Friday, 16 December 2016
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon interviewed by CoI Gazette
Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, recently interviewed Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General at the Anglican Communion Office. The full interview lasts 45 minutes, and the recordings can be found here.
There is a report in the Church Times today: Idowu-Fearon: US conservatives manipulating African Anglicans.
THE importance that African church leaders attach to the question of same-sex relationships is the result of interference by conservatives in the United States, the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said.
In an interview with The Church of Ireland Gazette, published last week, Dr Idowu-Fearon said that Anglican leaders in Africa seemed “to be so much taken in” by the issue, not because of concerns about the impact on relations with Muslims, but as a result of “very strong minority conservatives” in the US.
“The very strong minority conservatives, not in the UK but in America, they have found a footing amongst some of the leaders in Africa,” he said. “They are the ones that sort of pumped this thing into the leaders, and the leaders decided to make it an African thing. It is not an African thing. There are homosexuals everywhere — even in my diocese.”
He denied that African leaders were anxious about relationships with Muslims: “It’s not true. It has not stopped church growth in my part of Nigeria. . . Nobody talks about it.”
Another report of the interview has been published here: Are the Leaders of Africa’s Anglican Churches “Despotic”?
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 16 December 2016 at 4:42pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
I'm very glad to see that Archbishop Idowu-Fearon has had the courage to speak out on what has been going on for a long time now. The blatant manipulation, coercion and sometimes barely concealed bribery that is the hallmark of American conservatives has damaged not only the African Church but the entire Anglican Communion.
And don't forget the manipulative actions
of Sydney either.
The interview with Josiah was fascinating. The thing is, too much of the discourse among English bishops seems opaque, and what does get said publicly sometimes seems highly controlled. Josiah, in contrast, was pretty transparent here (which may cause a few shit-storms for him, but at least he's come out and said things bluntly and... to use an important word... honestly). So kudos to him for that.
He considers himself a reconciler, wanting the Communion to hold together - "to live together with our differences" - and yet he is perplexed at how that can be achieved.
He is very blunt about an 'African problem' which is fascinating. When white British Anglicans question the (diverse and problematic) African Anglican situation in their minds, a kind of risk-of-being-racist thing kicks in, and maybe even censors things that need to be said... but far better said, as in this case, by someone like Josiah.
He says that "Africans need to hear that not everyone in the Church is against same-sex" and that Africans need "to see how we can learn"... even though Josiah himself holds conservative views on human sexuality.
African Anglican leaders "are terribly despotic"... "not consulting enough, ruling like traditional African rulers"... which creates "fear of others in the African churches that if they disagree they might be marginalised".
Josiah clearly wants African churches where diverse views can be taken seriously and included: "I have been blessed by my education in the West... where you are educated to ask questions... where education humbles you... but unfortunately we don't have that in Africa... it's a big problem."
Then he says the accentuation of the problem of same-sex is not out of fear of losing people to Islam, but because "the very strong minority conservatives in America [sic] have found a footing amongst some of the leaders in Africa. They have pumped this thing into the leaders, and then the leaders decided to make it an African thing... it is not an African thing. It is these conservative Americans that make it a front-line issue."
Josiah also claims "the religious class" (in Africa) "is corrupt." He sees links with political corruption.
Finally, on Africa, he insists that African Anglicans should worry about "real issues" like poverty, not sexual relations problems... "it's not our problem." I think he just means there should be far more focus on the desperate issues around poverty.
Okay. In my last post I tried to summarise what Josiah seemed to be saying about the Anglican Churches in Africa. I hope I represented his comments faithfully. Now for a response.
It's primarily about desperate poverty.
I'll say that again. I agree with Josiah that the primary issue by far faced by Christians and local priests in Africa is poverty.
I feel strongly with that, and feel Josiah is right to identify this sort of problem as "real issues", because my own sweet daughter works selflessly in slums in Africa, and I hear first-hand the desperation, the helplessness, the health issues, the violence, the alcoholism, the despair.
It's not about sex.
When Josiah says "it's not our problem", I think - I hope - he means that in comparative terms, it's just not up there with poverty as the number one issue... and that, as he implies, outsiders have come in and persuaded certain leaders to make it a disproportionately big issue.
