Monday, 9 October 2006

A further IC response to Kigali

INCLUSIVECHURCH: A FURTHER RESPONSE TO THE “KIGALI COMMUNIQUE

In September 2006, a Global South Primates Meeting was held and the Kigali Communiqué published. We are among the many Anglicans concerned that its direction is at odds with our understanding of Scripture and the essence of Anglican tradition.

It is disappointing that the Communiqué renounces fellowship with Anglicans in North America and provincial autonomy, and commends for further reflection ‘The Path to Lambeth’, which condemns provinces as following the ‘way of idolatry’ if they take a different view on theology or even comply with equality laws. This also claims that there is a general ‘requirement that believers not associate with openly immoral church members’; and ‘We in the Global South have always made repentance the starting point for any reconciliation and resumption of fellowship in the Communion.’ This echoes Archbishop Peter Akinola’s earlier description of the Episcopal Church of the USA as a ‘cancerous lump’ which must be ‘excised’.

Witnessing in a broken world

The Communiqué draws attention to the tragedy of the genocide in Rwanda, to which primates and other leaders responded by ‘prayer and reflection. We were chastened by this experience and commit ourselves not to abandon the poor or the persecuted wherever they may be and in whatever circumstances. We add our voices to theirs and we say, “Never Again!”’ It continues, ‘As we prayed and wept at the mass grave of 250,000 helpless victims we confronted the utter depravity and inhumanity to which we are all subject outside of the transforming grace of God.’

Over the past century, widespread cruelty and slaughter have taken place not only in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America but also in Europe. Many vividly remember when Hitler’s regime, which held that some people were superior and others subhuman, murdered large numbers of Jewish and disabled people, and locked gypsies and gays, communists and feminists in concentration camps which many did not survive. How have ordinary people repeatedly been persuaded to go along with ethnic ‘cleansing’ and other barbarity?

Factors perhaps include the tendency of humans to feel distaste or contempt for, or distance themselves from, those regarded as ‘other’. Most disturbingly, while some Christians have bravely resisted, other devout believers have been convinced that mistreating others was doing God’s will. Through the centuries many have believed that the Bible justified anti-Semitism and separation of humankind into different ‘races’ or violence against the defenceless. It is all too easy not to question what teachers, pastors and national leaders claim is righteous and true. Scripture and tradition, as well as claims of social progress, have been misused to justify victimising others, not recognising them as children of the same heavenly Father, in whose image they are made. Indeed ‘The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17.9).

Less obviously, in both the global South and North, the destitute and abandoned largely go unnoticed by the prosperous and comfortable, apart from occasional acts of charity. Often Christians as well as non-Christians pass by on the other side (Luke 10.25-37), unwilling to enter too deeply into the lives of those whose experience is different from their own.

Humility is called for on the part of Anglicans throughout the world who wish to challenge cruelty and injustice and grow more like their Shepherd, who teaches people to love even their enemies (Matthew 5.43-48), patiently seeks the lost (Luke 15) and is willing to lay down his life for his sheep (John 10.11-16). ‘Evangelical’ or ‘Anglo-Catholic’, ‘liberal’ or ‘traditional’, we can only witness authentically to a broken world if we can admit our own fallibility.

Being Anglican

Nevertheless Anglicanism has something to offer the world. It arose from the ashes of brutal conflict in which pious Christians burnt or beheaded one another in God’s name. Former enemies, joined in a common baptism, together partook of the body and blood of Christ.

Decolonisation further decentralised power in the Anglican Communion, as did the increased role of laypeople in decision-making. There is no single authority which wields control everywhere, which could stifle cultural and theological diversity.

At best, Anglican engagement with Scripture, tradition and reason (and experience, some would add) has provided fertile ground for the workings of the Holy Spirit. It has sometimes taken a long time to reach consensus, and profound theological disagreements remain on issues ranging from lay presidency at communion to nuclear warfare, remarriage of divorcees and homosexuality. Patience can be hard, not only for those who believe that harmful teachings and practices are not being strongly enough challenged but also for others who feel that their vocation or very humanity has not been recognised because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity or disability. But in time correct ideas are generally confirmed and wrong ones abandoned, in the context of shared worship, prayer and care for the sick and needy.

