The charge of “colonial structures”

One thing to consider concerning the African Anglican provinces and their conceptualization of the expression of the Christian faith beyond their creation by Anglican-Evangelical missionary societies is this: perhaps the greatest growth in numbers of Christians of both indigenous and foreign denominations in Africa is among the very American “Prosperity Gospel” organizations. Within the South American context, American Pentecostals and Charismatic denominations and organizations predominate. American missionary endeavors have been very, very successful, even in influencing non-Evangelical or non-Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. These dynamic and explosive movements cannot help but influence Anglicanism within African and South American provinces, particularly when many Africans see themselves as being in competition with Islam. This seems as culturally bound on their own part as is their accusation that Northern Hemisphere or “Western” Anglicans have capitulated to the same culture concerning homosexuality.
I think we can see the influence in the very Evangelical leanings of the GAFCON statement, particularly in its denial of the centrality of the See of Canterbury as being essential to true Anglican identity. In their formulation of Anglicanism, it ceases being a “Church Catholic” and becomes just another “Protestant denomination” that follows Anglican liturgical norms. This new denomination will be predominately Charismatic and American-Evangelical and if Anglo-Catholics are tolerated, it will be only a shallow toleration.
Their insistence on following the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (very Protestant) and especially the Thirty-Nine Articles (not only quite Protestant, but quite Calvinist/Reformed) make this move even more apparent.
Someone commented on the posting of the Jerusalem Declaration by Ruth Gledhill of the TimesOnline (UK) that, “This is the Oxford Movement in reverse… which wanted to get back to the 1549 [BCP].” and “There are so many holes in this document, and so much self deception… it is hard to believe that this forms a credible basis for unity and orthodoxy. It avoids key areas…and is a mockery of the 39 articles, when it includes bishops who openly repudiate the injunctions in the articles.”
The titled of Gledhill’s piece is: “A very ‘Anglican’ schism.”
I don’t see traditionalist Anglo-Catholics lining up to follow this new denomination-in-the-making, despite their agreement on many things moral and Scriptural. But, when groups have a common enemy and scapegoat upon which to focus, it often breeds strange bed-fellows.
Dan Martin writes good stuff about all this.
Finally, this one line from the Gafcon final statement kind of amazes me:

“We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure.’”

The whole “colonial” thing just doesn’t hold water. It is a politically-correct statement (ironically used by conservatives) as an attempt at justifying a rejection of the See of Canterbury as the center of Anglicanism. The reason they stress this, IMHO, is only because the ABC has not done what they have demanded him to do. If he had (or would) he would be heralded as a great Archbishop, upholder of the true faith, and all this talk of rejecting the See of Canterbury would never be heard.
Aside from that, in my mind “colonialism” necessitates forced acceptance of “stuff” from the colonizing entity upon the indigenous society. This has absolutely not happened! If it had, the “Western” provinces would be insisting that the “Global South” provinces accept our culture, our standards, and the stand taken by a majority of Anglican members in these provinces that homosexuals may well be brought into the structures of the Church without violating a more correct understand of the Scriptures. No one or no province has done this. Within the historical structures of Anglicanism, no one could. This is the difference between the old, historical Anglican Communion and the new “Anglican” organization that is developing. The new organization will impose itself upon all the provinces under it’s domain. It may truly be a world denomination, but it will be one more akin to the Church of Rome than the Anglican Communion.
Text of the Final Gafcon Statement

