8/02/2008

The Birds are Gathering, thinking there are bones to pick

The Lambeth Conference is not over yet. There is still time for final gatherings, Eucharist and a last sharing of the peace of the Lord. It appears that for many there it has been a time of reflection, deepening relationships and sharing of peace, perhaps peace that passes understanding.

But now on Saturday night (Sunday very early in England) the reports are coming in: the birds are gathering over the carcass, picking at the clothing, soon to pick at the body itself.

The Southern Cone pecks away:

Bishop Venables on Anglican TV opines about the end of the Lambeth Conference as we know it, and of the Anglican Communion as ordered by the so called "Instruments of Communion."

The Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East gets to peck away as well:

The Bishops of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, that is + Mouneer Egypt, +Derek Eaton, +Andrew Proud, had several things to say in a night before the end of Lambeth statement, among them,

"It is with great sadness however that we remember those who for the sake of conscience are unable to be with us. We think of those from Provinces and Dioceses who felt it would not be appropriate to be present on account of the unilateral actions taken by the Episcopal Church in America in breach of the Resolution 1.10 of the last Lambeth Conference now again reaffirmed as still expressing the mind of the church as a whole. We share their sense of pain that such unilateralism has so strained the bonds of our unity as to leave them now still impaired."

Readers might be interested to know that these are three bishops from one diocese that covers the area all across Norther Africa and down the Horn, with very slim numbers, congregations and people. Estimates of the total number of members is quite small. The estimate for the whole of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, of which it is a part, is 35,000 members. Even with the influx of refugees I believe we are talking about 5,000 total in the area of the Diocese. The parishes of the church are : Egypt, Cairo, All Saints’ Cathedral; Ma’adi, St John the Baptist; Old Cairo, Jesus Light of the World; Giza, The Good Shepherd; Heliopolis, St Michael and All Angels; Alexandria, St Mark with All Saints; Port Said, The Epiphany; Menouf, St Mark; Algeria, Algiers, Holy Trinity*; Tunisia, Tunis, St George, Libya,Tripoli. Christ the King; Ethiopia Addis Ababa, St Matthew. Gambella, St Luke; Eritrea, Asmara, St George, Somalia and Djibouti, Mogadishu, Christ Church* (the * indicate churches where it is not possible because of unrest to have chaplains.

This list comes from the Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association. You will notice the use of the term "chaplain." Sometimes this term is used so that the persons in place can be there without hassle from the governments in place. But often, and in particular in countries where there is only one church it indicates a chaplaincy primarily to foreigners and refugees. Important here is the fact that perhaps 80% of the members are refugees from the Sudan. In the breath of the work of the Diocese a very large part of the constituency are people who are not indigenous.

None of this, by the way, takes away from the very difficult and important work done by the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. But it does underline that only a small portion of the members of the church are indigenous to the countries in which these churches are placed. The Bishop of Egypt who is also Presiding Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, slammed the terrible Americans earlier in the week. I see this more and more clearly a means of asserting his leadership in the Global South. Bishop Derek Eaton is his assistant bishop for Egypt with oversight for North Africa (originally bishop in New Zealand and involved in the Latemier Foundation and many years in Tunisia) and Bishop Andrew Proud ( a USPG Mission Companion, made bishop in 2007) is bishop for the Horn of Africa. I understand he has been recovering from an accident and this report at least suggests he made it to Lambeth. I hope so.

The Global South joined the gathering swarm:

The Global South couldn't resist adding a new resolution from a group of the bishops from their dioceses not actually signed on yet. The Global South web page has a tendency to post statements with signatures still not in hand. In this one, published tonight, we read,

"We gather at a critical time when the Anglican Communion as a communion of ordered churches is at the probable brink of collapse. We are encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s First Presidential Address, and the related presentations by the Anglican Covenant Design Group and the Windsor Continuation Group to the Conference at the opening evening of the Conference. We expect all attending this Conference at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the words of his Advent 2007 Letter, to be willing and accepting “to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant”.

