6/18/2007

Kenya, the Suffragan and THE GRAND PLAN.

From The Washington Times, there is an article which quotes the Archbishop of Kenya:

" "We are just working as rescuers," Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said yesterday, referring to conservatives distressed by liberal trends in the Episcopal Church. "We needed someone there [in America] who understands their culture. I am not there for name and fame and to build myself."

…."Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams -- currently on sabbatical at Georgetown University -- refuses to recognize the African Anglican offshoots as part of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion. However, this hasn't stopped overseas archbishops from scooping up disenfranchised Episcopalians who at some point are expected to unite as a separate Anglican province. "The idea is that all these congregations will come together," the archbishop said. "Bill Atwood is really a man of God. He'll be a suffragan bishop in Kenya but our missionary bishop in America."


The Archbishop of Kenya refers to this as a "rescue mission," a phrase taken from a paper in response to a perceived failing of the Windsor Report concerning a request for a moratorium on jurisdictional boundary crossings. That paper argued that "well over two dozen instances of rescue effort to protect and further the proclamation of the Gospel" attest to both the reality of and need for such boundary crossings. That paper was written in 2004 and signed by five Archbishops, among them Archbishop Nzimbi. So this matter of a "rescue mission" is still being touted as a reason for not abiding by general practice.

More interestingly, Archbishop Nzimbi affirms the "Plan" that involves the notion / hope that "all these congregations will come together," and he affirms that although Atwood will be a suffragan bishop in Kenya he will be a missionary bishop in America (that is exercising, like Bishop Minns, the features of a missionary episcopate). So Atwood and Minns, AMiA bishops, and perhaps yet another from Uganda, will together constitute the beginnings of a church in the making, IF it can all be pulled together.

Over at Stand Firm Matt Kennedy has written a detailed scenario of a more general sense of the Grand Plan I outlined in my article, "Everybody is lining up, where's the bread."

He suggests that, "So far we see a group of provincial jurisdictions cooperating and acting in a somewhat coordinated fashion to achieve a unified end; an end, a goal, that is shared by at least one major domestic orthodox body, the Network." "I think we ought to hold off a bit on the 'alphabet soup' rhetoric. The assured tones with which some predict fragmentation and dissolution are overdone and, I believe, unjustified."

Among the differences between the two of us (and there are many) we at least are reading these tea leaves more or less the same way. He sees this as potential good news. I see it as a matter of watchfulness for the rest of us and potentially rather bad news.

Still, the track record for continuing and realignment church bodies acting in concert is not all that great. The arguments over the ordination of women are still there and reflected in Atwood's remarks where he was quick to point out that the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) is getting into the act because of a few differences, including their allowing the ordination of women. The article attributes the following to Mr. Atwood:

" … Mr. Atwood said he was told last month during a visit to Nairobi that his name was up for suffragan bishop and informed June 5 that the Kenyan House of Bishops had approved him. He said the 6-million-member Kenyan church decided to establish its own outreach on American soil because of a few differences -- it allows the ordination of women -- with other Africans."


We might then wonder if the poison of division, which goes back well before the current troubles, will arise again. Can there be a union among churches some of which will and others of which will not ordain women? And what about divorce and remarriage? Some of the divisions among the continuing churches that are part of the Common Cause Partners are long standing and entrenched.

Perhaps the Grand Plan can be pulled off. If so it will be by stages, each accompanied by some within the realignment groups that can't take it and move away from each other. In the end there may well be a new church in the United States formed of bishops of various Provinces who pull together. But there will be blood on the floor and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Canon Atwood's wee arrogance in a little remark is telling: "These people are currently under Kenyan bishops now and they don't want to surrender the distinctives (distinctiveness) of the Kenyan church. It has magnificent liturgies people are loving and using. People are not chess pieces to move around on a board." In some new configuration Bishop Atwood will have to dance again to a new tune. He knows a lot about moving around on the chess board, having moved from The Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone, to Kenya, and you can be sure that a united Anglican church of the totally pure and undefiled sort is NOT going to use Kenya's liturgy rather than, say, Nigeria's, rather than, say, some form of 1928, 1662 or whatever. No indeed, Canon Atwood. This is not the time to tout the wonders of Kenya's distinctiveness. Not if you are moving on.

The Grand Plan scenario has been a long time in the making. There are various suggestions that September 30th is the magic date when non-compliance leads to further action on the part of the Primates acting as the Anglican Communion. That is not going to happen. As a body the Primates have lost their footing. Some portion of the Primates may act, and they may move together to form a new church in the United States. But the Primates as a group are now part of the disarray, not an ordered community.

The September meeting of the Network, the various bishops of other Provinces, Continuing Churches, and Common Cause Partners is a more interesting break point. It is based on the presumption that the September meeting of the House of Bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury will not yield results to their liking. That being the case the Grand Plan will have its further refinement worked out at that meeting. Of course, if the meeting of the House of Bishops with the Archbishop and those accompanying him works out a way to at least get to Lambeth more or less in one piece, the Realignment crowd will be caught out clearly as the spoilers. For the September Network confab to work the assumption of Episcopal Church failure must be in place early on.

