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African Anglican Bishops Respond PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 23 October 2009 18:56
Several responses from Anglican Bishops in Africa to the Pope's proposal (Courtesy of Virtue Online)

AFRICAN Anglicans do not need the Pope's intervention over consecration of gay bishops, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, has said.


Orombi said such measures by the Vatican are not called for in the African Anglican Church, which he said had successfully resisted liberalism from Western countries.

"Anglo-Catholic Anglicans have been disillusioned by the liberal churches in the West that created a theological crisis with their liberal attitude to sexuality. Many of them would be happy with the Pope's initiative. But the African Church does not need that because it is strong on biblical theology," he argued.

Orombi said the African Anglican Church split after realising that the Western churches had yielded to liberal measures on sexuality, which are contrary to the biblical teachings.

In a historic move, African Anglican churches held a conference in Jerusalem last year during which they officially broke away from Canterbury. "The African Anglican Church has undertaken measures to deal with the excesses of liberalism that invaded the western church. We are a Bible-believing Church," Orombi said.

And similar reactions from Kenya:

The head of Kenya's Anglican Church, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, has rejected the Pope's offer to allow disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church.


However, Archbishop Wabukala told the BBC's Network Africa programme there was "no possibility" of his becoming a Catholic.

"The Protestant family understands faith in different ways, for example, the idea of the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, the interpretation of ministry," he said.

He said his fellow African Anglican bishops were "deeply evangelical".

He told the BBC it would not be easy for African Anglicans to enter into full communion with Catholics.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Peter Akinola, head of the Church of Nigeria, and the spiritual leader of Africa's 40 million Anglicans, is "still weighing the implications of the Vatican's offer" and is consulting with colleagues, according to an aide reached by telephone Wednesday. Archbishop Akinola is famously "low church". One of his staff summed the situation up in a very evangelical manner:

"We don't compromise on scriptures, and that has been our fight with the West," says Rev. Syrenius Okoriko, the head of the Nigerian Anglican church's evangelical department, in a phone interview Wednesday from Abuja, the capital. "We have so many issues with the West: homosexuality, the interpretation of the scriptures. What the scriptures say is what we stand on."

The way in which these African bishops framed the issue as a "western" one about sexual issues is telling. Of course, the deepest issue is not the issue of ordaining homosexuals and that would certainly not be a good reason to be received into full communion.

There are essentially two different kinds of "western" Anglicanism at the heart of the matter: western liberalism and western traditionalism. And many African prelates don't seem interested in either.

Reading John Allen's coverage of the Synod on Africa and then reading these bishop's responses just reinforces how different the perspective of Catholics (and other Christians) in the global south can be. The debates that convulse us in the west are so often not compelling for them.

Those debates are fueled by traumas that western Christians experienced in the 60's and 70's that simply didn't touch large parts of Africa which were struggling with more basic issues - famine, disease, grinding poverty, systemic corruption, chaotic infrastructure - with life and death. The one exception may be in South Africa, which was ruled by the British during the 19th century when the Oxford movement swept across the Anglican world and where white rule wasn't dismantled until the early 90's.

It also gives me a sense of how different the priorities of an Africa or South American Pope might be. I'm currently re-reading Weigel's biography of Pope John Paul II and am struck by the intense experiences that shaped young "Lulek's" life and worldview. Six years of constant terror and hunger under Nazi rule, 4 years of hard labor, orphaned before he was 21. Decades under communist oppression. When a man who has lived through that says "Be Not Afraid", you believe him.

All bishops, all Popes are fully human. They have been formed by the time and culture in which they have lived. How the Holy Spirit works with, inspires, uses, (and sometimes over-rides) that humanity and that history to guide the Church in a particular generation is one of the great mysteries. They can surprise us and inspired by the Holy Spirit, do things that utterly transcend their background.

But grace does build upon nature. It does matter who they are - and where they have been - and what they have lived. Because that will, inevitably, shape, energize and limit the impact of their papacy.

Anglo-Catholicism is a deeply western movement, emerging in the early 19th century in the quintessential heart of intellectual England (Oxford) in response to developments in western thought and culture. Like traditionalist Catholicism, it is still overwhelmingly western and it seems that most of those Anglicans who will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the Catholic Church will also be western.

Which makes sense. Pope Benedict is European to his fingertips and his burning concern is the fate of an imploding Christianity in Europe. It is the task for which his whole life has prepared him. And healing some of the wounds of western Christianity will pave the way for other moments of grace that we cannot now imagine.

We just have to remember that slightly more than half of all Anglicans live in Africa. And that only 27% still live in the west. And that this is a western Anglican turning point, not a global Anglican moment.

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