Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anglican Primates meeting in Tanzania, likely to be acrimonious, Anglican Communion might split

First off, for my non-Anglican readers, a Primate is the chief bishop of a province, which spans one or more countries. Anglican, Catholic, etc Primates are not to be confused with primate: mammal of the order that includes lemurs, bush monkeys, tarsiers, marmosets, monkeys, apes, and humans, although of course it is true that all Primates are primates. This distinction caused a moment of levity when some friends and I were discussing evolution over lunch, and one of them made a non sequitur about the outgoing (Anglican) Primate of Australia.

Some conservative leaders are meeting before the actual meeting starts. Davis Mac-Iyalla, of Changing Attitude (Nigeria), met personally with Abp Peter Akinola (whom I have excoriated mercilessly on this blog). CA is a global LGBT organization. Davis is gay, and Nigerian. Davis is appealing to the Primates, "in the name of God," to oppose the legislation in Nigeria that would criminalize advocacy by and on behalf of the LGBT community there. He has previously received death threats for his work in Nigeria. Please pray for his safety. At least this time, Akinola didn't run away.

Meanwhile, some Global South leaders have suggested that they would not sit at the same table as the Episcopal Church's new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Some want to harangue her, and/or eject her from the meeting. Their reasons are, I believe, a combination of her gender, her support for LGBT rights including ordination and marriage, and her relatively liberal theology. I hope they will reconsider. They will make themselves look un-Christian if they do so.

Lastly, an article by Stephen Bates in the Guardian is instructive. Take his article with a pinch of salt, but Bates makes the case that Akinola is motivated by power, consciously or not. He has (very, very sadly) replaced Desmond Tutu as the most prominent African Anglican leader, and his agenda is primarily condemning homosexuality rather than condemning evil.

"In the past, this biannual meeting [Ed: Primates' Meeting] of the world's 38 Anglican primates has been a congenial, consensual affair: a chance for prayers and discussions and getting to know each other. The last time they took a vote was in 1981, and that was a unanimous vote of thanks. But two years ago, at their last gathering in Northern Ireland, the developing-world primates turned on the Americans and Williams because of the gay issue. They refused Williams's plea that they should attend communion together - an unprecedented snub - and one white primate told me he had been shocked to overhear Akinola telling his colleagues about Williams: "He'll do what we tell him.""

"Today it will be Akinola calling the shots among the bishops gathered in Tanzania, and he is enjoying his new-found eminence. After more than a century of being patronised, overlooked and ignored by their white proselytisers, the church's black brethren are not going to take it any more. And none is more powerful than Akinola. " [Ed: Rowan Williams technically calls the shots at the actual Primates' Meeting; Bates means Akinola is calling the shots now, when the conservatives are gathered.],,2012434,00.html

Frankly, Akinola is acting as if we in the West are trying to sodomize him and his fellow Africans. The Episcopal Church's actions are perceived as arrogant and unilateral. Indeed, America's actions around the world are perceived in the same way. In some way, we are paying the price for cultural and religious colonization of the Global South, and for denying them their rightful place in Anglican (and other) polity. Colonialism is often perceived in similar ways as sexual violence. This is NOT to excuse Akinola's actions; they are evil, plain and simple. However, Americans and others in the West need to put them in context. Too many times, we have acted with arrogance and paternalism. When we get through this, we have to remember never to do so again. Else, the tables may turn on us.

And by the way, there's a little bit about Nolbert Kunonga in the article (I've previously singled Kunonga out for fire and judgment on account of his corruption):

"Some English bishops rush to defend the archbishop. He is in fierce competition, they say, for souls, and lives, in a region where militant Islam is also on the march - as is charismatic Christian Pentecostalism. Yet curiously, Akinola seems much more obsessed with what gay white men get up to than with some of the abuses in Africa. He has uttered not a word of condemnation of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare, a crony of the Mugabe regime, who has been accused by his own black parishioners of seizing white property, evicting black farm workers, and calling for the assassination of his church opponents. Indeed, Akinola invited Kunonga to address a plenary session of the All African Conference of Bishops."

As for Peter Akinola, he is a disgrace upon the Anglican Communion, Christianity in Africa, and Christ's holy catholic church. He may very well go his own way, and secede from the Anglican Communion. My first reaction might be to celebrate, but this maniac will lead millions of Nigerian Christians and other African Christians astray on a road of hate, arrogance, and willful ignorance. God will judge him on the last day, but it's going to be too late for too many people.

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