Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anglican Communion news: Episcopal Church House of Bishops rejects one of Primates' demands

The House of Bishops, meeting in Texas, was expected to deliberate. However, they have issued a clear response to one of the demands of the Anglican Primates, that we implement a pastoral scheme for dioceses in the Episcopal Church that feel they cannot remain part of the church. The scheme would have involved foreign Primates. Our House of Bishops rejected this scheme, describing it as injurious. Their statements are below.


Our Bishops spoke of a desire to remain "part of the councils of the Anglican Communion." The Archbishop of Nigeria, as well as his followers, is likely to do all he can to stop this from happening. I have no idea what the Archbishop of Canterbury will do; I think he will reduce our participation at the very least. I think that the Episcopal Church should be willing to live with this consequence.

Our Bishops also spoke of other relationships in the Communion, saying, "Indeed, we will seek to live fully into, and deepen, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Communion through companion relationships, the networks of Anglican women, the Anglican Indigenous Network, the Francophone Network, our support for the Anglican Diocese of Cuba, our existing covenant commitments with other provinces and dioceses, including Liberia, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and the Philippines, our work as The Episcopal Church in many countries around the world, especially in the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Taiwan, and countless informal relationships for mission around the world." This is very good; it reminds us that we are not just one church in isolation.

They also said, "We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject."

For those of us in the know, this statement was obviously aimed at Peter Akinola's support of the odious Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act in Nigeria. However, I do not believe it is clear enough. We should have mentioned Akinola by name, and the legislation by name. In May 2006, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada did so. (

We should name the perpertrators to make the rest of the Anglican Communion aware of this issue. I can only assume that Peter Akinola does not realize that he will be causing harm to LGBT Nigerians, and that the same goes of the other Global South Primates who have allied with him and who have not spoken out to our knowledge. The antidote to ignorance is plain speech, not oblique references.

The alternative is to assume that Peter Akinola is malicious, and does deliberately intend to do violence - this is not an assumption I am willing to make lightly of a Christian. If the case, then we need to confront that violence, directly and in plain speech.

And, how will an outside observer know what we're talking about if she reads the statement? How will LGBT Nigerians, already persecuted by their own Primate, know that we're really on their side?

Additionally, our Bishops say that the proposal "violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England." This reference to colonialism is iffy. I don't think the Church of England has ever had power over the Episcopal Church - we were started around the Revolutionary War, and we didn't call ourselves the Anglican Church to distinguish ourselves from the Brits (and to avoid lynchings). Certainly, no one exercises power over us now. I mention this because I don't want to unnecessarily offend Global South Anglicans, and they might legitimately ask, who are we to talk about colonialism?

Finally, on the liberal blogs in the Episcopal Church, some are crowing about how we've finally developed the courage to stand up to the ultraconservatives. This is no time to crow, or to celebrate anything. Our Bishops hope that we now can "turn our attention to the essence of Christ's own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18-19)." This is what we need to do. Perhaps we should only celebrate when LGBT Nigerians are safe from persecution - that would be when Nigeria's main "sodomy" law is repealed.

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