I listen to part of a press conference this afternoon/morning from GAFCON. Archbishops Venerables and Jensen were the “panel” to which questions from the media were directed. I hear and read a lot from Venerables and Jensen these days, but little from Akinola.
Riazat Butt, the religion writer from the Guardian (UK), writes a very interesting article entitled, “At Gafcon, who calls the shots?” asking why white, Westerners now seem to be the public face of GAFCON when this was supposed to have been Akinola’s and Africans’ day. I think this observation and her questions carry weight, primarily because Butt is a she, non-white, non-Christian (she is Muslim), and with difficulty can be dismissed as simply a “white, male, Westerner” being all “colonial” towards the “diminished” rest-of-the-world.
It was Canon Vinay Samuel, from India, who accused Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury of not trusting the intelligence of developing churches. The situation is hardly any better at Gafcon, where white conservatives are slowly but surely calling the shots and squeezing their African brothers out of the picture.
The eight-day gathering… was set to be the Archbishop Peter Akinola show, until his unfortunate use of the word apostate had the more media savvy prelates cringing into their prayer books.
The explanation given was that Akinola came from a different cultural context and didn’t fully understand the impact of what he was saying. The same explanation was given for the African archbishops’ silence on acts of torture.
Akinola, previously described as a luminary of the conservative movement, has now been hidden away until Sunday afternoon…
Gafcon has not been the first time that western clergy have stepped in on behalf of the African primates. Where does interpretation stop and manipulation start? There are concerns over the way the African archbishops project themselves and such a guiding hand is, at best, good public relations and, at worse, patronising. If these men are held in such high regard then they should speak in their own words, without any help.”
I wonder the same thing. A situation arose where North American and British leaders of the Church who are absolutely opposed to homosexuality found in their brethren in parts of the Global South, which now has numeric superiority over the “West,” like-minded determination to forbid the entire Church from accommodating people in same-sex relationships in their midst. What they failed to realize, IMHO, and because particularly Americans fail to recognize from the beginning the significance of “culture,” is that while these non-Western bishops will fight with them, the non-Westerners have very different understandings of all manner of things that will rub Western sensibilities the wrong way.
Now, the apparent gulf of difference between Western and African culture and sensibilities are becoming more and more apparent. The white, male, Western anti-same-sex-relationship bishops and leadership are re-asserting themselves because the culturally-different, straight forward, and uncompromising statements by some of the Global South primates/bishops and leaders won’t really fly in the West, thus weakening the Westerners’ overall position in their home provinces.
In the fateful press conference â€“ regarding torture â€“ Akinola said that what was permissible in one culture was not permissible in another, without realising that same-sex unions have become the norm in western society and should therefore be accommodated in the same way that discriminatory legislation and treatment of homosexuals are par for the course in some African countries.
If the white bishops can turn a blind eye to polygamy and persecution then surely the courtesy should be returned. Gafcon is heading for a clash of civilisations, with the northern and southern hemispheres each trying to assert their superiority. And that’s before you get to the rumour about Gafcon being a done deal months ago, with little or no Nigerian input, or the rivalries between the Nigerians and Ugandans, with them trying to out-do each other when praying.
Perhaps like-mindedness between Western “conservatives” and Africans regarding issues of morals and Scriptural interpretation, but certainly disparate understandings of how it is all applied within social and political contexts – very, very different social and political contexts.