What we do to ourselves…

I preached a sermon yesterday from the Old Testament (we are in the process of switching to the Revised Common Lectionary, but yesterday the reading was still from the BCP Lectionary – Isaiah 2:10-17). I preached on haughtiness and pride and the trouble it gets us into.
I read the final statement from the “Global Anglican Future Conference” (GAFCON) in Jerusalem . It was expected that this conference would set the stage for actual development of an alternative international Anglican organization/Church, and while the statement states that they are not leaving the Anglican Communion they have in fact embarked on such a path if we take historical Anglican structures to be the rule.
Haughtiness and pride (perhaps hubris and vainglory are better terms) will always win-the-day when ideology (whether political, social, or theological) becomes the god unto which we give ourselves. Among the leadership of those Anglican provinces and organizations that insist on pushing their notion of “correctness” based on identity-politics and political-correctness (dressed up in the language of social-justice) regardless of the outcomes and also those provinces and organizations that demand strict adherence to a particular form of the faith and the capitulation of all to a particular Scriptural interpretation and moral perspective (dressed up in language “reform” or of purity of devotion and theology), among these groups their social and theological ideology blinds them. Vainglory, pride, haughtiness rule because humility requires admitting that each of us and our understandings and our organizations could be wrong and that we all need to compromise. Anglican comprehensiveness is defeated by the results of the attitudes and actions of both groups, both sides, both perspectives.
No one wins, despite their want to believe so. The cause of Christ always looses. Our faith is a faith that rests on relationship – our relationship with God as we strive to love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our souls. It rests on relationships as we strive, with God’s help, to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we descend to defining the faith only by our pet creeds, tenants, or declarations, we deny the essence of what Jesus did – he restored the possibility of relationship. He didn’t create a new religion. We did.
Read more here:
Ruth Gledhill from the TimesOnline gives us, “Gafcon: a longer look.”
Guardian UK by Riazat Butt:
Conservative Anglicans form breakaway church in revolution led from the south
Conservative Anglicans form global network


GAFCON attendees run smack dab into the Jerusalem Gay Pride march.
Ian Baster for the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (UK)
BBC: Anglicans seeking tradition faced with Gay Pride

But to the evident consternation of the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) they had travelled all this way to the Christian Holy City only to find the streets taken over by Jerusalem Gay Pride.
…back at the conference hotel contingency plans were being laid to contend with any gay raiding party sent out to beard the traditionalists in their redoubt.

I’m sure they didn’t have anything to worry about from gay raiding parties. At least not in Jerusalem.

LOST and the timeline of Jesus

I heard it said a while ago that Gen X is the first generation to draw meaning from popular-culture. I believe it.
Dr. Andrew Root, professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and a LOST geek, has written an article about LOST, a theory that might explain what is actually going on, and God/Jesus and God’s work.
The article appears on the website, Next Wave: Church & Culture, a website that seems to cater to more Emergent types. The article is entitled, “The TV Show Lost and Eschatology.”

And, more from GAFCON & the Guardian (UK)

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.
She writes:

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.
She continues:

In the fateful press conference – regarding torture – 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.

More on GAFCON and the evil “West”

I had forwarded to me, by my friend Anthony, an article (commentary) by George Pitcher in the Telegraph (UK) concerning comments made by the good Canon I mentioned in a previous post. Pitcher was not pleased with the Canon’s estimation of the world and the Church.
Here are a couple examples from the article:

Meanwhile… Virtueonline… declares that it is “the height of western Anglican arrogance to perpetuate the myth that the West holds sway over the communion.
“That day is long gone along with the Elizabethan Settlement and the British Empire.
“A new global Anglican Communion day is dawning and its strength is coming from new global quarters.”
So this conference of Anglican dissenters is not about homosexuality at all… Nor is it really about Biblical authority…
It is simply about where the locus of Anglican authority should reside. And it is driven by a post-colonial political imperative; the West has used and abused the Global South and now it’s pay-back time.
In this worldview, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is a “relic” (Canon Samuel’s word) of old empire, who must be replaced, presumably by the likes of Archbishop Akinola…
This presumes that Dr Williams is a political leader to be overthrown by an official opposition. He is nothing of the sort… The Archbishop of Canterbury is primus inter pares in the worldwide Anglican Communion, holding together (or trying to) a loose federation of global churches, often at odds with one another but on a common journey.”

