Thursday, September 27, 2007

Episcopalians Cave; Nigerians Spit in Their Face

Well, friends, we blew it.

The Egg predicted, with great solemnity, that neither side in the Anglican standoff would budge in regard to the Global South ultimatum, and that as September ended, the Anglican Commnunion would cease to exist.

We were so sure of ourselves! After all, we reasoned, for the Americans it was a matter of survival. They have so many gay priests and lay members, as well as so many priests and members committed to the full participation of gay people in the church, that if they were suddenly to change course, there would be an open revolt. At the same time, we reasoned, the Africans won't back down -- their bishops are suddenly leaders on the world scene, exercising power (both persuasive and judicatory) in the mighty United States. The rush must be awesome.

But got it wrong. The Americans caved, and agreed, at least for now, to cease ordaining gay bishops. (Tough news for the Diocese of Chicago). They also agreed not to authorize same-sex union ceremoines, although it is widely anticipated that unauthorized services will continue.

This was a tough call by the Episcopalians. The Presiding Bishop called the actions "sacrificial," and it must certainly feel that way. In order to preserve the unity of the Communion, they sacrificed some of their deeply-held and strongly-defended convictions. Some will argue that they sacrificed the commitments they had made to a generation of churchgoers.

So how do their sisters and brothers worldwide react? Well, there's no doubt a sigh of relief in Canterbury. And you might expect a series a politely-worded communiques from Africa, saying things like "we honor our beloved brothers and sisters in America for having the courage to make a difficult decision, and for having chosen unity." Or something like that.

But you'd be as wrong as we were, friends. Because Archbishop-elect Kwashi of Jos province, in Nigeria, not even ordained himself as yet, could not wait to hold a p[ress conference and declare that "The statement by the US Episcopal bishops should be taken with extreme caution."

How gentlemanly. Not to say how ... Christian.

The slap in the face extends beyond media grandstanding. Archbishop Akinola still intends to consecrate missionary bishops for America, despite the strong objection of Americans that this is an incursion into their territory. Kwashi defends this, saying, "We do not need anybody's permission to preach the gospel . . . When the missionaries came to Africa, they did not get our permission before they arrived. Today, we (Africans) only need visas to get to US, to preach God's word."

Spare us, your grace. Yes, we know that the history of missions is closely linked to the history of colonialism, and that you can play on the heartstrings of affronted Africans and guilty Western liberals alike by allunding to it. But the situations are radically different. There were no Anglicans in Nigeria when the missionaries arrived. And whether you like it or not -- whether in your heart you believe it or not -- there are Anglicans in America right now. So the African missionary bishops are doing something that the English ones did not do: attempting to usurp the dioceses of fellow-Anglicans.

Not bloody sporting, is it?

No comments: