Anglicans Close to Split
This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of others authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
June 19th, 2008
The worldwide Anglican Church has come close to a splitting point. Those branches that reside in industrialized nations are considered far to liberal to be seen as within communion by those who hold sway in the developing world. Led primarily by a handful of conservative bishops in Africa, as much as half of the Anglican communion may sever from the body headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and set out to become a new church.
Although it is quite likely that vastly different cultures play into the friction that may lead to scism, so too does a sharply divergent view of Scripture. Western Anglicans (Britain, Canada, and the Episcopal Church in the United States) view Christianity as a guide to know God and find kinship in social justice, humanitarian efforts, and guidance for living. The Global South are more inclined to see Christianity as the manifestation of God’s divine commandments for a sinful world.
And the issue over which this comes to a head is homosexuality.
Westerners find gay people to be valued children of God who are to be treated with love and equality. The Global South finds gay people to be sinners and to be denounced. Even accepting gay people as equal is considered to be a sinful act and requiring of repentance, not only from God but from those who are offended by equality.
Westerners are not likely to apologize for acting out of social justice. They may have been able to be convinced to slow efforts towards justice but they are not about to repudiate their compassion and love and apologize for it to those who find only judgment and condemnation in the faith.
So there’s a bit of an impasse.
The Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, states in one section: “There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion.
“Now we confront a moment of decision.
“If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We want unity, but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.
“We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion, but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.
“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth.’’
He said schism could only be avoided in the unlikely event that churches which tolerate homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings change their ways.
“Repentance and reversal by these North American provinces may yet save our Communion,’’ the archbishop wrote.
He referred to the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops which takes place next month, as effectively a lame duck event because he and other “orthodox” bishops will not attend.
I suspect that this schism is inevitable. The conservatives are meeting to plan their next steps.
And, though sadly, I believe that it is best in the long (very long) run.
It is my reading that the conservative nations will leave. And that there will be a corresponding split in the United States wherein a handful of churches will leave the Episcopal Church to join with the Global South.
And considering the political history of the Global South bishops, we can expect that this scism will result in rampant corruption and a likely scenario is one in which the power of the church will be used to prop up and support totalitarian or fascist regimes throughout Africa. I, of course, hope that I’m guessing incorrectly.
But once free of consideration for angry foreign Anglicans threatening division, I think that this will allow the Episcopal Church to follow their conscience and champion social justice causes, including the full equality of gay persons in society and the church. And I believe that a freer Anglican Church would change the language around the morality of discrimination.
This potential break is likely to be devastating to those in Christian Africa that are gay, democratically inclined, or theologically liberal. Further, considering the extent to which charity towards the continent is provided by Western Anglicans, this will also undoubtedly bring harm to the sick, poor, and hungry.
But I am hopeful that ultimately it will result in a freer society in the West and in the gradual recovery of lost brotherhood, but this time a brotherhood unhindered by demands of a return to legalism and dogmatism.
Visalia Episcopalians Come Home
March 31st, 2008
A few weeks ago we told you about John-David Schofield, Bishop of Fresno, who led his diocese in breaking from the Episcopal Church and seeking to align himself with conservative Anglicans in South America. Now he’s discovering that rebellion is contagious. Some of his parishioners have decided that they would break from him and return to the Episcopal Church.
About 40 former members of Visalia’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have decided to break away from the current Anglican church and reform their congregation as the Continuing Congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Visalia, Calif.
Fresno Episcopal Bishop Removed
March 12th, 2008
In December the diocese of Fresno, under the direction of Bishop John-David Schofield, voted to dissolve its ties to the Episcopal Church due primarily to the national church’s policies on gays and women.
Today Schofield has been removed:
Leaders of the Episcopal Church ousted the bishop from the Diocese of San Joaquin Wednesday after he pushed his congregation to secede from the U.S. denomination in a fight over the Bible and homosexuality.
Bishop John-David Schofield is stripped of his role as bishop and barred from performing any religious duties, said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
New Zealand may get Pro-Gay Episcopal Bishop
February 25th, 2008
If the Lord of the Rings movies are anything to go by, New Zealand is a lovely country. And as an ally of the United States, English speaking, and having had civil unions since 2004, (not to mention giving us Lucy Lawless), the Kiwis would seem to be a people that would make me feel welcome.
Now it seems like they may be taking a further step in welcoming gay and gay-friendly travelers. Stuff.co is reporting that the Anglican Church (New Zealand’s largest church) may be selecting a pro-gay Canadian as Bishop of Christchurch.
A Canadian woman bishop who has signaled support for blessing gay marriages is being confirmed as Christchurch’s new Anglican bishop.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
February 11th, 2008
If one were to write an anti-gay book for the conservative Anglicans in Britain, I would suggest that they might want to pay closer attention to the cover art. Is it just me, or does this look like an odd choice to you?
By the way, two of the books editors are involved with the web site Anglican Mainstream, which happens to be on our list of Cameron Collaborators. I can only guess what kind of lunacy lurks inside this tome.
More Anglican Dischord in Africa
February 4th, 2008
That portion of the Anglican Church known as the Global South and consisting primarily of Africa and Asia is where there is the greatest resistance to welcoming gay persons as equal members in the body of the Church. Bishops from Africa have led a revolt against the Archbishop of Canterbury and issued ultimatums to the Episcopal Church (the US branch of Anglicanism) about ordination of gay bishops.
Some have even usurped the authority of the American church and have set themselves up as overseeing bishops for those American dioceses for whom opposing gay inclusion is a more basic tenat of their faith than is unity in the body of Christ.
However, in the midst of Africa is a province that supports the international body, the Central Africa Province comprising Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This loyalty did not sit well with a bishop in Zimbabwe. Nolbert Kunonga is vehemently opposed to gay persons and did not believe his Province was adequately homophobic. Not surprisingly, he is an ally of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has made statements claiming gay people are worse than dogs or pigs and threatening prosecution of religious leaders who disagree with him on same-sex couples.
Kunonga announced in December that he was breaking away from his province. He has been replaced by Sebastian Bakare.
However Kunonga did not readily accept Bakare’s appointment.
But Kunonga and his followers barricaded themselves in the cathedral.
When two representatives of Bakare went to the building and tried to gain access they were badly beaten.
With Mugabe’s support, it seems unlikely that Kunonga will readily recognize Bukare’s authority. And I fear that violence will continue.
Fresno Episcopalians Leave the Church
December 8th, 2007
Several individual churches have left the Episcopal Church over its decision to allow gay people to have an equal role in the church. The San Juaquin Diocese, based out of conservative agricultural Fresno, is the first diocese to do so.
Delegates said they voted to break away from the church because it allows the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of gay bishops and the ordination of women.
The Fresno Bee reports
The vote Saturday was 70-12 by clergy and 103-10 by laity for a combined total of 173-22. It confirmed a preliminary vote last year.
There will undoubtedly be a court battle over the assets held by the church. The San Juaquin Diocese has placed itself under the authority of a South American branch of the Anglican Church.