Well, yes. I left out some of the more “descriptive” impressions Pitcher detailed in describing Akinola and GAFCON participants because I think he goes too far. I will say again, a reason these kinds of groups use terminology like “post-colonial” or “relic” to describe the “old” Anglican Communion and Archbishop is because the “old” guard does not do what they want. They imagine that since they have more numbers at the moment that they should, can, and will dictate what everyone else must do and believe, and do because God told this group what we all should and should not do and believe. The sad thing for me is that I actually agree with some of the stuff they stress, but I will not simply believe anything because a group tells me to. Too many of the members of this kind of group or mindset do want to dictate rather than live in the messy world of process (and I’m NOT talking about Process Theology), wrestling with very difficult issues, and critically thinking which often lead to different opinions.
Difference in belief is not good, in this way of thinking. God has established one Truth that is discernible in all ways and for all times without question, and to question is to repudiate and doubt. Does history bare this out? Funny thing is, they want to hold onto the “old, tried, and true” systems of thinking, believing, and doing when it comes to issues of morality or theology or praxis, but want to jettison the “old, tried, and true” when it comes to issues of governance, authority, and relationships – even in the “old” idea that the validity of the Sacraments do not depend on the celebrant’s human condition. Is this another example of the shift in the way we deal with Truth seen between the Modernist and Post-Modernist systems?
If there is opposition to their dictates from the “West” (which includes provinces and bishops in Africa, Asia, South American, and other parts of the “Global South”) it is because of… what? heresy, apostasy, capitulation to the heathen, pagan culture, Satan’s deception, and on and on.
These are convenient charges that sound very politically correct. Isn’t that strange?
WELL, we go on fighting within the world’s third largest expression of the religion of Christianity. All the while, this comment posted to the article sums up what I imagine most people think (if they even know anything about what is going on):

Reading this reminded me of why I consider the CoE to be a complete irrelevance. I can just about “get” Roman Catholicism, although I am not a member of that Church…
At the moment, it happens to be divided by a bitter internal feud, and its members have fallen into the common error of thinking that if they feel strongly about their feud, it must represent important issues.
The fact is, however, that like a feuding family, it is only those inside the feud who think it important while the rest of us look on in bemusement, wondering what all the fuss is about.
What’s amazing to me is how many of your readers, on either side, seem to imagine that this feud has any significance at all in the wider world. The spats between my pet cats make more sense to me that this nonsense.
Posted by… on June 26, 2008 11:07 PM

The City #23

I ran down through Red Hook and into Brooklyn Heights yesterday to see the new art instillation of the “waterfalls” in the East River. In a rather stark part of the dock & warehouse areas of the Brooklyn Port Authority by the air-intake tower for the Battery tunnel, I was able to get an up-close-and-personal experience of one of the water falls. The wind was blowing and the spray from the waterfall (which fell from a superstructure of steel scaffolding) came back upon the ground and pavement.
I was hot from running (and because it was just hot and humid) so initially I thought the spray felt good, but then… Where was this water coming from? Well, it was being pumped out of the East River. Then, of course, I got as far from the spray as I could. Luckily, not much of the falling water got on me – after all, who wants water from the East River socking you to the bone? Not me! (At least it doesn’t stink any more!)
I did experience a glimpse of tourist hell – a mini-van full of a family from Florida quickly drove up to the air-intake tower and the very close waterfall, pulled out their little digital camera, took a shot, and sped off. Now, they can go home and tell their friends that they saw the famous waterfalls. I suppose it is too much to ask that they at least get out of the van – I mean, with the high cost of gasoline and all. I’m being a twit, I know.
Down close to the Brooklyn Bridge there is a small park (the beginnings of a much larger park that will run the perimeter of the Brooklyn-East River shoreline) where people can get a very good view of the falls. I was able to see for of the installations. I don’t think they have the same impact as did the Gates in Central Park, but they are kind of interesting. The next thing I need to do is take my camera so that I can get some pictures so that I can make a banner for my blog so that I can show my friends that I actually saw the famous falls. At least I will walk to the site of the photos. I’m being a twit, I just know it.

