Thinking Anglicans

an open letter from Archbishop Akinola

An open letter to my fellow Primates.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our One and Only Saviour Jesus, the Christ.

I write on the 490th anniversary of that moment in Church history when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg in which he asserted, among other things, that the truth of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are facing a similar situation today. While it has been my hope that we would be able to share these reflections face to face it seems unlikely that we will be called to meet together in the near future and so I offer these thoughts by letter.

It has been repeatedly stated and most succinctly summarized in the report, ‘Road to Lambeth’ we face a two fold crisis in the Anglican Communion: a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under the common foundation of faith. (See the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral)

The Church of Nigeria is not interested in territorial expansion. The failure to resolve these dual crises has been at the heart of the decision by our Church and a number of other Global South Provinces to offer encouragement and oversight to a growing number of clergy and congregations in the USA. These pastoral initiatives are not and should not be seen as the cause of the crises.

Although they have variously been described as “interventions” “boundary crossing” or “incursions” — they are a direct and natural consequence of the decision by The Episcopal Church (TEC) to follow the path that it has now chosen.

These pastoral initiatives undertaken to keep faithful Anglicans within our Anglican family has been at a considerable cost of crucial resources to our province. There is no moral equivalence between them and the actions taken by TEC. They are a heartfelt response to cries for help. We acted in accordance with the Gospel mandate. Had TEC, against all godly warnings, not taken actions that tore the fabric of our beloved Communion there would be no need for hundreds indeed, thousands of its members to seek pastoral, episcopal and now primatial care elsewhere.

It has been suggested that our actions violate historic Anglican polity and early church tradition with particular reference made to the Council of Nicea. This assertion is both hollow and made in bad faith since those who make it are more than willing to ignore historic biblical teaching on the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the call to moral obedience. With regard to Nicea – while there was concern for proper order there was even greater commitment to maintaining right teaching. This can be seen by the provision of godly bishops and clergy in places where the incumbents were proponents of false teaching.

The world needs to understand that the situation that we now confront is not primarily about structure or conferences but about irreconcilable truth claims. It is worth remembering that in the Biblical narratives religious structures have often been the enemy of revealed truth. When these structures become obstacles, YHWH, in his own way and at a time of his own choosing removed them and brought His people back to Himself. Of course there is value to preserving Anglican structures but we must never do so at the expense of the people for whom our Lord Jesus the Christ gave his life.

Until the Communion summons the courage to tackle that issue headlong and resolve it we can do no other than provide for those who cry out to us. It is our earnest prayer that repentance and reconciliation will make this a temporary arrangement. One thing is clear we will not abandon our friends.

When we met in Dar es Salaam, after a great deal of effort, we suggested a way forward that had the support of all those present – including the Presiding Bishop of TEC. The House of Bishops and Executive Committee of The Episcopal Church quickly rejected this proposal on the grounds that it apparently violated their canons. We now have a counter proposal from TEC and yet there is no indication that it will meet the needs of those for whom it is supposedly designed. This endless series of proposals and counter proposals continues with no apparent conclusion in sight. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only acceptable end as far as TEC is concerned is the full capitulation of any who would stand in opposition to their biblically incompatible innovations- this we will never do. There is a way forward – we have written and spoken repeatedly about it – the time for action is now.

I believe that we Primates must meet in the next few months to respond to the crisis that now confronts us. The situation in The Episcopal Church is deteriorating rapidly. Lawsuits are escalating and I have just heard that Bishop Bob Duncan is now threatened with ecclesiastical trial by the Presiding Bishop for his faithful attempts to find a way to protect his faithful members and diocese. Other godly bishops are under the same threat. Their only crime is a desire to continue their Christian pilgrimage as faithful Anglicans. This situation will affect all of us. We dare not let our love for the historic structures of our beloved Communion, important as they are, allow us to destroy its future. We are losing members. We are losing time. We are losing our integrity as an important part of the One, holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”. Joel 3:14

+Peter Abuja,
All Saints Day, 2007

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RPNewark
RPNewark
13 years ago

When one compares this letter with other, recently published utterances of Archbishop Akinola one finds a plethora of reasons to believe that this letter has not been drafted by an African but rather by someone of Anglo-Saxon origin. The whole language, structure, grammar, “feel” is decidedly “un-African”. I’m sure the Archbishop agrees with every word and is happy to put his signature to it but it does *not* sound, to this hearer at least, anything other than the writing of a “westerner”. Anyone opening a book on who might be suspect number one? If they are, what odds will you… Read more »

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

Hey look, it’s the latest ?Martyn Minns press release!

[Continuing Bob Pittsburgh’s “We are Martin Luther!” theme roll-out, and w/ all the standard “You’re trying to destroy us!” PROJECTIONS]

Lord have mercy!

John Henry
John Henry
13 years ago

Thus saith the Primate and Metropolitan of Abuja: “I believe that we Primates must meet in the next few months to respond to the crisis that now confronts us. The situation in The Episcopal Church is deteriorating rapidly. Lawsuits are escalating and I have just heard that Bishop Bob Duncan is now threatened with ecclesiastical trial by the Presiding Bishop for his faithful attempts to find a way to protect his faithful members and diocese. Other godly bishops are under the same threat. Their only crime is a desire to continue their Christian pilgrimage as faithful Anglicans.” The Lord Bishop… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Martin Luther” I remember the howls of scorn from the conservatives when Spong came out with his 12 theses. “He actually sees himself as a mofern day Luther!?!?! Guffah!” Yet, +Akinola seems quite happy with the mantle. “the failure of the “Instruments” of the Communion to exercise discipline” I knew this was a bout discipline and control, but in his rather back and forth scorn for cultural arguments, he has missed the fact that for many, it is the absence of this kind of top down discipline that is a good thing. Many see it as Christian. The Reformers did… Read more »

Prior Aelred
13 years ago

“The world needs to understand that the situation that we now confront is not primarily about structure or conferences but about irreconcilable truth claims.” OK, I think it is about power, but if ++Peter Abuja wants to be “irreconcilable,” he has the right. ++Rowan Cantuar has already said that Lambeth is meeting & the primates are not, so is this “open letter” an attempt to pressure the ABC or an attempt to get as many Global South primates as possible to have a meeting & boycott Lambeth (or is he hoping for the first but ready for the latter)? I… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
13 years ago

Let’s read what else is contained in Joel 3 and what causes God to bring the multitudes to the valley for decision, and how God’s blessings will come. “They cast lots for my people… what have you against me…? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

I agree that a clean break will be the best way forward now. I find myself wondering why on earth Anglicans ever ended up setting up provinces in places such as Rwanda and Congo – neither of them ever under British rule. I certainly don’t see why the backward ethical standards of certain developing countries should mean that we Anglicans in Europe have to be prevented from treating our gay members justly here.

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

“The whole language, structure, grammar, “feel” is decidedly “un-African”. “

How unkind!

I was thinking Martyn’s Abujan had considerably improved ….

revkarenm
revkarenm
13 years ago

What a crock, this latest peiece of puffery from the irregular bishop Minns! To whit: “These pastoral initiatives … are a heartfelt response to cries for help. We acted in accordance with the Gospel mandate. Had TEC, against all godly warnings, not taken actions that tore the fabric of our beloved Communion there would be no need for hundreds indeed, thousands of its members to seek pastoral, episcopal and now primatial care.” Can you not hear the cries of anguish? “Please help us, you Primates of the Global South. We have abandoned our ordination vows, repudiated our bishops, and have… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
13 years ago

Perhaps, renouncing your archiepiscopal office might be a good start as you enter upon a life of repentance. John Henry

and/or

+Akinola, simply have your vocal cords frozen, your hands bound and your blinders/ear plugs taken off and out…that ought to help you see that Gods BIG world around you will really astound you and not cause you to whine, complain and defame.

Mil gracias for the Global South “alert”…we know NOW who EXACTLY got Shanghai’d!

Annie
Annie
13 years ago

what’s the fascination with the idea that akinola didn’t/couldn’t have really written this? I don’t get it. Is that some kind of attempt to discredit him…? On the basis that…what? He’s too backward to write his own letters? He doesn’t understand western culture? He’s under the thumb of the ruling white race? I really and truly don’t get it.