What Josiah feels so strongly about - and I respect him for it and agree with him - is the importance of holding the Anglican Communion together if we possibly can. Local priests and church communities all over Africa face terrible, heart-rending problems in the reality of their daily lives as communities. The thought that we lose bonds of communion and solidarity with them breaks my heart. Can we "live together in unity" as the Psalmist says, and "love one another" as Jesus said. Yet too often, Josiah fears, there is hatred... hatred of those we disagree with.
The interviewer asks: "So the different sides have to learn to live together?"
"Absolutely," Josiah replies. "I'm conservative but... I'm struggling with this... what is the Lord doing in his Church?"
I can see here, how perplexed Josiah is, that something is not right in the way forces pull people apart. And he seems to be wondering, is there some solution, some alternative?
"We need to see how we can learn... and live together with our differences."
I agree. I've said all along, the key challenge, the key issue, isn't "Who is right?" That approach pulls disagreeing parties apart. The key issue and challenge is:
"How can we love on another, and care for one another, even in all our differences and diversities?"
The issue is grace. The issue is love. The issue is not 'who is right?'
I can't speak for the leadership issue, and the "despotic" charge, because I don't have the experience. Same with corruption. But Josiah clearly feels there needs to be more acknowledgment and recognition of divergent views (and of course that works both ways in the Communion). He feels some African leadership has been hijacked by an agenda and a priority which is not naturally Africa's priority. And that this hijack threatens to de-rail the Communion.
I agree. My daughter's weekly emails speak of a different Africa. An Africa concerned far far less with 'teh gayz' but with food, and unaffordable healthcare, and teenage pregnancy, and alcoholism and despair.
And then, out of someone else's agenda... comes GAFCON, which Josiah goes on to talk about.
* * * * * * * *
Josiah draws on previous pressures for evangelicals to splinter, citing the whole Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott thing, where Martyn seemed to want evangelicals from across the denominations to come together and start a distinct evangelical communion of churches.
Josiah feels God used John Stott to preach “evangelicals should stay” and he feels the same today.
The Interviewer asks: “Isn’t that what GAFCON wants to?” (to stay)
Josiah replies, “No, I don’t think so.”
Then he criticises the gathering where the Jerusalem Declaration was announced. “It wasn’t debated.” That seems to reflect back to what he says about authoritarianism in the African churches, and shortfall of internal debate as well as some suggestion that the Jerusalem Declaration was imposed by a small group, fired up by conservative Western elements.
He is fairly scathing towards Peter Jensen. He told him that GAFCON was not God’s purpose: “I’m sorry, it is not a movement of the Holy Spirit, because it is divisive.” The interviewer fairly cuts in and asks, wouldn’t GAFCON argue that it’s abandonment of traditional values that is divisive?
Josiah then argues that 70% of Anglicans want to stay together, but that 15% on one side and 15% on the other side want to impose their views on the 70%. “That’s where the problem is.”
He fundamentally believes that human sexuality is not a dividing issue, and that we should “live together with our differences”. The question is how.
At that point he turns to the Anglican Covenant as a solution.
Most of what I have reflected on so far leads me to considerable agreement with Josiah, but I will finish with two points where I don’t find myself in agreement.
The first is his account of ACC-16. And the second is what I regard as his misplaced advocacy of a resurrected Anglican Covenant.
Turning to ACC-16, I simply don’t feel convinced by his account (an account he shares with Justin Welby) that ACC-16 mandated the Primates’ Meetings ‘consequences’ for the US Church and gave the Primates’ resolution legitimacy.
Interviewer: “The Archbishop of Canterbury gave the impression that the ACC accepted this.”
Josiah: “Yes, it was accepted.”
It was “received”. But the group of leaders of that meeting felt they had to repudiate Justin’s claim that “receive” equalled “accepted” by issuing a statement that the Primates’ Resolution had NOT been accepted.
So I fear there may be a bit of re-writing of history here.
There is not consent or agreement in the Communion that top-down uniform dogma should be imposed on individual provinces with the threat of what are diplomatically called 'consequences'.
This principle is at the heart of why Josiah's advocacy of the Anglican Covenant is problematical too, and I would like to turn, finally, to this issue of the Covenant.
So finally, the Anglican Covenant.
Surely, when the Church of England and other provinces rejected it, they were sending a message that there is no 'worldwide Anglican Church' and that individual provinces retained autonomy to care for their own communities in ways they felt led by God to do. They did not want 'top-down uniformity' imposed on all provinces. This was about more than sex, or sanctions. It was about the nature of the Communion.
