So I begin by standing corrected re my statement of yesterday: the use of the trumpet motif is not a special reference separate from earlier statements. On the other hand this gives all the more reason to think of the imagery of said trumpets on the model of the seven angels and the seven trumpets in Revelation. We are up to the third of these soundings, and it is perhaps permissible to wonder if there will be the full round of seven.
After a more generous (or perhaps simply a longer) read I believe that (i) the Communiqué lays out what we already know will be part of the struggle of the coming months and years, and (ii) this statement also restates the social and pastoral concerns of churches in the Global South. There are only a few new items in this communiqué, but they bear watching.
The document speaks repeatedly of the Word of God, the authentic World of God, Holy Scriptures, Scriptures, God’s Word, the Gospel. This is, of course, commendable. What is missing, however, is much commentary on how that Word is ingested, revealed, known, shared and reflected upon or distinguished from the words written on the page (in the original or translation.)
The one section on the Authority of the Word of God (sections 21-23) affirms the evangelical position that “the standard of life, belief, doctrine, and conduct is the Holy Scripture,” and then states in 23, “We reject the expectation that our lives in Chirst should conform to the misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.”
The desire is expressed later to “call for the re-alignment of our priorities in such a way as to hasten the full establishment of adequate theological education institutions across the Global South…” (28). This of course is in line with distancing themselves from the “misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.”
A substratum of this document is the evangelical movement’s conviction that the churches have all erred in moving away from a convicted reliance on the Word of God, written. On this level the work of the South to South Encounter is part of a wider attempt at ecclesial realignment by people in the evangelical movement. I have found Stephen Bates book A CHURCH AT WAR very helpful in considering the evangelicals and their issues.
About the Meeting: The Archbishop of Nigeria, as chair of the planning committee for the South to South Encounter, said that this would be a reflective time for those attending and not a legislative or organizing meeting. The Communiqué certainly reflects that sense. Still, it speaks of delegates, who it counts as “representing approximately two-thirds of the Anglican Communion.” Speaking of delegates and representing gives weight to the meeting being at least the warm up pitch to actions. I don’t think they “represent” two-thirds of the Communion at all. Rather they reflect a varying level of support within those 20 Provinces. Speaking of support, I continue to be interested in the funding sources for this meeting and for the considerable costs of air fare to
About the place of the Meeting: George Conger was right… not
The document is in five sections: A Preamble, We Gatered, We Discovered Afresh, We Commit, We Press On. It is well organized around these sections. The whole document consists of 45 paragraphs. By far the largest number of paragraphs is to be found in section D, “We Commit.” It is there that most of the critique of the “West” takes place and the commitment to what we now know to be the outline of a realignment program.
In the Preamble (2) the Archbishop of Canterbury is thanked rather tepidly I think. His address and a record of a question and answer session are HERE. Nowhere in the Communiqué is there any mention of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity, first among equals, etc. But then perhaps that is too close a read.
In Section “B: We Gathered,” the Communiqué states, “Apart from the world condition, our own Anglican Communion sadly continues to be weakened by unchecked revisionist teaching and practices which undermine the divine authority of the Holy Scripture.” (7) The implication is that the unchecked revisionist teaching and practices first undermines the divine authority of the Holy Scripture and then weakens the Anglican Communion. I think I understand the intent of this section, but my own belief is that nothing can undermine the divine authority of the Holy Scripture (however we determine what that authority means.) Perhaps it might have been better to simply say that the writers believe that “the Anglican Communion is weakened by unchecked revisionist teaching and practice,” period. I think that is wrong, but at least this is a “let your yes be yes and your no be no” sort of answer.