Dare any of us judge others, confident that we occupy the moral high ground (Matthew 7.1-5)? Does the language of “The Road to Lambeth” reflect the wisdom from above that is pure, peaceable, gentle and full of mercy (James 3.13-18)? Can we presume to come to the Lord’s table trusting in our own righteousness, and insist that certain of our brothers and sisters be barred if we are to attend? Jesus himself was criticised for eating with sinners (Matthew 9.11-13); are the disciples greater than the master? And if strong differences of opinion arise over other matters (which is likely) might there not be further splits? Will clergy who disagree with legitimate decisions within their provinces again seek out archbishops overseas to offer episcopal oversight? This is not in accord with Anglican tradition, and sets a poor example to a divided world.

Living with difference can be painful, and it may take time to learn to dispute difficult issues with kindness, respect and empathy. But the breadth of Anglicanism is part of our inheritance which we should cherish. Through continuing to eat and drink together at the Lord’s table and seeking to love across boundaries of culture and opinion, Anglicans may experience spiritual renewal and play a greater part in the healing of the nations.

Prepared by Savitri Hensman, Anglican Matters and member of InclusiveChurch executive

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 October 2006 at 10:30pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion | InclusiveChurch
Comments

What a breath of fresh air is this. Thank you.

Posted by: laurence roberts on Monday, 9 October 2006 at 10:47pm BST

Well played, God's children.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 2:08am BST

Many thanks to both Inclusive Church and to St. Martin's in the Fields. How lovely are the feet of those who publish a gospel of peace.

Yes the realignment juggernaut rolls on, but in a way that is hardly the biggest news, because the biggest news is that we are still just trying to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 2:26am BST

This is extremely well put, especially the reminder that previous acts of genocide have included gays as their victims -- the analogy to the proposed legislation in Nigeria hardly needs to be pointed out.

As I dodder along, now certainly closer to the grave than to the craddle, I find that all of this squabbling seems a pointless waste of time and the "threat" of no longer being associated with ++Peter Akinola seems more and more like a blessing.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 3:30pm BST

drandanfee - we just had Matthew 5 at church - I just cannot see how you make up a Jesus who relaxes moral rules - just read it

sure, he reached out to sinners but always to say, "repent and believe and I accept you"

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 12:26pm BST

If Christianity is primarily about 'moral rules', no wonder it has so little resonance outside societies whose level of development is much the same as first-century Palestine!

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 4:22pm BST

Actually, NP, I think it's "I accept you, believe, and repent." The order is very important. We don't buy our way into Heaven by doing things God will like. That's Pelagianism. And we don't win people's hearts by telling them they are so bad God can't accept them till they change. Jesus didn't do that. The message is not "change yourself so God will love you" but "God loves you, allow His love to change you".

As to Matthew 5, you read through 40 odd verses, and all you can find are the bits that talk about marriage and divorce, or maybe it's the bit about how the Law is not abrogated. He doesn't specify moral versus ritual Law, so I would have to assume He means all the Law. Given that He later shows Peter in a vision that "unclean foods" are of no concern, I would suggest that His meaning here is something other than that we must follow the letter of the Law, no? What about vv. 21-26, or 43-48? Good Heavens, you even skipped over the Beatitudes in your rush to find God's blessing on your judgement of other people's morals. I should think that, regardless of your understanding of the passages I've talked about, there is a lot more in this about how we are to treat one another. Why not stress that? After all, if we treated each other the way Jesus taught us to, sorting through all the other moralistic stuff would be easier. Not nearly as much fun, though.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 5:05pm BST

The word repent doesn't appear in Mathew 5: don't you love computer bibles :-)!

But these phrases do
... unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (5:21)
...anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (5:22)
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. (5:23-25)
...Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (5:42)
...Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44)

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 8:44pm BST

The requirements for salvation vary depending which part of which NT book you're reading. The injunctions `accept', `believe', `confess', and `be baptized' appear in various combinations.

When Matthew, writing mostly to Jews, reports Jesus as telling Jews they had to `believe', in exactly *what* do you think they were supposed to believe? What was the gospel Jesus preached and how does that relate the the good news of His life?

Small wonder I have a deep mistrust of (typically evangelicals) with a glib potted story of Jesus' life *as* *the* A,B,C recipe for salvation.

Posted by: Tim on Friday, 13 October 2006 at 10:48am BST

"The requirements for salvation vary depending which part of which NT book you're reading. The injunctions `accept', `believe', `confess', and `be baptized' appear in various combinations."

Actually, they don't. We are betrayed by our langauge which overloads many of these words with multiple meanings. There is one meaning which unifies these apparently disparate terms -- trust. Trust in God, believe in God, have faith in God, accept God... all these things have to do with putting our trust. None of them have anything to do with doctrine. We are not exhorted to believe doctrine. We are exhorted to believe in God. That's belief in not belief that.

