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Monday, July 03, 2006

The Anglican Theater of the Absurd

Well, with this latest article from Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, appended below, we have now officially entered the Anglican Theater of the Absurd.

First, the last minute, last ditch effort to get us invited to Lambeth in 2008 by calling a Joint Session of House of Bishops and Deputies and then sending the Presiding Bishop Elect just before the House of Deputies vote to twist our arms even further (the tea and crumpets must be exquisite, they come at such a high cost).

Then, +++Rowan says, "Hmmmm . . . maybe, maybe not," and, as we dangle in the wind for a while, he floats his "Covenant" plan, which is no more than an Anglican Communion-wide "Upstairs/Downstairs" maid arrangement the British are so good at devising - which is really designed to keep the British in firm control.

Then, some of the African bishops, meeting in Kampala, in a letter demonstrating amazing restraint, say, "Thank you. Don't call us, we'll call you."

Now, with this missive, Akinola not only rejects +++Rowan's plan (clearly seeing it for what it is), but produces a final, new, all-time low blow (he must be taking lessons from David Virtue) and calls the Episcopal Church a "cancerous lump in the body."

But wait, there's more!

Akinola, who professes to know EVERYTHING about being Evangelical and Conservative and Orthodox and (like Pat Robertson) CHRISTIAN (for goodness sake!) is brash and arrogant enough to tell the flippin' ARCHBISHOP OF flippin' CANTERBURY what it means to be an "authentic" Anglican!

You just can't make this stuff up!

I note, however, that Sunday's New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein, carried the headline: "Episcopalians Shaken by Division."

Are you kidding me?

Episcopalians 'shaken'?


Like a good Episcopal martini, we are stirred, but never shaken!

We may be a "cancerous lump" but we do know enough not to bruise the gin.

I don't know about you, but I'm just sorry that, after the history of this time in the life of the church is written, I probably won't be around to see the movie version.

My vote is to let the guys at Montey Pythons' Circus to have at it. The updated version of their classic swipe on Christianity, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," should prove to be hysterical.

Here's the latest missive from Akinola.

(Samuel L. Jackson would get my vote to play his role. Can't you just hear his roar? Ben Kinglsey should play +++Rowan - he does complex but dignified suffering so well. Merle Streep should play ++Katharine - because, well, like Katharine, she's simply the best there is. Michael Cain should play ++Frank, although Clark Gable would have gotten serious consideration. Can't you just hear him saying to ++Katharine, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I should stop now. I'm already limp with laughter. Besides, I have no doubt that the comment section will be jam-packed with casting suggestions.)

by The Associated Press
July 3, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET

(New York City) Africa's largest Anglican church is criticizing a proposal
from the archbishop of Canterbury for two-tier membership in the global
Anglican fellowship, a plan aimed at keeping the group together despite differences
over homosexuality and the Bible. The bishops who lead the 17.5 million-member Church of Nigeria announced their stand in postings Sunday on a pair of Anglican Web sites.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams _ Anglicanism's spiritual leader _
suggested last month that two levels of participation for the 38 branches of
the Anglican Communion could be created. Under that system, America's
Episcopal Church, which consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003, would accept a
lesser role to prevent a total break with a majority of Anglican churches, which
are conservative.

The Nigerian bishops said Williams' "brilliant" concept sought to "preserve
the unity of the church by accommodating every shred of opinion no matter how
biblical, all because we want to make everyone feel at home."

But the Nigerians also indicated that total exclusion of the Episcopal Church may be
required: "A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every
known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead
to the avoidable death of the patient."

The statement depicted the Williams plan as a "novel" design that's "elastic enough to accommodate all the extremes of preferred modes of expression of the same faith." Instead, it said, Williams should urge churches that chose to "walk apart" to return to authentic Anglicanism.

The Nigerians' statement is particularly noteworthy because their church is
the biggest Anglican denomination outside the Church of England and is often
seen as a leader among Anglican provinces in the developing world.

In a related move, Nigeria's church plans to consecrate Canon Martyn Minns, rector of a prominent conservative parish in Fairfax, Va., as its bishop to lead a
United States mission that serves Nigerians in America and others dissatisfied
with the New York-based Episcopal Church.