James
James
13 years ago

Annie, i think that this is an attempt to discredit ++Akinola. I think they do it out of frustration. They want to dismiss him, and anyone else from the developing world who disagrees with the revisionist lobby, as “backwards” so that they can accuse the GS of being fearful instead of actually engaging with their arguments. However, you can’t really get mad at someone because they are ignorant and backwards, so you have to put someone else there to accuse of being hateful. They choose Martyn. So long as Akinola signed it, it doesn’t matter who wrote it. I assume… Read more »

NP
NP
13 years ago

Mark – shame on you! You say ” I certainly don’t see why the backward ethical standards of certain developing countries….” So, these archbishops are causing problems in the AC because of their “backward” ethics?? The bishops have repeatedly said certain behaviour is “incompatible with scripture” ….. but you want to dismiss archbishops who stick to that position as “backward” and you want to question their “ethics”? I realise you have to attack the people because it has not been possible to convince many in the AC that certain behaviour is in fact holy and good and not “incompatible with… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Annie: I think it’s because Abp Akinola makes such a big deal of standing as a strong voice against the West and its evil values. So, it would be strange if he actually is a puppet of a particular agenda from within the West, viz. the ultra-conservative agenda of Minns et al.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

NP: yes, I do think their ethics are backward. I have lived in Africa, and in many African societies there is still not even the beginning of a culture that allows gay people to articulate their sexuality. This is simply a question of taboo remaining strong. I think that’s backward, personally: I had African men telling me homosexuality doesn’t exist in Africa, that it is a white man’s disease, and then pinching my bottom at the same time! I’m not telling them how to oganise their society, but I think the Western achievement in reaching a point where gay people… Read more »

NP
NP
13 years ago

I object to you lumping Archbihops of the AC in with bigots from Africa or anywhere else, Mark. I have lived in Africa too….but I have also heard the “backward” prejudice you mention in London, Sydney, New York and Paris. There are bigots everywhere…..but this does not justify smearing the views of AC Archbishops and bishops who may have superior theological education and understanding to you….even though they are black, maybe you should engage with them on a theological level and with some respect? How do you explain the theological positions, for Lambeth 1.10, of +Duncan, +Durham, + London and… Read more »

Stephen Roberts
Stephen Roberts
13 years ago

NP – “I object to you lumping Archbihops of the AC in with bigots”

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck – it’s a duck!

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

NP asked: “How do you explain the theological positions, for Lambeth 1.10, of +Duncan, +Durham, + London and many others in “the west”?
Are they “backward” too?”

I would say they are.

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

As to +Dunelm specifically: No one recommending the work of RAJ Gagnon to the Church of England HOB is a scholar.

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

Annie,

There is a convention in Polite Society to write one’s own letters…

Though I can think of an Apostle or two

badman
badman
13 years ago

There’s an air of desperation about Akinola’s letter. Akinola more or less single handedly demonstrated that the Primates meeting is currently disfunctional, by his antics at Dar es Salaam – the conferring with Minns and co throughout (against the rules), the flouncing out of communion, accompanied by a press release (against the rules), the absence from the cathedral service celebrating the abolition of slavery (due to back pain – but using the time to work on drafts with Minns), the railroading of the final communique (which instantly crumbled to dust when it went back to the US). That’s why there… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“this does not justify smearing the views of AC Archbishops and bishops who may have superior theological education and understanding to you….” Given the amount of “smearing” you do of TEC, given that you seem to believe that a few extreme liberals like Spong justify you claiming all of TEC is faithless and heathen, well, except for the “faithful” bishops like +Duncan, how do you have the face to actually try to look all holy defending the Africans against who you think to be the hypocritically racist liberals? “could it be that you are not giving enough respect to the… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

Everyone knows what Akinola’s position is, but there is still a difference between the Conservative Protestant and Western theology of the likes of Minns and Reform and their agenda, and the African spirituality that reads the biblical parallels between their societies and cultures and the ones portrayed in the Bible, societies and cultures that are a mixture of the rural premodern and urban modernising. The letter presented has all the direction and clarity of the Western extreme Protestant agenda – it is not about education levels or literacy, but which part of this alliance this letter is coming from. Essentially,… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

“How do you explain the theological positions, for Lambeth 1.10, of +Duncan, +Durham, + London and many others in “the west”?
Are they “backward” too?”

That depends.
If they have genuinely listened to gay people and wrestled with the issue; if they have genuinely considered changing their minds, but have eventually not been able to do so, then they are not backward.
But if they have done as little listening as many of the African bishops because their hearts and minds were closed from the outset, then yes, they’re backward. Very.

