you, without citing specifics, are “quite certain” that some of us have been bought.” If that is what he understood was meant by Archbishop Eames, I can see why that makes Akinola angry. It is not a pleasant thing to be accused of taking a bribe or selling oneself. There is nothing unclear about such an accusation… either the accused took the bribe, took the strings attached, or not.

Actually what was said in the Naughton article was, “He said he was “quite certain” that many church leaders in the developing world had been offered financial inducements to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.” “Inducement” is not at all as clear as be bought.

Suppose one overheard an AAC or Network person saying to someone, “Listen, we think you should join us in openly stating your opposition to what was done by GC 2003. It would mean a great deal to us and to the work of realignment if you would declare a state of impaired communion. Don’t worry about what that means financially in terms of support for your work. We will make sure you have funding both for what you do in your Province and for your wider role in the Communion.” What would we make of this, influence peddling or assurance between like minded persons?

The whole matter of where money comes from and the strings attached to funds is a background rumble in the whole exchange between Archbishop Eames and Archbishop Akinola. It is a rumble of a deeper set of problems about transparency. At its best transparency can be asked for and received by people who are mutual in their regard. At its worse transparency can be asked of one organization and not another for reasons that increasingly reveal themselves as being grounded in imperialism, racism or class. What is needed here, as in many places, is a mutual sharing of budgets, sources, strings attached, goals and objectives, and so on.

Until then we will have occasional exchanges like this one, often on the basis of second hand information, that do little to clarify and much to confuse.

4 comments:

  1. Mark:

    I have an even better idea for treating each other with personal regard. I suggest we stick to the issues, rather than trying to dig into someone's personal motivations and finances.

    I suggest you re-examine the old argumentum ad hominem. What you, Father Jake, and even Eames lay out is in fact the ad hominem (circumstantial), as explained at this website. (Please note the example given there, "We should disregard Share B.C.'s argument because they are being funded by the logging industry.")

    Frankly, I think it much more likely that the Province of Nigeria has lost much more than it gained by cutting itself off from ECUSA's much deeper pockets. But I don't know, and neither do you, from what I gather here.

    I need to know as much about Akinola's funding as I need to know about what contributions have been made that covered whatever salary you have received as a priest. Which is to say, I need to know nothing at all about either. They are not relevant to the discussion, and asking about them calls into question the other's personal integrity (with very little basis). It's a cheap shot, and so easy to do. We could start raising questions about Integrity's funding, Via Media's funding, and on and on. Where does it stop, and what does it prove?

    Though Eames' remark was not intended to be malicious, it was in fact a thoughtless personal attack. Nothing better. It should be treated as that and nothing more.

    C'mon, Mark. You're better than this. If you mean what you say about mutual regard (and I believe you do), this is the place to start.

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  2. It appears rb is a fan of Akinola. Good for you.

    That does not mean we can simply dismiss the new issue which is presented now; the issue of Arbishop Akinola's integrity.

    He has now claimed he has received no funds from the conservative North Americans. One would have to have their head in the sand to not know that is an untruth.

    To tell such an unnecessary lie reveals much about the Archbishop who has delusions of becoming the new Alexandrian pope, does it not?

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  3. Actually, Akinola did not say he received no money from conservative Episcopalians. He said he received no financial inducements from conservative Episcopalians. I presume we are all aware of the formation of ARD by the ACN, and I would presume various charities of the Province of Nigeria benefit from this. Is there something wrong with that?

    I'm not a fan of Akinola. I agree with Mark that some of his assertions about homosexuals are over the top. But even if I was, what of it? You've answered my remarks with more ad hominem arguments: dismissing my comments because you take me to be a fan of Akinola rather than dealing with what I actually said.

    Akinola has a point. If you have any real evidence that he has been bought, perhaps you should produce it. I read your article, and I saw no such evidence. If you have nothing more than knowledge of a few wealthy conservatives who could have made the attempt, then perhaps you should stick to the issues, and avoid ad hominem arguments and libelous statements (isn't that what this is?). Again, I appeal to Mark's own principle of mutual regard, which would be a discipline well worth working toward, though more difficult than presumed.

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  4. I note with relief Eames' response to Akinola. I am not surprised by it, since he has always seemed above this kind of nonsense to me. But I am gratified to see it, nonetheless. Since it is brief, I quote it below, and give the link here.

    "The current debate within the Anglican Communion is a theological debate and I find myself very disturbed by any speculation around the role that money may play in determining outcomes. Such speculation makes genuine communication difficult. I feel that when money or assistance is raised in any part of the Anglican Communion and offered for use where it may extend Christ's kingdom, it should be offered and accepted in those terms alone.

    "I in no way question the sincerity and integrity of the leaders of the Global South. As they are well aware, I have personally endeavoured at all times to maintain and understand the integrity of their argument. I categorically state I have never believed that any financial offer was accepted by any of those who represent the Global South on any other than terms of Christian outreach. I have communicated this response to Archbishop Akinola this morning."

    ReplyDelete

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