GAFCON and Rowan Williams – attitudes and actions

I was reading in the Guardian UK about recent happenings at the “Global Anglican Futures Conference” (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. GAFCON is the “alternative” Lambeth that many of the anti-gay-inclusion Anglicans are having so that they don’t have to be around all the other Anglicans that don’t think like they do.
This particular article focuses on statements made by Canon Vinay Samuel, a member of the GAFCON leadership team, concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Anglican Churches of the West. From the Guardian article, he is quoted as saying such things as:

– “‘We know a little more than he gives us a credit for… The church is such a mess and unable to understand the post-colonial reality,’ Samuel said.”
– “Rowan Williams did not adequately appreciate the intellectual subtlety and depth of the developing world.”
– “Race gets entrenched on religious institutions and it takes longer to get rid of. Williams has to really trust the leadership of non-western primates.”
– “Rowan Williams is too much of a relic of the old left ideology which is not pragmatic enough.”
– “‘I would dismantle Canterbury and Lambeth, they have little influence and do not reflect the reality of the world,’ Samuel said.”

The accusation that those of the West cannot escape a colonial mindset or are beset with racist tendencies seems to me to be more about the West’s refusal to agree with and acquiesce to the demands of the Southern archbishops/primates and their beliefs rather than about actual incidents involving racist or colonialist attitudes or actions. My perception is that they feel slighted, ignored, sidelined, maligned basically because Williams and others in the West simply do not do as they say. They take upon themselves the role of defenders of the true faith and if others disagree with them, well, those others must not really love Jesus but rather their heathen culture. To disagree with the “Third-World,” “Southern Hemisphere,” “African/Asian” “conservative-orthodox” interpretation of Scripture, their understanding of correct social mores,, means that they are not respected and that those in the West who disagree with them are beset by attitudes of racism and colonialism. I really doubt that Williams does not understand them or the geo-political and cultural realities. He, and others, simply disagree. To allow for disagreement IS Anglican.
While reading the Guardian article, I came across an organization I have never heard of before, Anglican Spread, which seems to be an organization bent on the furtherance of a Reformed (Calvinist) form of Anglicanism. In an article on their website, they reference a speach giving by the Archbishop of Canterbury to seminary students in Toronto in 2007 concerning this miss understanding and use of Romes 1 by those determined to reject and condemn of forms of same-sex relationships.
For some reason I missed this! The news report of the speech from Reuters is entitled, “Anglican head Williams says anti-gays misread Bible.” The article states:

“The spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans has said conservative Christians who cite the Bible to condemn homosexuality are misreading a key passage written by Saint Paul almost 2,000 years ago.
“Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams… said an oft-quoted passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans meant to warn Christians not to be self-righteous when they see others fall into sin.”
“Many current ways of reading miss the actual direction of the passage,” Williams said…
“Paul is making a primary point not about homosexuality but about the delusions of the supposedly law-abiding.”

Speaking of the portion of Scripture and its use, Williams is quoted as saying:

“It would not help pro-gay liberals, he said, because Paul and his readers clearly agreed that homosexuality was “as obviously immoral as idol worship or disobedience to parents.”
“This reading would also upset anti-gay conservatives, who have been ‘up to this point happily identifying with Paul’s castigation of someone else,’ and challenge them to ask whether they were right to judge others, he added.?
“‘This does nothing to settle the exegetical questions fiercely debated at the moment,’ Williams said.”


Well, what can one say about life? Nothing new under the sun, this is a true saying and worthy of repeating, often.
It can be so difficult when I watch people I care about and see them descending further into dysfunction, heartache, harm, or whatever else besets this life of ours. It is frustrating because I just don’t know what to do. There is a point where I have to let go, I know. But where is that point? Really, how do I know that time has come or that I’m just being selfish or lazy or bothered?
I can’t imagine what parents go through when they watch a son or daughter descend into hell and no matter what they do, they can’t stop it. The son is determined to destroy the once lovely life that was so apparent in childhood. The daughter cannot help but yield to an internal need that drives her to destruction when all could see the potential and hope. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to each other? Why can we not love ourselves as He loves us? Why can we not love our neighbor as we come to love ourselves? Why can we not love, honestly?
We put our hope in… what? Perhaps we put our hope in the wrong things.