We deeply regret that during the Conference proceedings substantial theological voices outside of the Western world have not been present in the evening plenary sessions of the Lambeth Conference. We are concerned with the continuing patronising attitude of the West towards the rest of the churches worldwide. We regret attempts to cause divisions and break the bonds between churches in the Global South, and are distressed that the realities in our churches are often misrepresented and misunderstood in the West.

...

We were encouraged that the Global South Primates’ Steering Committee at its meeting in March 2008 has agreed to consult one another after GAFCON (June 2008) and Lambeth (July 2008) on how to move the global Anglican Communion substantially and effectively forward. We look forward to the 4th South-to-South Encounter on a broadened representation sometime in 2009. We are encouraged that the emphases will be on the pastoral and missional needs for focused leadership and development, the deepening of collegial foundation and framework for the transformation and renewal of the Anglican Communion.

We are committed to work together with one another in the Global South and with all orthodox groups in the United States of America and Canada: to listen together to what Lord Jesus says to his church today, to draw strength and insights from one another, and to take fresh initiatives in upholding and passing on the faith once delivered to the saints."

You can read the whole thing HERE.

But the idea is clear: the Global South group is committed to GAFCON's basic premise, namely that there will be need to "deepen the collegial foundation and friendship for the transformation and renewal of the Anglican Communion," work with so called "orthodox" groups in the US and Canada and "take fresh initiative in upholding and passing on the faith once delivered to the saints."

There it is again: they have the "orthodox" faith, you know, the one "once delivered to the saints." They have it and they will organize with their kin in the US and make for a new Anglican presence in North America. These birds are picking at the bones.

Not to be undone, two bishops in England have pounced, twittering away as well. The Telegraph reports that the bishops Winchester and Exeter have called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to oversee an "orderly separation" between the liberal and conservative communities in the Anglican Communion.

Well it goes on and on. There was also something from the bishops of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), but I can't find it at the moment.

The upshot of all this is that bishops, and in particular Primates, are positioning themselves for upcoming meetings where they will have to be purer than the driven snow, vocal and will need to assert that they said important things at Lambeth time. It is the moment when various factions need to get their points in so that they are part of the movers and shakers in the grind that is to come.

Interestingly enough there is no word yet from the Common Cause Partnership.

The birds are gathering and taking choice places so that when they all agree the last breath of Lambeth has been exhaled they will reach forward. It will not be a pretty sight and there will be blood on the feathers and a new gang in town speeding around and generally making lots of noise about finally being able to be a real bible based church that talks about Jesus Christ, etc.

Meanwhile, back in church on Sunday...you know, the churches where we all end up going, there will be prayers for the whole lot of them, prayers for our beloved Anglican Communion, for our own Primate, for our Bishop, and for all of those who do ministry in His Name. Shortly we will be able to welcome home our own bishops and Primates and welcome them back into the place of ministry to which they were called.

And it will be Sunday, where the table is set and people come, where the Word is preached, sometimes using words, and we receive with thanksgiving and get about the business of being the people of God in place. It will feel about right. The bishops at Lambeth will be at Church too. All church is local..they will have a bigger choir. I hope their Eucharist is a blessing to them as ours will be to us, wherever we will be.



2 comments:

  1. Fr. Harris - A brilliant post; you said it so well. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You know, I've met ++Rowan and respect him as a fine man of God and as a theologian. However, I can't help but notice the parallels between his constant efforts at reconciliation and Neville Chamberlain waiving a piece of paper in the air and proclaiming "peace in our time" right before the start of WWII.

    These men are clandestinely well-funded bullies out to take over the communion. Period. It is well past time for the bulk of the communion to wake up and realize that they are thugs who won't stop at anything to dominate.

    History has shown us that you can't negotiate with bullies and thugs, you can either fight back or you sequester them from civilized society. If we have a more clear understanding of Scripture, then it is our responsibility to fight back using that understanding. Turning the other cheek DOES NOT mean allowing oneself to be a punching bag; it means something quite different and it's time we started acting within the parameters of what Jesus really meant. I'll explain this to anyone who's interested. However, I would suggest a very easy to read book called, "Don't Forgive Too Soon," which spells out what I'm driving at.

    ReplyDelete

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