The origins of the Anglican Covenant – let's be plain about this – were about a desire to police and control doctrine as a specific means of enforcing doctrinal uniformity on human sexuality issues. That was clearly the motivation behind the original champions of the Covenant.
This didn't work then, and it won't work now.
Josiah thinks it could: "Yes, it's a way forward... there can be an Anglican Covenant without the Church of England."
He proposes the 'sanctions' part in section 4 of the Covenant gets shelved, and the Covenant brought in on the basis of sections 1 to 3. Then after that, there would be a second stage: "How do we therefore relate together?" At that point, perhaps Section 4 could be renegotiated.
The re-introduction of the Anglican Covenant "is part of what we expect the Anglican Communion Task Force to do leading up to 2019."
Then Josiah justifies the attempted re-introduction of the Covenant: "Without the Covenant, there is no Communion, the way things are going now."
He hopes things will be in place for a Lambeth Conference – "the Archbishop is working towards 2020, yes there will be one."
I believe events will probably overtake this attempt to resurrect the Covenant. The whole concept of trying to establish Communion-wide uniformity on doctrine, top-down, runs at odds with what Josiah himself asserted early in the interview: about the need to learn... "and live together with our differences."
We need unity in diversity, not uniformity imposed by either 15% at the extremes. We need a unity and communion we can only ever truly receive in Jesus Christ, to love and serve our own, diverse and needy, local communities... in our own Spirit-led ways... to love and serve those at the margins, whether sexually or economically... and above all in Africa, to serve the raw and desperate needs of the poor... something that merits love, solidarity and sharing in a worldwide Communion seeking to follow Christ.
I'm glad Archbishop Josiah is repeating out loud the critique of certain stripes of African Christianity that has been heard in the West for some years. This part alone:
"I have been blessed by my education in the West... where you are educated to ask questions... where education humbles you... but unfortunately we don't have that in Africa... it's a big problem."
...will totally destroy his credibility with the bible-college educated potentate-bishops with which the church in Nigeria, Uganda and other places is rife. They will simply read this as heterodoxy and commit Josiah to the same flames to which the American church was committed when Gene was consecrated.
Africa produces some outstanding bishops.
"I think he just means there should be far more focus on the desperate issues around poverty."
By Christmas 1945, Japan was under military occupation following one of the bloodiest and most destructive attacks on a country ever seem. Almost every city had been raised to the ground, by incendiaries, high explosives and in two cases nuclear weapons. The entire transportation system had been reduced to scrap iron, the entire manufacturing sector had been destroyed, the population had been severely malnourished for some years and was now facing widespread starvation. A large proportion of the male population of working age were either dead or overseas, the systems of local and national government had broken down, along with any semblance of a legal system or an effective police force, and schools and hospitals were devastated and completely lacking in resource.
You can have a very nice holiday in Tokyo today: I recommend the small restaurants on the docks. Travelling in the countryside, you can stay in elegant small hotels, eat well, and spend time in a tranquil, prosperous democracy.
The same argument holds, mutatis mutandis, for South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Germany (although you could argue that the former DDR endured more, and for a lot longer).
Which is why claims that African's problems are purely the result of colonialism should be treated with a certain scepticism. Japan went from nuclear strikes to prosperity in a generation (I've been to Hiroshima a few times: it's a nice place). Most of Africa is still beset by civil wars, corrupt rulers and a failure of civil society. There comes a point where that isn't our fault any more.
The Nigerian Archbishop who is currently Secretary General of the Anglican Communion actually knows from experience something of the despotic rule of GAFCON Primates. He was dismissed from his post as an Archbishop in Nigeria by his local Primate - for not agreeing to toe the schismatic line of GAFCON.
It seems perfectly natural that he should point to the malign influence of fundamentalist U.S. and Sydney dissidents upon some Churches of the G.S. that are looking to disown the See of Canterbury.
Bp.Idowu-Fearon's current take on some the authoritarian leadership and lack of consultation in the Communion is interesting given the spin he put on the Primates’ January “murmuratio” and its spill over to Anglican Consultative Council.
Clearly conservatives in the U.S. will have egg on their face as a result of the comments by Idowu-Fearon.
The exportation of American culture wars, a kind of neo-colonial initiative, has seriously compounded the unity problems in the Anglican Communion.
Canada is finally, although belatedly, in most places here anyway, embracing the inclusive nature of the wider secular Canadian culture. What provinces elsewhere do with what are primarily ethical and cultural issues is for them to work out with fear and trembling.