Meanwhile, six dioceses unhappy with the Episcopalians' rejection last month
of an outright moratorium on consecrating more gay bishops have asked
Williams for oversight from a bishop outside the Episcopal hierarchy.

Integrity, the caucus for gay and lesbian Episcopalians, released a weekend
statement that expressed frustration with the Anglican wrangling over gay

"We cannot live up to our call to be the body of Christ in the world if
we're spending all our time, energy and resources arguing about how to be the
Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion" over the next few years, it

Integrity said the discussion provoked by Williams should include calling
Anglicanism "to account for 30 years of failure to implement an authentic
listening process" on the gay issue.


GL+ said...

Some of us, even on the conserving side of this issue, think that ++Akinola's comment about a "cancerous lump" was way beyond the pale.

Ew-3 said...

To keep things fair and balanced, I am posting herewith the ENTIRE statement from the Bishop of Nigeria. My brothers and sisters in Christ, please be aware that our Church is in serious trouble. As the Bishop says, we are "truly at crossroads as a Communion". I pray that ECUSA comes to its senses and ceases its self-indulgent drive toward its own demise.

Source: Global South Anglican
July 2, 2006

Re: The Challenge And Hope Of Being Anglican Today: A Response From The House Of Bishops Of The Church Of Nigeria

We have received from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, what must be the outcome of in-depth personal reflection on the un-abating tempest of divergent opinions that have continued to rock the worldwide Anglican Communion in recent years.

It is unlikely that anyone who holds our historic worldwide Communion and its leadership, close to heart, and in prayer will fail to grasp the tensions that the Archbishop wrestles with in an attempt to hold together a fragile Communion that is threatened by the real possibility of disintegration and fragmentation.

No one can assume that there are easy answers – and perhaps that is the crux of the problem facing the leadership of our Communion. The issue at stake is not just a crisis of identity, but also a shopping for palatable answers in a situation of contending convictions and shifting values. The dilemma, and therefore the challenge is whether to revisit the old paths of our forbears or to fashion out a novel establishment that is elastic enough to accommodate all the extremes of preferred modes of expression of the same faith.

His analysis of the situation is quite lucid, and the liberal and post-modern tilt of some interpretations is apparent. But we must commend the fact that it appears we have finally come to that point of admitting that we are truly at crossroads as a Communion and the time to decide on the way forward can no longer be wished away. The mere fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury now proposes a two-tier membership for the Anglican Communion is his acceptance that the wound caused by the revisionists has become difficult, if not impossible, to heal. The idea of a Covenant that would ensure this two-tier membership of ‘Constituent Churches’ and ‘Churches in Association’ is brilliant as the heartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the Church by accommodating every shred of opinion no matter how unbiblical, all because we want to make everyone feel at home.

The Archbishop submits that “there is no way the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment.” That is a fact of our human existence. But is this not the time for our Communion to take to heart the instructive lines from Henry Francis Lyte in our treasury of hymns, “Change and decay in all around I see; Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me”? Is this not indeed the time for us to hush our hearts and meditate on the significance of the request of the early disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Abide with us, [they said,] for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”? (Luke 24:29). Should the encircling gloom around us not make us ponder on the words of our Lord, "You are the salt of the earth… if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13)? That we must change is without contention, but should we not change for the better – as redeemed, reconciled and transformed people of God who have a witness to a lost and broken world?

Archbishop Rowan candidly observes that our Anglican Decision-Making “lacks a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety” and that we need to be clear about certain age-old assumptions to be sure we are “still talking the same language, “aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ”. He goes on to highlight some of the “fault lines of division.” He boldly puts the blame at the door of the Episcopal Church where there had been no agreement or any kind of consensus – whether in the Episcopal Church itself or in the global Communion – before the ordination of Gene Robinson was undertaken. It is noteworthy also that he remarks that “the recent resolutions of the General Convention have not produced a complete response to the challenges of the Windsor Report…” One wonders if such blatant disregard should not be reprimanded.