I Once Was Lost

CT has a review of a new book that describes ways of engaging in evangelism with young, post-moderns. The book is entitled, “Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus” by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp (don’t know who they are??).
A quote from the CT review: “Everts and Schaupp’s thesis is this: Postmoderns respond best to evangelists who allow for and encourage a process… The label postmodern is held loosely, meant simply to describe ‘how things are right now,’ rather than to conform to a technical definition.”
When I was doing campus ministry work among European students, particularly Germans, the one thing that distinguished the attitudes of German/European students from Americans was their insistence on truly working through and understanding the decision to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person may be in a ministry for a couple years and actively engaged, but would not describe him/herself as a Christ. That was okay with the leadership, because they knew that when the student did make a decision, it was real and would probably be life-long. They went through a process, and I think the patience with and trust of the process was very good.
It was very frustrating to many American students that come to Germany because they were used to call for and expecting decisions to “accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior” right then and there. Just get them to say the prayer, and everything will be okay. As anyone who has been involved in evangelism and discipleship of American college students can tell you, the spur of the moment decision to follow Jesus often means seed falling on rocky or thorny soil. They go no where, and in the end often think that their experience IS the Christ-centered life. The experience is a very deficient form of Christian religion, but little of Christian faith and the Christ centered life.
The process is good! All of life in Christ is a process that never ends – for the good. If the hard won process brings freedom, peace, beauty, joy, then bring it on! That is what makes the life in Christ so intriguing and non-boring (if we allow God to work in us and do in us what is necessary!). There is always something new, always a challenge, always a renewal of things.
This is one reason why I like the approach Anglicanism generally takes (including Anglican-Evangelicalism, but often not the American-Evangelical part of Anglicanism). There is an understanding of and allowance for process and the good that results. (Some people go to far with process, however, by never expecting or calling for decision making, often simply bringing people in the door with nothing happening thereafter.)
When we allow for process, we need to recognize that people in all parts of the process will be with us. This is messy. It doesn’t sit well with the sensibility of Americans who are so now-oriented and desirous of instant-gratification (and self-righteous perfectionism at times). People in the process who haven’t come to the point where they can honestly and with integrity commit their life to Christ, but who are seriously seeking, often don’t act or think like we believe Christians should act or think.
Some people can’t handle this – some expressions of the faith can’t handle it. Anglicans can, and I think this is why we have a lot of people in our midst who are seeking but aren’t there yet. There is an allowance for being wrong, confused, and just not sure. This is one reason, I think, that the Episcopal Church is messy and misunderstood. This is also why, I think, so many people want to look at the Episcopal Church and yell heresy or apostasy or whatever.
I well understand why this kind of messy environment makes people feel a bit insecure, uncomfortable, or fearful. I get caught in that trap, too. I think sometimes I have to defend God, as if I know full well what God thinks and have to protect His wishes against the onslaught of the Enemies of God (which are, who?). How funny. Really, how funny. Anyway, I understand why it is far easier to cast dispersions on people who can’t check off a list of criteria that “proves” their Christianhood, and thus worthy of fellowship with those who are “in,” then to be involved in the struggle, the ambiguity, and the patient seriousness of the process people must go through either on the forefront of the decision or as an after-thought. It is better for the struggle to come before the decision, than after.
I’ve seen too many people who deal with the struggles of the Christians faith afterward and end up having their faith shipwrecked. Christianity isn’t a marketing scheme. It is a transformational process that requires not buying into something (a system), but giving up everything. While we have to hear again and again how evil is the Episcopal Church, I frankly would much rather be around people who are notorious sinners but are honestly curious and desirous of God than those who smugly gloat over being one of the select, the saved, the righteous. (Isn’t that what Jesus did – which might well fall into ideas of orthopraxis.)
I’m glad I’m an Anglican!