These days, I worship with--not for--The Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Covenant is what it has always been, a tower of Babel designed to promote unity, giving a body to division.
The church does not require a central administration or government. A network of cooperating churches is the reality of the body of Christ, with Christ as the head, not a synod.
Those who would not want to have anything to do with a covenant are entirely free to do so. That has always been the case. TEC has made its view known, formally. Josiah isn't proposing a covenant to 'correct' that reality or the Tower of Babel view of Fr Haller. So they may ignore it and carry on, and let those who wish to covenant do so. I take it that is how he views the matter. TEC wishes to be an independent national denomination and there will be others who hold this view as well. That is not news. Carry on.
The danger, Christopher, is that the Covenant becomes an instrument of division: dividing those who sign up to certain theological positions from those who don't, until you have two separate entities.
The Covenant seems to imply a top-down call for uniformity to a single position on matters like human sexuality, whereas that is not how the Anglican Communion has been framed.
There have historically been quite wide diversities of belief in Anglicanism, and self-determination for individual provinces, not top-down conformity.
Part of the genius (and the tension) of Anglicanism has historically been how people managed to live together with different views and different theological slants.
And arguably this leads to a way of grace, where what matters most is not 'who is precisely right' but do you 'love one another'?
I'd argue that imposed conformity and uniformity is precisely the wrong way to go. We need to stop the macho theological contests over 'I am right'... 'No, I am right'... and try to see what God is *really* challenging us to do...
...to afford one another respect, to recognise diversities of conscience, and then... the heart of the matter... to let love win between us, to open our hearts to the love and grace of God.
The reality is that a Communion in which there is not shared communion isn't a communion. I believe more provinces are out of communion with TEC than are in communion. This isn't really a workable or sustainable view of an Anglican Communion. One can say it is OK and adjust to it, as you apparently wish to do, but you will need a new term of reference. Anglican Federation? And those who want a communion on the terms of actual shared communion will want to keep that conception. So in fact your position is simply your own and those who share it. And there is a second one. You can't make the latter into the former just by wanting it so. Your 'genius' is someone else's 'confusion' and obfuscation. These are facts on the ground. A communion of provinces not in communion with each other isn't a witness to anything except temporizing. Advent blessings.
I suspect the vast majority of Church members in any of the provinces are perfectly happy to come to the same communion table with members of other provinces... because they are coming to the table to take the sacraments and draw into communion with GOD.
Every single Christian is 'in communion' with one another, if they are 'in Christ', sharing in that eternal communion and unity of the Holy Trinity in the household of God.
Just because some Christian leaders get stress with one another, usually over theological detail, doesn't change the eternal union and communion we find and share in Jesus Christ.
This eternal communion is ordained by God, not man or woman, and indeed is an exhortation Jesus makes, along with the imperative to 'love one another'.
I'm perfectly happy to take communion with people who are Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Pentecostal, Coptic, etc. If we are 'One in Christ' then we share the same communion that Christ shares with the Holy Trinity.
Too many quarrelling, sometimes macho men and posturing in positions of leadership, trying to control affairs their way.
In my sincere view, no Christian can say 'I'm not in communion with you.'
The vital thing is not our uniformity (in a world of fabulous diversity) but our love.
Your musings are interesting but don't change the realities of church division. These must be addressed as realities, not ephemera.
the "...realities of church division .. must be addressed as realities.."
Are you thinking of American culture wars and how they intersect divisions in the Communion?
You are closer to that reality than I am in France. Merry Christmas!
"You are closer to that reality than I am in France.'
Perhaps France is surreal, at least for Anglicans in Paris, oui et non?
Note the following from the article:
“ 'The very strong minority conservatives, not in the UK but in America, they have found a footing amongst some of the leaders in Africa,' he said. 'They are the ones that sort of pumped this thing into the leaders, and the leaders decided to make it an African thing. It is not an African thing.' "
Here in Canada, some of the loudest voices in opposition to same sex marriage, outside some of the First Nations communities, are American ex-pats working in the Canadian church, so I reckon you have something of a point, and are in agreement with the good bishop?
À demain, A blessed Thomas à Becket day.
American ex-pats in Canadian Church -- who are these? I wasn't aware of this development. There is a sizable conservative element in Toronto Diocese but I don't know any ex-pats in it.
As for the anglicans in Paris, they are all Brits. Your reference to 'surreal' makes no sense to me.
