Monday, June 30, 2008
It must seem to those nations represented by Gafcon bishops that the Anglican Communion is a terribly inequitable place. Those African bishops represent a distinct majority of Anglicans in the world. And yet it is the white, western bishops who still run the Communion.
The GAFCON Statement, (Global Anglican Future Conference meeting in Jerusalem as a protest to Lambeth) is a desperate declaration that the Thirty-nine Articles should be the standard by which the Anglican Communion should be run. And yet, that is not the story. The whole effort is still a demand for power. The proposed Primatial Council concept is not a call for equality in the Communion. It is a desire to wrest control of the Communion from the Western hegemony that still calls the shots. It is a clear rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a sign of unity for the Communion.
This may be the first real threat to the power of the Archbishop of Canterbury in recent centuries, but it is certainly not going to be its last. If the “liberal” church agenda is what is being attacked by GAFCON, it must be remembered that it is the “liberal” agenda that has given the African or Latin American Church much credence at all.
The use of the Global South by the unwieldy fringe elements of neo-evangelical and the uber anglo-catholic elements in the American church has been disgraceful. It has flamed anti-American/Western sentiment through out the Communion in order to attempt a power coup on TEC. This coup has been thwarted by the last General Convention, the House of Bishops and the election of ++Katharine Jefferts-Schori as Presiding Bishop in the US. But it has not cooled the issue in other countries. It has just opened Pandora’s Box.
Lambeth will not be able to do anything to assuage the brittleness of the emerging countries’ testiness. GAFCON will never be able to garner enough support in the wealthier countries to make their desires known. A breech between the two parties has formed, not because of sexuality or moral lassitude. It has been created by policies deeply engrained in colonialism, in imperialistic economy, and educational opportunities denied.
Should there be a legislative body for the Anglican Communion? I don’t think so at the present time. The standards by which an elective body operates are not the same from one country to the next. Even elected bishops are not seen as essential in the UK and certainly not seen so in much of the Global South. Those western nations would not accept such heavy handed authority in their churches as proposed by GAFCON.
There is a tendency to ignore the GAFCON bishops for their short-sightedness. We tend to belittle their efforts to voice their anger at nations who keep them from being able to deal with such immense issues of economics, AIDS, national development, literacy, etc. The only thing that they can really do is voice their fear at the loss of local culture in the face of western consumerism. And ultimately are we not afraid of the same thing? Are we in the West not also afraid of losing our autonomy in the face of globalism?
The manipulation of the bishops of poor countries by big right-wing money elements in the Church will go down in the history as one of the most shameful acts of Western Christianity. But what it has done is amplified the voice of Africa and Latin America in ways that they have never been heard. And when the right-wing money goes away, those countries will still have voices.