This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
December 22nd, 2008
Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church loves to tell time and again about all the good he and his church are doing for AIDS victims in Africa. But what else is he doing on that continent?
From all evidence, it appears that he is meddling in the Church of England’s internal conflict over homosexuality. As we have discussed, the Anglican Church worldwide is threatened with schism because Bishops in Africa and Asia think that the American Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans are too pro-gay. Since the 2003 ordination of gay Bishop Gene Robinson, several Bishoprics have been in open rebellion.
One of the rules of the Anglican Church is that each geographic location is distinct. You do not poach churches. But some of the African Bishops have gone so far as to work with rebel US congregations and to declare that they are now under their jurisdiction (or that of a South American Bishop).
Although Rick Warren is not Episcopal and has no business whatsoever in intruding himself into the debate, that has not slowed him at all in taking sides with the anti-gay Africans and encouraging schism.
In March, AllAfrica reports:
“The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda(CoU) on the boycott,”Dr Warren said on Thursday shortly after arriving in Uganda.
The Bishops are protesting the Church of England’s tolerance a homosexuality. Announcing the boycott in February, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said that Uganda’s action had been prompted by the invitation of bishops of The US Episcopal Church (TEC) who in 2003 elected as bishop, Gene Robinson, a divorced man living in an active homosexual relationship.
Dr Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. “We shall not tolerate this aspect at all,” Dr Warren said.
And for those who think that perhaps the divisions are not solely over gay issues and that Warren isn’t just being anti-gay by taking sides, on August 1, Dr. Orombi stated that the division was over this issue in no uncertain terms.
The American decision disregarded biblical authority by violating clear biblical teaching against homosexual behaviour. For this reason, the Church of Uganda and other Anglican provinces broke communion with the Episcopal Church in America in 2003, and we continue in that state of broken communion today.
Another of those African Bishops in “broken communion”, is Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. In 2006 – 2007, Akinola led the charge for a bill that would
provide for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.”
Akinola must have really impressed Rick Warren because on April 30, 2006, Warren wrote a piece for Time Magazine in which he acknowledges his anti-gay activism and said
New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches.
With nearly 18 million active Anglicans in Nigeria, Akinola’s flock dwarfs the mother Church of England’s membership. And since he is chairman of the 37 million—member Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, when he speaks, far more than just Anglicans pay attention. Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism.
I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world.
Behind Warren’s AIDS support in Africa appears to be a less selfless motivation. It seems that Warren seeks to build a “Purpose Driven” empire in Africa. He first effort was in Rwanda which adopted his Purpose Driven Living program in 2005 (in 2007 the President of Rwanda supported a law criminalizing same-sex conduct), followed by his trip to Uganda in 2006.
“Uganda should be a purpose-driven nation as well,” [Orambi] said. “But it takes people of purpose to build purpose driven-churches, purpose-driven communities, and a purpose-driven country. Someday, we will have a purpose-driven continent!”
During a meeting with Ugandan church leaders, the American megachurch pastor said that he believes the future of Christianity is not in Europe or North America, but in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
It appears to me that Rick Warren seeks to replace the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury with himself and to direct Christianity in the African Continent according to his own theology and ideology. And to do so he has joined with those who seem to determine orthodox Christianity solely by the extent to which one mistreats gays. And he has no hesitation in aligning himself with those who come to the United States seeking to damage the internal integrity of the Episcopal Church. And it’s all over the issue of homosexuality.
But his meddling in the Anglican Church raises a much larger objection than just that of the gay community. Why is Barack Obama honoring a man who is an activist in a religious secessionist movement? Having Rick Warren give the Invocation is a slap in the face of every Episcopalian in the nation and every loyal Anglican around the world.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, should officially object.
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