Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dear Archbishop Chew,

On the Church of Nigeria's website, there is a report that several Primates, yourself included, refused to share Holy Eucharist with the other Primates in Tanzania today. The report said, on behalf of the dissenting Primates, that this action was taken as a reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion, and that it was a consequence of each province declaring its relationship with the Episcopal Church to be severely broken or impaired. It was also reported that you and Archbishop Peter Akinola met with Archbishop Rowan Williams before the Primates' Meeting started, apparently in an attempt to convince him to exclude the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Archbishop John Sentamu, from the Meeting.

This action pains me. As I understand it, the act of breaking bread together at Communion is what unifies us. We Anglicans do not demand uniformity of doctrine before coming to Communion. Some have accused the Episcopal Church of walking apart, but I have to wonder why it is seven Primates from the Global South who chose to walk apart at Communion. I also wonder why it's only seven this year - I recall more Primates chose to walk apart at the last Primates' Meeting.

The letter on the Church of Nigeria's website cites two passages of Scripture, Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, that purport to justify this decision. These passages tell us what to do or what will happen if we, individually, have unsettled grudges or are otherwise unworthy to receive Communion. They do not instruct us to judge others to see if they are worthy or not, and then to walk away or refuse them Communion. As I understand it, judging is God's job, not ours. Additionally, in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."

I was born in Singapore, your Diocese, and attended Anglican High School. I was actually raised Methodist, but my church also taught me that homosexuals were sinful and could change. However, I came to the US to study, and I met lesbian and gay Christians in the Episcopal Church and others, who were trying to live out their lives in accordance with God's will. I saw the love and faithfulness in their relationships. I also saw how the Episcopal Church was struggling to reconcile its understanding of the Bible with the witness of its gay and lesbian laypeople and clergy. I believe that the Windsor Report calls us to a listening process. Frankly, I see that many Global South leaders have failed to listen. Instead, they have insulted us by demanding that our duly-elected Primate be excluded from the Primates' Meeting. They have insulted us, as your predecessor did, by claiming that they do not recognize us as brothers and sisters in Christ unless we repent.

The Episcopal Church is not choosing to walk apart. We are trying to give all our members a place at the table while remaining in communion with other Anglicans worldwide. In frustration at the refusal to listen, some in my church are starting to get frustrated, and saying that we are better off without the rest of the Anglican Communion. Would you be willing to listen to their stories, and perhaps prove them wrong?

Finally, I have to remind you that your colleague, Abp Akinola, supports Nigerian legislation that would criminalize any attempt to advocate on behalf, or perhaps even meet with, gays and lesbians. The penalty proposed is five years in prison. Sodomy is already illegal in Nigeria, and carries a penalty of fourteen years in prison. The proposed legislation is widely recognized as a violation of human rights. Will you, as a Christian, stand by while your fellow Christian allows this to happen? All Anglicans should condemn this proposed legislation, and should in fact call for Nigeria to end the penalty against sodomy. Even if it is a sin, it should not fall under the purview of criminal law, or else we might as well imprison people for adultery or pre-marital sex.

Archbishop Chew, whether you recognize me as a brother in Christ or not is immaterial. I recognize you as my brother in Christ, and I ask you to consider if your actions were justified. I also invite you to respond to me, and to engage in dialogue with my Presiding Bishop, to whom I have copied this email.

Weiwen Ng
Canterbury House, University of Michigan Episcopal Student Ministry

[If he responds, I'll post it here, as well as my reply. I also copied our Presiding Bishop's office on this one. Let's see what happens. Keep in mind, though, Singaporean leaders don't tend to be very responsive to criticism.]


obadiahslope said...

I wonder if you plan to write to the Bishop of Maryland as well?

Weiwen Ng said...

I do. By the logic outlined in my post, +Ihloff should continue to invite Abp Akrofi, and he should encourage his parishioners to take Communion with the Archbishop. It should be up to the Archbishop to decide not to come, or not to give Communion.

A differential of power comes into play here. +Ihloff is a bishop in a Western nation, which continues to colonize Africa (not literally, but culturally and economically). Disinviting Abp Akrofi reinforces that power dynamic. This is NOT what Christians are about.

As much as I condemn the GS Primates who walked out, their actions were those of equals to equals. There is little real harm that they can inflict on TEC. Now, if they successfully pressure the Anglican Communion to expell TEC, that's another story. The border crossings are harmful from an ecclesiological standpoint, but the chances that they will make off with actual Episcopal property are not that good. In any case, I haven't heard of Abp Akrofi crossing our borders.

I do have to wonder: Robert Ihloff at least leans liberal, because he did vote to endorse Gene Robinson's consecration; if Abp Akrofi chose to walk apart at the Primates' Meeting, he would also have reason not to visit the Diocese of Maryland. That's not relevant to the situation, though; he can decide for himself whether to come or not.