The Archbishop of Nigeria made some remarks at the Provincial of Nigeria Standing Committee meeting on February 22nd. They give some insight as to what the Archbishop thinks is going on vis a vis the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Westminster and the Church of England.
He has several things to say italicized and I will briefly comment on them, and particularly on the bold words as we go:
“THE ANGLICAN WORLD TODAY:
The crises emanating from the revisionist agenda twisting the clear teaching of the Bible in matters of human sexuality that started with the Provinces of the Anglican Church in Canada and the United States of America took a new dimension on December 5, 2005 as the Civil Partnership Act took effect in the United Kingdom and the first gay marriage was celebrated shortly before Christmas.
Clearly the months ahead will be very problematic and dangerous as the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion continues to be threatened by these unscriptural challenges. Some of you at the last General Synod will recall that we reported that “A significant outcome of the current crisis has been the need to cater for the spiritual needs of our teeming Nigerians in the USA who must not be abandoned to the vagaries of a confused ECUSA”.
--- Not to put too fine a point on it, but my understanding is that the Civil Partnerships Act is precisely NOT gay marriage (at least as far as the Church is concerned.) And, regarding “our teeming Nigerians,” with respect to the Archbishop, do we need to remind him that we are used to “teeming” crowds of people, aka “teeming,” yearning to breath free, and that part of that freedom is living in a society where confusion is a constant state of affairs due precisely to the vagaries of trying to live together with other teeming crowds from other shores.
Perhaps the Archbishop ought to read what is written on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” It’s great that Nigerians want to worship in their own church settings, but they came here from a “teeming shore” in order to live in this new place.
“I need to remind us all that the Church of Nigeria (as most provinces in Africa and Global South) is not in communion with ECUSA and the Diocese of Westminster, Canada. It is therefore illegal for any diocese or official of this Church to relate to ECUSA in any official capacity …
--- Well, so much for communion. Now we know what it means to be out of communion. It means, if I get it right, that any official relation by anyone in the Church in Nigeria with the Episcopal Church (the whole thing and all its parts) is cause for ecclesiastical sanction by Nigeria. Does the Archbishop suppose that the Bishop of Pittsburgh is NOT a part of the Episcopal Church? Or that members of the Network are NOT part of the Episcopal Church? The Archbishop ought then to be very careful about inviting the Moderator or others to Nigeria, lest in doing so there be matters of any “official” capacity engaged. Or, perhaps, the Network leadership is simply viewed by the Church of Nigeria as no longer part of the Episcopal Church. In which case the Network claim to be within the Episcopal Church fails, at least if Network officials accept such invitations.
“…Also a considerable number of American Bishops and clergy have indicated a desire to collaborate with the mission of the Church of Nigeria’s Mission to America known and called Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).”
--- One wonders if these bishops are aware that the Archbishop and the bishops who came here can not have official relations with them, since they are members in good standing of the Episcopal Church house of bishops, the Church with which it is illegal to have official relations?
Speaking of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) he opined,
“Another economic empowerment seminar for the Primates of CAPA as a follow up to the one held in Tanzania last September is scheduled for the 27-28 February in Nairobi. The goal is to accelerate the re-orientation of the Anglican Church in Africa from that of reliance and dependence on the West to self reliance and thereby freedom to proclaim the holistic Gospel in its purity.”
--- Well, now we have it, a clear difference between the Archbishop’s understanding of the need to work on self reliance. It is so that there will be freedom to proclaim “the holistic Gospel in its purity.” This of course blows holes in the prospect of renewed work on theological education throughout the Communion, lightens the load considerably on whether or not the Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Westminster or (one day) the Church of England ought to hold some of its mission funds for the work of the Church in Nigeria and other like minded Provinces. The answer is NO. Any such assistance would be an official engagement between the two churches and would hinder Nigeria’s freedom to proclaim the holistic Gospel in its purity.
The Archbishop’s message to the Standing Committee betrays a level of Calvinistic leanings that is counter to so much of what Anglicanism has worked for (sometimes quite badly) that it is clear that he does indeed belong to another Church. It remains to be seen if his continued “official” relations with some American Bishops constitutes a claim on their part to belong to some other church than the Episcopal Church as well.
Time will tell. Til then, we will just have to go on being impure and constantly in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. And while we are at it, let’s keep the doors open to those from every teeming shore, external and internal, anyway. Maybe they will stay and we will be glad. And the Archbishop will just have to make do.