Anglicans in Paris? Are there not Americans on Avenue George V?
I wouldn't have assumed a Canadian would refer to Americans/Episcopalians in Paris as Anglicans, but then again, I'm not sure what the point of the comment was ("Perhaps France is surreal, at least for Anglicans in Paris, oui et non"). The Anglicans in Ile de France are all Brits except for the chaplain in Maisons Lafitte. But what Mr Gillis was wanting to say I haven't a clue.
"Your reference to 'surreal' makes no sense to me."
That was intended as a bit of drole comment re: France and "reality" . Too much?
"As for the anglicans in Paris, they are all Brits." I realize not all Anglicans in France are Americans;but I was thinking about the American Cathedral in particular as Simon noted above as well, "Anglicans in Paris? Are there not Americans on Avenue George V?" I attended a Sunday liturgy there several years ago. The sermon was mostly about Benjamin Franklin, and so a bit surreal, in a different kind of way. Very friendly folks though. I was interested in the memorial tablet remembering Americans who fought with Commonwealth Forces.
"There is a sizable conservative element in Toronto Diocese but I don't know any ex-pats in it." Actually, I was left wondering if you were referring to T.O., and perhaps to Wycliffe? Am I wrong in thinking that a number of the conservatives there were born in the U.S.A., with one or two others from elsewhere in the Communion as well?
Of course, there are several priests in parish/diocesan work across our country who are Americans but in the progressive camp.
"But what Mr Gillis was wanting to say I haven't a clue." Mr. Gillis was my father. I am Mr. Gillis' son Father Gillis. But do call me Rod.
I still have no idea what your comment really means given the thread. So there is an American Episcopal Church in Paris. (And a quite big American Church on the left bank, for that matter.)
How does that connect with your comment about American politics, presumably directed to me?
Episcopalians are not usually referred to as Anglicans, by their own disposition, as wanting to be TEC and not wanting to be ACNA.
"I realize not all Anglicans in France are Americans" doesn't make much sense.
There is a single American Episcopal church in France. There are over 40 Church of England parishes (Anglican, mostly british in attendance) spread over the entire country. Smarting from Brexit if retired and not much interested in the divisions you started this comment thread with.
Your comment was, "are American ex-pats working in the Canadian church."
To whom were you referring? The conservatives in the Anglican Church of Canada I know are all Canadians. Barry Parker has the largest parish in the ACofC. Dean Mercer, Murray Henderson, Catherine Sider-Hamilton, Ajit John, Peter Robinson and the list goes on -- all proud Canadians. Are you just chasing the wind?
You objection to being called by your surname reminds me of fussy French politicians getting incensed when referred to by 'tu' and their Christian names, though I understand that issue at least.
@ Chris Seitz,
"To whom were you referring? The conservatives in the Anglican Church of Canada I know are all Canadians." To whom were you referring i.e. "You are closer to that reality than I am in France."
I hadn't a clue what you were talking about there. I thought you may have been referring to some of the conservative Americans attached to Wycliffe who have a profile on these issues, i.e. previous president, current president both born in the U.S.A, Ephraim Radner retired from there I believe, and then there is your good self of course, oui?
Not just "fussy French politicians" old son. Check with Alliance Francaise;but maybe you've had a bad experience using tu rather than vous? By the by, mature adults in Quebec don't cotton to young strangers using "tu" either. It's funny how its the other guy's cultural nuances that always appear to one to be "fussy"
Anyway, Chris my brother, this thread looks like it is descending the line up. À bientot.
Voila, Monsieur Enseignant aussi...
There was a very funny exchange over one France politician's arch use of 'tu' and first name for his left opponent. That story didn't get out to Western Canada, where you are hung up on the obverse. Hate to have to explain a joke.
I believe the present Principal at Wycliffe has lived his entire adult life in Canada. Radner is an American citizen, and not in the ACofC. My wife is a French professor running a business in France. I do not live in Toronto.
"There was a very funny exchange over one France politician's arch use of 'tu' and first name for his left opponent." I don't often tune in to local news from France, so your allusion was lost on me.
"My wife is a French professor running a business in France." Very good. I have a family member who is Francophone and a professional translator. Small world. And how threads travel. Happy New Year.
Monsieur Gillis -- si vous voulez observer notre Christmas a Courances, je pense que vous pourriez (a Instagram a French_affaires.)
Merci, Chris. salut, -Rod ( :