9/22/2006

A Modest Suggestion regarding Archbishop Akinola

Stephen Bates, one of my favorite British writers on religion just wrote an essay “A Match Made in Heaven” While the front edge of the article concerns the new biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the possibility that he could have been made Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen turns to other matches and whimsically suggests the following intriguing, if disturbing idea:

“Currently a number of US dioceses are demanding alternative archiepiscopal oversight because they cannot stomach the idea of a liberal, female presiding bishop being elected. I would make the modest suggestion that Archbishop Akinola should be appointed to that role. I am sure he would be very congenial to them and he would certainly offer them firm leadership, with no tolerance of dissent. They could then walk apart from more liberal Anglicans safe in their own theological certainty and self-righteousness.”

The Plus: The realignment crowd would get what they deserve. Oversight could get quite unsightly.

The Minus: We would get one more foreign prelate distracting us from better things; this time actually walking his dogs in our front yard, pooping about with great abandon, messing the lawn.

On the whole, no thank you Stephen. Great whimsy, devilishly funny, but we couldn’t accept him, you know, because of the dreaded resolution BO (hold your nose and vote)33 (thanks to Elizabeth Keaton for this).

The stark reality is that Bishop Akinola’s “manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Oh Well!

Stephen Bates got it right: if someone had the guts to do so, Nigeria could be expelled from the Communion for a “clear violation of the Anglican Communion's own policy towards homosexuals (as well as an offence against Christian charity.)” The Bishop of Washington has spoken up, as has the Episcopal Majority, and Fr. Jake, and several others and I. But perhaps it will take the House of Bishops a while longer.

As it is, the Archbishop of Nigeria and the Church of Nigeria have so strained the bonds of affection and communion that they are not in communion with the Episcopal Church, and it would appear not in agreement with whatever mind the Anglican Communion now possesses.

Bravo Stephen Bates, Hurray for Archbishop Tutu. Everybody else get off the grass.

2 comments:

  1. For me, doctrine is about the reality of God. Theology is our attempt to understand that reality. The Church is primarily concerned with the reality of God. It is concerned with other things, two of which are ecclesiology and morality, but these are matters that are the result of our theological guesses. They are not primary objectives of the Church. Unlike the reality of God they undergo changes, just as our understanding of the reality of God changes (the fact that many people within the church have a sixteenth century view of scripture rather than that of the first century is proof of this fact).

    At the moment, two factions within the Church are attempting to make one different change each. Radical and liberal Christians are trying to change the Church's traditional attitude towards gay people. This is a moral issue - it does not effect the reality of God though it should change our understanding of the reality of God. The other faction is trying to get the Church to abandon its ancient practice of bishops being contained within the boundaries of their own dioceses. This is an ecclesialogical matter which, again does not effect the reality of God but may, if adopted by the Church, lead us to understand God as being about power and about being unyielding.

    It would seem sensible to me that this second challenge to the tradition of the Church must be stopped in its tracks immediately or accepted wholesale. This is because we cannot have the proper discussion concerning the former proposed change if we are either going to accept, or be forced to live with, the latter proposal.

    When you look back over the history of our faith you discover that, from the very beginning, bishops have tried to acquire more authority than is their due. The pope is the prime example of such abuse, so are archbishops and cardinals. However, on the whole, our ancestors in the faith, such as Theodore of Tarsus, whose life we celebrated in our calendar this week, have managed to keep the number of permanent abuses under some sort of control, and most diocesan boundaries remain boundaries.

    I find it ironical that many seeking alternative oversight are those from a tradition based on the teachings of the leaders of the Reformation. The Reformation was, primarily (and yes it was) about resistance to the bishop of Rome's campaign to gain more and more power for his office. People forget how independent bishops were before the high middle ages.

    So, on with the New Reformation!

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  2. Who Akinola speaks for and who he doesn't is debatable, but he does wield considerable power. He demands obedience and issues ultimatums and I question whether Canterbury has the will to stand up to him. When/if he wins this battle to have TEC excluded from the AC, what’s next? Will Akinola decide he wants to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury? And if he does, would that be an Anglican Communion anyone would want to be a part of?

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