From these flows the desire to make a committment to God through baptism and the desire to love the world which God created. It's because we've managed to trick language into doing diffeerent things for us that Faith has been transformed into The Faith which is supposedly a set of doctines which the Apostles themselves believed were true. This is a distortion of the Gospel.

It is the Orthodox Heresy -- that salvation is dependant on believing correct doctrine.

Posted by: ruidh on Friday, 13 October 2006 at 4:00pm BST

ruidh

This is very helpful to me,thanks

Posted by: laurence roberts on Friday, 13 October 2006 at 5:44pm BST

Ruidh,
Before the more conservative among us get at you I'll ask myself, since it is a question I mull over a lot. How do you square this attitude with the injunction not be led astray by false doctrine, not to follow the "elemental spirits", and to stand fast to the tradition we have been given? I think this question is complex, BTW, and not satisfactorily answered by "it's in the Bible" type "solutions" to issues. If I, as an Anglican, am to believe we are true to the tradition, then I have to acknowledge that standing fast in the tradition we have been given cannot simply mean following Scripture. Indeed, it seems to me that those who claim the supreme authority of Scripture are those who are not standing by the tradition of the Apostles, who have been following the elemental spirit of fear. The Scriptures aren't a rule book for how to play Church, or how to play Christian for that matter. The idea of believing "correct doctrine" does seem to be Scriptural, though. Any guidance?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 16 October 2006 at 6:10pm BST

The original Christian doctrines are lost to history. All we have is Christianity as interpreted through Greek philosophy. We're already far beyond "the tradition" of the Apostles. The history of the Church is that of an inculturation of the Gospel -- expressing timeless truths in new expressions which resonate in a time and place.

But any doctrine may turn out to be false doctrine. We need to be prepared to eventually discover that we may have been wrong about the doctrines we believe. We shouldn't be led astray by the stories we need to tell ourselves in order to allow us to get our rational minds out of the way of our faith -- our trust.

Posted by: ruidh on Tuesday, 17 October 2006 at 2:55am BST

I find this is very true ruidh and needs to heard. The original Aramaic message and context of Jesus has been lost to our great loss, too. But it is never mentioned or at best glossed over. It must be a great loss.

I feel the offical Churches are more keen to worship Jesus or Christ ,( there is confusion about this) but do not look so much for the worth of his message, so much. I prefer to speak of Jesus' message rather tahn calling it teaching. Somehow, message is more engaging (& perhaps, honest).

I find a more minimal or thin estimation of Jesus ( letting him off his pedastal--) lests him gain in significance, for me. My sense is he is only too keen to end his confinment on our pedastles, and come alive in our minds, in new ways.

I love some of Albert Schweitzer's writing on Jesus. He seems to let Jesus come out ...

Posted by: laurence roberts on Tuesday, 17 October 2006 at 12:20pm BST

I find myself in the somewhat fundamentalist position of claiming that the Tradition handed to us, shaped by Greek philosophy and even our selling out to the Empire is God's way of preserving the Truth. Thus the loss of the "originals" might not mean all that much. It is a faith in which we are surrounded, almost tangibly, by saints to whom we have access, nurtured by sacraments that transmit grace through the most mundane of things, and which shows by the Incarnation that to be human is good in God's eyes, and He wants us to be as He made us, not "bruised by the Fall" any more. To separate out just the "message" of Jesus would weaken it for me, just as much as following the austere religion of those who believe the Bible is the guidebook for how to play Church. The Tradition is so much richer. As a friend once said, "I am unwilling to sell my Incarnational heritage for a pot of message."

Posted by: Ford ELms on Tuesday, 17 October 2006 at 12:55pm BST

I find myself in the somewhat fundamentalist position of claiming that the Tradition handed to us, shaped by Greek philosophy and even our selling out to the Empire is God's way of preserving the Truth. Thus the loss of the "originals" might not mean all that much. It is a faith in which we are surrounded, almost tangibly, by saints to whom we have access, nurtured by sacraments that transmit grace through the most mundane of things, and which shows by the Incarnation that to be human is good in God's eyes, and He wants us to be as He made us, not "bruised by the Fall" any more. To separate out just the "message" of Jesus would weaken it for me, just as much as following the austere religion of those who believe the Bible is the guidebook for how to play Church. The Tradition is so much richer. As a friend once said, "I am unwilling to sell my Incarnational heritage for a pot of message."

Posted by: Ford ELms on Tuesday, 17 October 2006 at 12:55pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.