RPNewark
RPNewark
13 years ago

Annie, James, Since I was the first commenter (on this particular thread) to question the authorship of Archbishop Akinola’s letter, I think you should know that I certainly was not attempting to discredit him nor to suggest that, in your words, “he is too backward to write his own letters”. What I was saying and still say is that, I do not believe that this letter was drafted by Archbishop Akinola although he almost certainly read its contents, approved it and either signed it personally or authorised its distribution over his name. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. I have… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

NP: I was taught by the current Bp of Durham at Oxford, and I have nothing but contempt for the unacademic homophobia he now espouses so unpleasantly. I think he has lost the plot when it comes to Christianity.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

PS It’s “with whom you disagree.”

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Archbishop Akinola is being used – yes, manipulated – by conservative evangelicals in north America” Don’t be too sure. He is an intelligent, educated, politically adept man. He also, I think it’s pretty clear, has huge resentment towards colonialists and their descendants. This, to me, is perfectly understandable. If I had grown up in Nigeria when he did, I’d probably feel the same way. I don’t think it’s that uncommon on a continent that is still recovering from the effects of colonilaism. I really don’t believe he’d allow himself to be manipulated by white people. If anything, he’s manipulating them,… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Ford: in both his obsessive (forgivable?) colonial resentment and his virulent homophobia, Akinola seems something of an ecclesiastical Mugabe. Are they alike in any other ways, one wonders…?

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

“what’s the fascination with the idea that akinola didn’t/couldn’t have really written this?”

Past EVIDENCE (of ?Minns’ handiwork), Annie. That’s all.

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

Ooooh I am sure there is some deeper political level in the Minns thing, quite a lot I don’t know.

Why I poke fun at Martyn is because for years he has told big black lies about scripting Akinola – most recently he was caught out big-time – he still lies and lies and lies ….. I think that allows for a little ribbing.

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

“This, to me, is perfectly understandable. If I had grown up in Nigeria when he did, I’d probably feel the same way.”

Isn’t part of what it means to be Christian to leave those irrational non sequitur emotions behind, to recognise that those you’re dealing with today were not involved in past crimes, and to judge everyone by their own merit?

I’m not saying it’s easy but I am saying it’s possible. For someone who claims to be holier than most colonial resentments are not acceptable.
Just look at Desmond Tutu!

NP
NP
13 years ago

Mark – well done, you spotted a typo…..you must be, therefore, right and +Durham and most biblical scholars in the world must be wrong that certain behaviour is “incompatible with scripture?” So funny…. pseudo-academics from the North and people like you want to cry anti-intellectual when an African archbishop wants to stick to scripture but when it is your own Oxford lecturer, you just revert to reviling him. Maybe you will be more persuasive if you stopped attacking the people and could show that what you want the AC to accept is not “incompatible with scripture”. Even Rowan Williams failed… Read more »

NP
NP
13 years ago

Ford – there is a difference between saying certain TECUSA bishops are wrong when they contradict Lambeth 1.10 ……..
..and saying GS archbishops are “backward” and criticising their “ethics” because they support Lambeth 1.10.

I am sure you can see that, Ford.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

NP: you were the one who accused me of being anti-intellectual earlier, actually.
I’m sorry, but your socially exclusive church of Holy Trinity Brompton, with the wealthiest congregation in London, conveniently just off Knightsbridge, is not going to serve as an adequate launch-pad for your gross generalisations about the C of E. You should go and see ministry a somewhere a bit more real before telling everyone else how they should do it.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

NP: “pseudo-academics from the North” – is it that they are pseudo-academics (if it’s J O’Leary you’re referring to who comments on here, I think you’ll find he’s the head of a college at Durham University), or that they come from the North that you object to? I suppose this makes sense now I know that you go to the most socially exclusive church in London: it helps me to understand why you look down so much on everyone else.

NP
NP
13 years ago

look further North, Mark

(you have displayed so much snobbery about the middle classes – it really is embarrassing, Mark)

You can sing the Red Flag if you like…..still does not change what Lambeth 1.10 or what scripture says

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Isn’t part of what it means to be Christian to leave those irrational non sequitur emotions behind” I agree. But it is also part of our fallen state that these things are, as you say, very hard. I’m not excusing his behaviour in this, I believe he is called to better, being a bishop even more than the rest of us, but for some reason, this is one area where I am easier on his sins than I am in other areas. I of course, have no right to be anything about his sins, but I’m fallen too:-) And, NP,… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

I suggest that NP read the posts before she criticizes them.