I find the explanation in paragraph 9a/b for having the meeting in Egypt a bit strange – references to Egypt as the place in which the people Israel were slaves, and in which the Holy Family were refugees may make some sense. But a reference to the blessing that the people of Israel would be a “light to the nations” being shown by Alexandria becoming a center of early Christianity is entirely odd, unless there is some particular reason for reasserting some particular interest in that City. Well, the meeting was not there, but there is the residue of comments made prior to the meeting that
In The Church is One (a subset of C) I was struck by the sentence in 12, “Unity is ever so much more than sharing institutionally.” I could not agree more. But in the next paragraph (13) we can see where this is leading, “The boundary of family identity ends within the boundary of the authentic Word of God.” So, under the discussion of the notion that the Church is One, in two brief sentences they have made clear that they mean by this neither institutional nor family sharing. In brief for this gathering the Anglican Communion cannot be a product of “bonds of affection” or history. Appeal to ecclesia or koinoia do not suffice: only the appeal to “the supreme authority of the whole Word of God” will do.
Now we turn to Section D. “We Commit.”
Here we find listed the core of the movement to realignment, (with occasional comments thrown in.) :
(i) “We reject the expectation that our lives in Christ should conform to the misguided theological, cultural and sociological norms associated with sections of the West.” (23)
(ii) “We will continue to explore appropriate structures to facilitate and support” networking with one another. (24)
(iii) Shared theological foundations are crucial to authentic fellowship and partnership in mission and ministry…We welcome the initiative to form the Council of Anglican Provinces of the
(iv) “Global South is committed to…the Networks in the
(v) “We are grateful that the Archbishop of Canterbury of Canterbury publicly recognized the Anglican Communion Network in the
(vi) “We appreciate the recent action of the Primate of the Southern Cone who acted to stabilize the volatile situation in
(vii) “We note from the All Africa Bishops Conference their concern that far too many Western theological education institutions have become compromised and are no longer suitable for training leaders for our provinces.” (28)
So the upshot is the course of action we already know is in place. When the Communiqué turns to the “Current Crisis provoked by North American Intransigence” it is no longer speaking from any sense of negotiation, but rather with the demands compliance with the Windsor Report, which report speaks more of restraint, engagement in listening, and further prayerful and thoughtful work and less of compliance.
In the subsection titled “Spiritual Leadership,” the hint of leadership based on a strict “biblical” model come up. Paragraph 35 begins, “ We need inspirational leaders and accountability structures.” True enough, but how will we get them? “These mechanisms which we are looking into must ensure that leaders are accountable to God, to those over us in the Lord, to the flock and to one another IN ACCORDANCE TO THE SCRIPTURES.” (caps mine)
So called “scriptural leadership” opens the door to men in leadership (an evangelical concern), accountability that looks more and more like submission (a word used often by realignment folk in reference to what revisionists must do.)
Much of the remainder of the Communiqué is in line with the CAPA statement this year. Much of what is discussed warrants our support and our engagement. The world is a mess, and we need people who can help make it right.
The final section E. “We Press On” begins with a paragraph (42) in which it is stated, “Communion requires alignment with the will of God first and foremost, which establishes our commonality with one another.” Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. The Global South document believes what makes us a community of faith is our “alignment with the will of God” and that that comes first.
Me, I believe that what makes us a community of faith is that we live in love with one another, and share our joys and sorrows, and in the breaking of bread, the saying of the prayers and that that fellowship will itself align us more and more with what God wanted for us all along.
This Communiqué will be used by those who wish to use it that way as a powerful voice of a majority of the worlds’ Anglicans. A fair amount of trumpeting is going on already, nicely enhanced by the sound bite of the Archbishop of Canterbury saying something like “the Network is part of the Anglican Communion.”
For the rest of us, it is that special mix of really bad theology and really good social concern. For us, let us pay positive attention to the social concerns voiced in this Communiqué, and let us take care to notice the consistent effort of radical evangelical leaders to claim that they are the legitimate heirs of the Anglican Communion. The way to deny them that claim is not to appear dead or worse instruments of appeasement.
Our worse possible stance is to become, as Ed Rodman says, “instruments of our own oppression.”