The Archbishop says we “have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience everywhere”. He then goes on to suggest that the genuine concerns expressed about orthodoxy and the need to contend for the faith once entrusted to the saints, have made the debate harder, and “reinforced the lines of division and led to enormous amounts of energy going into ‘political’ struggle (!) with and between churches in different parts of the world.” The idea that these genuine concerns have degenerated to the “politicization of a theological dispute” instead of “reasoned debate” is very sadly patronizing. One would have expected that those who had embarked on this religious misadventure would be encouraged to judge their actions against our well-established historic tradition.

A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every known cure. To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient.

We encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury to persuade those who have chosen to “walk apart” to return to the path chosen by successive generations of our forbears. We continue to hold our Communion before God in earnest prayer.

Ew-3 said...

For those of you who wish to access the Church of Nigeria's homepage, here is the URL:

Ew-3 said...

Here also is an open letter from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) to ECUSA.

CAPA - An Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA

We, the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), meeting in Kampala on 21st Р22nd June, have followed with great interest your meeting of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA in Columbus. We have been especially concerned by the development of your response to The Windsor Report, which has been reported to us quite extensively. This is something for which we have earnestly prayed. We are, however, saddened that the reports to date of your elections and actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqu̩ necessary for the healing of our divisions. At the same time, we welcome the various expressions of affection for the life and work of the Anglican Communion.

We have been moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.

At our meeting in Kampala we have committed ourselves to study very carefully all of your various actions and statements. When we meet with other Primates from the Global South in September, we shall present our concerted pastoral and structural response.

We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations alienated and marginalised within your Provincial structure that we have heard their cries.

In Christ,

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, on behalf of CAPA
Chairman, CAPA

Alison said...

Perhaps ew-3 should start his/her/its own blog instead of highjacking yours. ew-3 perhaps confuses a blog with a forum or chat room. Keep up the good, humorous, balanced, open and honest work, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think poor EW-3 is confused. Period.

S/he'll write soon and tell me that I'm unkind and insinuate something about the deficiency of the nature and character of my priesthood or challenge the basic integrity of my personhood.

Or, perhaps s/he'll just post another long piece of . . .ahem, "information" . . . from +PJA's website - as if that will really make a difference - or that anyone will actually read it.

You can do these things, you see, when you are slinging mud and throwing pebbles anonymously from behind a wall.

Ew-3 said...

No, Alison. I haven't confused anything. I'm merely ensuring that the other side is fairly represented. I find it necessary these days with many of the (ahem) "open-minded" people of the Left.

Responding to Elizabeth's third non-response to me: Don't worry, I won't insinuate anything about your character or your priesthood. I'm sure you're a fine individual. And belive it or not, some of us conservative homophobic bigoted cowards from the Radical Right are not so bad either.

Unknown said...

It seemed to me from +++Cantuar's "Reflection" that there was no real "Upstairs, Downstairs" status in the Communion, but rather "in the Communion" and "ecumenical friends" like the Methodists (whom he specifically mentioned) and (presumably) Presbyterians, Lutherans, and so on.

If this interpretation is correct, both the Church of Nigeria and a large number of Episcopal bloggers on both sides of the divide have misinterpreted +++Rowan's message, which was "you are either in or out", depending, basically, on your official acceptance of traditional moral teaching of the Church catholic.

This seems fair enough to me, Elizabeth, particularly since Windsor begged and pleaded with ECUSA to provide a firm theological argument for its position and the best it could come up with was the risible To Set Our Hope.

Esther392 said...

Craig - You have hit the crux of the matter. It is the lack of theology behind the innovations of GC03/06 that are the stumbling block. We cannot, as a Church, go forward without sound theology under our feet or quite simply, we quit being the Church of Scripture and become the church of the world. And please is there anyway we can quit demonizing those who disagree with calling homosexuality righteous?

Lisa Fox said...

Elizabeth, if you're looking for casting recommendations, I nominate Akinola for the leading role in The Madness of Pope Peter.

This statement of his is so far beyond the pale that I am astonished anyone can listen to him without giggling anymore.

Thanks for your commentary on this pompous self-righteousness.

Gordon said...

I think that ++Akinola's reference to those in who do not share his theological views to a "cancerous lump" reflects a manifestation of a challenging manner of life; one of arrogance, spite and disdain. His statement wasn't made to be helpful. It was made to hurt, to fuel the fire, to divide.