So the Grand Plan consists right now of the realignment crowd being very busy making new bishops for new communities of dispossessed, disowned, and generally disgusted ex- Episcopalians, and of the weaving of new webs in the hopes that someone will think what is woven will look like a unified Anglicanism in North America. There will be considerable wringing of hands and cries of pain. There will be loud and long cries of unfair treatment.

The Grand Plan will consist this summer of considerable whining and probably the announcement of one or two other ordinations of bishops.

But be forewarned: I have said this before and it needs to be said again. This business of making new bishops in America supposedly part of other Provinces is a shell game. Concentrate on the fact of the bishops, all US based, all free to associate on a missionary basis with one another. Never mind that one is of Nigeria, one of Kenya, some of Rwanda. They are all here. And one day they will sit down and someone will say, "I've got an idea! Let's put on a play!" It will be good to stay alert, for if the play gets put on we will have to contend with the usurpers festival, and it will make it seem like a new day. If this play gets put on there will be plenty of purple, lots of high powered pomp, plenty of singing and enthronement ceremony. The play will seem so real.

My sense is the play, even if produced, will not be a sell-out. It will play for a while, and provided it does not get good reviews from the regular crowd, it will die down and become part of the background noise of the so-called continuing churches. There will continue to be considerable wreckage and in the ruins will be the Grand Plan.

And then Kenya, and Atwood and the Grand Plan will be yesterday's news. Tomorrow's news will be perhaps better, with the arms of Jesus spread wide to encompass the whole world, and all the people, including the players and the holy ones of past failed performances.


5 comments:

  1. "We are just working as rescuers," Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi

    Listen buddy, if you do much more "rescuing" you're actually going to cause a civil war...first in the U.S.A. and then in your Kenyan outpost of excluding, hate, fear, demoralizing, damning and loathing of LGBT Christians and others.

    Saviour, you're not.

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  2. "Rescuers"? What, pray tell, is Archbishop Nzimbi rescuing American Anglicans from? And how is setting up a missionary bishop a rescue strategy? Atwood's not taking anybody back with him to Kenya. What's more, I can hardly imagine Americans letting a third-world country rescue them from anything (recall Bush even refusing first-world countries' aid after Hurricane Katrina).

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  3. Why does this bother you so much??? It seems to me that all the threatening and posturing is coming from 815, and the "Porgressive" side. Civil War??? Only if you start it.

    And Brian-- Rescued?? Yes! Rescued from HERETICAL, yes heretical bishops and teaching that is so far from the faith handed down from the Apostles that I don't understand how many of you can any longer call yourselves a Christian. ie. An Episcopal priest/muslim???? What's next!

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  4. Hi Mark,

    You probably have already read this article by Nicholas M. Healy from the Anglican Theological Review (Winter 2006) but I just came across it, "as one untimely born," and I was so impressed by it that I posted it on my blog. The way you ended your post reminded me of this passage from Healy's article:

    So I think our only hope in this situation is to take Barth's advice and turn away a bit from talking about the church to talk more about God. And when we do talk about church, as of course we must, let us heed his warning and ground whatever we say upon the working of the Holy Spirit of Christ, rather than upon theories of human subjectivity or human communal flourishing. Certainly we will need such theories, whether theological or otherwise, but only after we have at least begun to sort out the important thing: how the church is related to the triune God.

    Let us recall a key theological principle, stressed by Barth, though just as well known to premodern Christians, namely that only God reveals God. As Barth put it, God is always subject as well as object. Our discernment of the Spirit is a gift of the Spirit to us, for our salvation, for the Spirit reveals itself only as it chooses. From this principle it follows that there should be an element of prayer in all exercise of the church's established offices, structures, and institutions to discern the working of the Spirit. And, indeed, this epicletic moment is acknowledged in some form or other within all the churches.

    But this principle has further implications that have not, I think, been sufficiently explored within modern ecclesiology. It is here that we may find some guidance for the path ahead.


    He goes on to provide some guidance and concludes that "...our task...is calmly and prayerfully to hope and trust in the promises of Christ and in the working of his Spirit, rather than to put our trust in something we have made."

    Thank you for reminding us, as the end of your own post, of the difference between a play that we put on and the drama of salvation, of which God is the Director.

    MM

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  5. Brian asked: "What, pray tell, is Archbishop Nzimbi rescuing American Anglicans from?" Here's a few good examples - bishops who deny the divinity or uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world, priests who are tolerated in their positions for many years as practising pagans / druids (Bill and Glyn Melnyk in Pennsylvania), and now a priest in Washington State who claims to also be a Muslim (Anne Holmes Redding - http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/3831/). How on earth can such heretics be allowed to continue in teaching positions in a Christian church? God's people need rescuing from such idiots.

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