Pathetic.

Malcolm+
13 years ago

The cloth caps of the working class as images are dated. We’re Labour’s intellectual class and we are educated. By tax incentives we have planned to institute the Promised Land. And just to show we’re still sincere, we’ll sing The Red Flag once a year. I prefer the North American labour movement anthem Solidarity Forever, with it’s defiant verse: Is there ought we hold in common with the evil parasite who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might? Is there anything left for us to do but organize and fight? The union makes us strong.… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

NP: I don’t get your point. Where is further North than Durham? The Shetlands? Maybe it’s just as well I don’t get your point: yours do tend to be rather bitter, don’t they? I’m not at all anti-middle class, my dear, just very anti you telling everyone else they have to copy a weirdly unrepresentative church like HTB. I’m all in favour of weird churches (I’m very happy as an Anglo-Catholic, which has always been counter-cultural), but I wouldn’t dream of telling you that you have become an Anglo-Catholic like me to be blessed by God. One of us is… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
13 years ago

Hi Fr Mark- Christians are generally not remotely interested in party politics, but they are interested in truth and accuracy. How can HTB be called unrepresentative? – unrepresentative of what? Have you seen stats on the take-up for the Alpha course? Or on the church’s own membership and its church planting record? Or on recent Anglo Catholic numbers? In any case, being unrepresentative would not make one wrong. HTB would be the first church that most other denominations would point to in showing their affinities with anglicans. In other words, the local anglican church most broadly representative of world protestant… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Christopher: I mean that, HTB is by its nature a specialist church operating for a particular niche. Its situation in South Kensington, one of the most expensive areas of one of the wealthiest cities in the world, means that the ways of being church there are necessarily quite different from Hackney, Brent Cross or Peckham. That is not rocket science, and it’s no big deal: it’s just that NP has this really smug snide way of telling everyone else that only his church is echt. He should spend time observing ministry among people who are not all upper middle class… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
13 years ago

“Christians are generally not remotely interested in party politics, but they are interested in truth and accuracy.”

You don’t know many “Christians” from the US, do you, Christopher?

“In any case, being unrepresentative would not make one wrong.”

How about remembering this when you and NP keep arguing that most of the AC disagrees with TEC about consecrating openly gay bishops?

choirboyfromhell
choirboyfromhell
13 years ago

“I think we urgently need a radical modern Catholic vision to fully engage with the reason and the senses of modern people.”-Fr. Mark

Bravo, I’ll second that. (Just keep the incense away from me!-just kidding)

Ren Aguila
Ren Aguila
13 years ago

I think we urgently need a radical modern Catholic vision to fully engage with the reason and the senses of modern people. – dixit Fr. Mark “Modern” is a loaded word, but I agree with you. (Perhaps we do have to think about how to be Catholic and postmodern nowadays.) The Roman Catholic Church here in my country is in decline for a number of reasons, one of which is that, as a hegemonic force, it could no longer really be for the urban middle class–mind you, we have the same market for ConsEvos around these parts–relevant or meaningful. Numerically,… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Who knows, choirboyfromhell, you might even find there are some modern-minded Tristans looking for the same thing…

NP
NP
13 years ago

Rich and poor, posh and common, uneduacted and educated, white and black, American and Nigerian…..all need to live to please God, responding to his grace, striving for holiness, i.e not condoning behaviour “incompatible with scripture”….

Ephesians 5v1-21

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“Christians are generally not remotely interested in party politics, but they are interested in truth and accuracy.” Christopher, WHAT?!?!?!?! In the US, a sizable chunk of the Republican power base is conservative Christians, a sizable chunk of which is Fundamentalist/Evangelical. These people say, in so many words, that it is one’s Christian duty to vote Republican, many intimate it is a sin to vote Democrat, and Liberal is the opposite of Christian. I have detected this opposition in your your speech as well, but in case I’m wrong, most of us here are so used to Fundies claiming one can’t… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

… as they do most adiaphora.

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