The Archbishop and his Global South Critics

When the planning group for the South to South Encounter in Egypt determined that the Province of Brazil would not be invited because of their actions in reference to the Bishop of Recife, I wrote to suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury might do well to stay away from the South to South Encounter.

In part my concern was that he would go, do the sorts of things he does well, and get beat up. In part it was because I believed that the South to South Encounter was indeed becoming a meeting place for like minded Provinces rather than a meeting place for a variety of views from quite different Provinces who share a common history as autonomous provinces once missionary dioceses of the older Anglican Provinces, from the so called “North.” That is, one way or another, theologically or historically, he was walking into a group who represented party interests.

Well, the Archbishop went, gave a fine lecture, answered questions – sometimes well, sometimes not so well, had his picture taken with the group, and left. The fall-out came quickly and continues. The documents and related news stories are all available on Thinking Anglicans.

The “Global South Anglican Administrator,” seemingly administrating the “Global South Anglican” web pages and we don’t know what else, is essentially re-framing the South to South Encounter as the Global South Anglican encounter. These web pages are the “voice” of the meeting just held in Egypt and the materials of that conference are posted there.

But something more is afoot here, I believe. This new title, “Global South Anglican,” with accompanying “administrator,” publishing communiqu├ęs, letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other materials, may be the beginnings of a secretariat for an organizing of Anglicans centered somewhere in the “South,” (Egypt?) and connected with the Networks in the US and Canada, the Nigerian effort in the US (CANA) and emerging “Common Cause” partners.

Whatever that is about, the Global South Anglican administrator published a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from Primates attending the meeting in Egypt. The exact number of Primates who actually signed on is unclear, but the document itself is clear. It is an extensive, thoughtful and finally highly critical commentary on the Archbishop’s talks while with them. There is plenty of commentary on just what it all means, most of it taking the line that the Primates criticism was harsh.

I have read the commentary several times. It is remarkably well done and its criticisms and notes are worth careful response. The harshness of the document is not that it raises questions, but that was written at all. It has something of the tone of examiners who are passing on a Master’s thesis, or a review board dealing with tenure issues. This is not usually the way the Archbishop’s messages are received, and certainly such critiques are not made as public rejoinders.

All in all it raised enough dust to the point where the “GSA Administrator” felt it necessary to re-post the letter with a note, which is as follows:

“GSA Admin note:

This letter is posted here for the benefit of those who attended the Encounter and the people they represent. Archbishop Rowan William’s talk and sharing was appreciated and well received with deep gratitude, though as expected, it will raise some questions as well, some which were conveyed by the delegates to the Primates. This letter is a part of the on-going process of dialogue between Global South and the Archbishop of Canterbury and should not be interpreted in other unhelpful ways.”

The note is telling: The “letter is posted for the benefit of those who attended the Encounter and the people they represent.” It “is part of the on-going process of dialogue between Global South and the Archbishop of Canterbury…” So this letter assumes that some entity, organization, group of Primates, SOMETHING, is in dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that this is part of an “on-going process.” The letter is a declaration that the Archbishop has to satisfactorily answer to the Global South (an entity) in order for dialogue to continue. The note, I believe, asks for or demands further response from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

One item in the commentary is worth noting in this context:

“We do not see why you cannot warn these churches now, based on the Windsor Report and your own convictions about unity, that they will not be invited to Lambeth 2008 unless they truly repent.”

“Global South Anglican,” or rather the Primates whose letter they published, are pushing the Archbishop to not invite unrepentant US and Canada Bishops. What they might do if he does invite them is not clear from this, but the implication is clear that these Primates might indeed do something.

The whole of the letter is worth the read, and can be accessed HERE.

All in all, I still wish the Archbishop had not gone to Egypt. He went, spoke, got questioned, and at the last beat on. But more importantly, his visit was to a group that is taking on new character: moving beyond being a meeting of Anglicans from provinces in the “global south,” it has become a meeting of likeminded – that is conservative and evangelical - Anglicans gathered around an alternate focus than that provided by the “instruments of unity” which in the case of the Lambeth Conference, Primates and the ACC, include un-likeminded people, and in the case of the Archbishop of Canterbury a person of great intellect and faith, whose views are clearly not their own.

Since he has gone we at least can see the beginning outlines of a secretariat for a new organizing principle and the form of criticism to come.

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