The CAPA All Africa Bishops Conference meeting in Entebee, Uganda included some 400 bishops and invited guests and observers. Among those invited guests were several Archbishops and bishops not part of CAPA, including of course The Archbishop of Canterbury.
In addition, the ACNA webpages noted that Archbishop Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America and several of ACNA's bishops were in attendance. The ACNA article reports,
"Archbishop Robert Duncan, Bishop Martyn Minns, Bishop John Guernsey and Bishop Bill Atwood are among the Anglican Church in North America leaders who are attending the event. “The Anglican Church is expanding everywhere in Africa. There are now some 400 dioceses spread across the continent. As Archbishop I am here to learn and to stand in solidarity with this vigorous gospel mission,” said Archbishop Duncan. As the leader of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Duncan was included with the other Anglican primates (leaders of Anglican provinces) during the opening Eucharist, and shared in the distribution of communion, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams."
ACNA Archbishop Duncan, deposed in The Episcopal Church and holding orders as Archbishop in the new ACNA church, is not an Archbishop in the Anglican Communion. Neither he nor the church he leads have officially become part of the Anglican Communion. Never the less, there he is: He was included with other Anglican Primates in the opening Eucharist and "shared in the distribution of communion, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury..."
The article then notes that he, as well as Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia, have also been invited to sit with the primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) during their meetings.
|Bishops and Primates attending the All Africa Bishops Meeting|
The photograph accompanying the article says a great deal: Seated in this picture are mostly the Primates, in vestments. In the center is the Archbishop of Canterbury, looking to his left, apparently at Duncan. On his far left is ACNA Archbishop Duncan looking to the right, apparently at Williams. The other Primate present, Archbishop Chew is at the ABC's far right, looking forward.
I wonder what each was thinking as their gaze fell on the other?
There is no question that the ABC knows full well that Archbishop Duncan is present and considered by the CAPA Primates as at least on the same level as Archbishop Chew - an Anglican Communion Primate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was an invited guest and he had neither authority to invite or disinvite. He did, however, have the right to attend or not and to remark or not on the presence of the ACNA delegation and its Archbishop.
He of course chose to attend.
He apparently did not chose to make any comment about ACNA's presence and acceptance by the African Bishops as participants in the meeting.
There is no report of any comment concerning ACNA presence among the primates of Africa, no comment concerning the bishops irregularly ordained in cross- boundary violation, no stepping back from full engagement. He gazed across the way at the Archbishop of ACNA, who gazed back. Not a word was forthcoming then or later.
The ABC did take occasion to say, "It has been said that this is going to be the African century of the Christian Church in terms of energy and growth and vision. God raises up different countries and cultures in different seasons to bear witness to his purpose in a specially marked way, and it may be that this is indeed his will for Africa in the years ahead.
“And if the churches of Africa are indeed going to be for this time a city set on a hill, how very important it will be for the health and growth of all God’s churches throughout the world that this witness continues at its best and highest.”
Readers, please note that the Archbishop did not say that "this century will be the African century of the Christian Church." He did say that if this is so then it needs to be itself at its best and highest. This has already been inaccurately quoted.
There is little doubt that the population of Africa will grow considerably as will the number of persons who are Christian in Africa. It is not at all clear how many of them will be recognizably Anglican, or in any sense related to the ancient churches of the west or east. It is not at all clear if the leadership of the churches in many parts of Africa will escape the temptations to corruption that are rampant in many countries in Africa. The bishops will indeed need to be the church at its best and highest if they hope to address in meaningful ways the many problems of the various countries in Africa.
At present what seems to be the case is that there is a good deal of post-colonial posturing going on about how the West is decadent.
In an interview with The Nation (Kenya),The host Archbishop Henry Orumbi made no bones about it:
"Homosexuality is incompatible with the word of God," Orombi said. "It is good (that) Archbishop Rowan is here. We are going to express to him where we stand. We are going to explain where our pains are." Orombi also said that disputes over homosexuality had already divided the global Anglican community. "There is already a break. It doesn't need to be announced. It is in the way people act," he said.
In the same article Archbishop Earnest also stated, "Today, the West is lacking obedience to the word of God,"...
"It is for us (Africans) to redress the situation," he said, adding that he has severed all ties to the Episcopalian churches in Canada and the US that have allowed gays to enter the clergy."
This is mostly posturing. In whatever status they came there were observers from The Episcopal Church Center, from Trinity Church and from Episcopal Relief and Development present. It has already been reported that grants from Trinity Church have helped underwrite the meeting.
So there is a bit of bishop posturing going on - in the remarks of several primates from Africa and perhaps too from the Archbishop of Canterbury. They say the West is decedent and they will have none of it. The ABC says it may be the century of the African church. He sits in a central chair and looks across the way at the Archbishop of ACNA. It is all posturing.
Hopefully they will now get to work and try to address the needs of the suffering in Africa.
But meanwhile, let us be clear: So long as the Archbishop of Canterbury does not stop this mess it will only get worse. Either ACNA is or is not a church part of the Anglican Communion and every occasion such as this one is a vote on the ground for it being a de facto church in the Communion. If the ABC has any intention of countering vote on the ground he needs at least to remark on the unusual circumstances in which he has found himself, as an invited guest. At the very least he needs to make it clear that this conference can invite who it wishes but that it has no bearing on what churches are part of the Anglican Communion.
And then, supposing there is any spine left, perhaps he might suggest at some point that while there might be some joy in spitting on the churches of the West in a sort of post-colonial spit-fest, it's not all that helpful or honest to say that the Churches of Africa will have nothing to do with them (He and us alike.) Anathema is a harsh acid and is it turns on those who hurl it and disfigures them as well.