NAIROBI: Welby's Weltanschauung Moment
Archbishop Justin Welby attempts domestication of Evangelical Anglicans
By David W. Virtue
October 24, 2013
Archbishop Justin Welby is a self-professed evangelical driven to personal faith by the death of a family member. His faith is deeply rooted in his own conversion experience to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
His sincerity cannot be doubted. His is not a second-hand faith, he has come by it honestly.
Now, as leader of the 77-million member dysfunctional family known as the Anglican Communion, he is trying to herd cats that seemingly won't be herded, and the reasons are plain for all to see. In secular terms, if the mission of a giant corporation changes or is compromised, in time, it dies. One cannot have multiple mission statements. It never works.
This is what is happening in The Anglican Communion. The foundation of Anglicanism is Holy Scripture, the creeds, and the Prayer Book with its Articles of Religion. The church has never deviated from its primary source - Scripture.
With the rupture in Anglicanism over the acceptance and normalization of a variety of pansexual behaviors in a number of Global North provinces, that foundation has been compromised and torn.
At its core then, is Welby's attempt to find a third or middle way that Dr. Rowan Williams struggled with and lost with a Covenant that has been almost universally abandoned. Justin Welby, his successor, is failing in this same strategy.
This past week the new archbishop of Canterbury came to Kenya to bridge the divide with the evangelical wing of his church and offered a sort of Chamberlainesque appeasement to them.
He gave a brief video message that was greeted with a very short, muted round of applause, more out of politeness than anything else.
After telling us that his primary reason in coming to Kenya was to express his support for those massacred at the Westgate Mall, a statement that he could just as easily have made from Lambeth Palace, he went on to say, "We all live in different contexts and the challenge overlaps but is slightly different wherever we live. We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one. How we respond rightly to that - in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious - is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel."
Almost immediately, reactions from delegates expressed frustration at what they saw as compromise and as yet another wasted opportunity by Welby to stand firm. One bishop told a blogger that it was "almost insulting". Another clergy delegate called it "two-faced", saying "he worked very hard at trying to sound like he was supportive while actually not saying anything clear on the subject. If he thinks we're fooled then he ought not to".
ACNA Ft. Worth Bishop Jack Iker said, "What he had to say was innocuous. It certainly didn't stir the conference or cause any enthusiasm based upon his comments."
Few found it possible to say anything positive about the content of his statement.
At the very deepest level, Welby was treating GAFCON as an Anglican side show, demeaning, being condescending, and marginalizing the very people who could be closest to him; his real allies. Above all, he tried to domesticate them -- the biggest insult of all. These evangelically driven Africans will not be corralled, tamed or controlled. Many, like former Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and current Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, saw it as a continuation of old colonial attitudes that they shucked off long ago. Welby played an old tape that will come back to haunt him.
Doubling their anger and concern was the fact that just days before he personally entertained notorious Episcopal gay Bishop Gene Robinson at Lambeth Palace and then spent time with him in the chapel. This looks for all the world like a foot in the door to the gay lobby by one of its most strident advocates. Robinson is one of the main reasons there was a split in The Episcopal Church that brought about the formation of the ACNA.
Justin Welby just blew off his evangelical foot soldiers by saying that a meeting in Iceland of ecumenical northern European pro-gay state churches under the Porvoo banner was more important than being with his own people. Coupled with that was his baptism of a Royal baby. One wonders if that will ever take and if British royalty will ever amount to anything. Will a King, a generation from now, uphold the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Even now British royalty maintains a shallow faith except from the Queen.
One wonders how short-sighted and stupid Welby is. He grossly underestimated these evangelicals, many of whom are a lot better educated and smarter than he is.
Welby's attempt to maintain a precarious, dare one say precocious, middle ground (and, by so doing, appearing to please nobody) stood in stark contrast to comments from former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen (the General Secretary of GAFCON). You can read my story here: http://tinyurl.com/plfdb78
"We all live in different contexts," said Anglicanism's top prelate, "and we have to deal with rapid changes in the culture. The issue of sexuality is a major part of that." The Archbishop did not condemn gay marriage but went on to say that "churches respond in different ways" to their various contexts, stating that some have to deal "with war" and others with "governments that are corrupt."
Welby's comments are a complete antithesis to a luncheon address made by retired Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to GAFCON's primates, at which Archbishop Welby was present. "Sex," said Jensen, "needs to appear within the context of marriage." Anything else, he stated, amounted to "unholy matrimony."
GAFCON leaders who are here know that to stand for Biblical truth is costly, indeed. Many have horror stories of deposition, lost parishes, re-employment, lost income and much more. Welby seems blind to the multi-million dollar legal property war being waged in The Episcopal Church.
GAFCON must now ask: who are our friends? Who will stand with us? This group of godly evangelicals knows they were just blown off by a leader who claims to have the same faith as their own.
GAFCON leaders had hoped for a friend; what they got was a patronizing handshake. Robinson tweeted the world about his encounter with Welby and now believes that he has turned a corner for he and his sodomite friends. In the end, he may be right.
The outcome will be that GAFCON will stand alone, doing what it has always done, pronounce the gospel of God's love and Good News to whoever will listen and state with clarity that marriage is only ontologically possible between a man and a woman in holy matrimony.
Welby equivocated and that was his biggest mistake. He had a God given moment to state with absolute clarity the truth about human sexuality even if it meant losing the other side. Martyrs of the faith have died for less.
Whatever the final GAFCON communiqué and statement reveals, the mood here will not be dampened by Welby's weltanschauung. They will continue on here knowing that they are doing God's will in a fallen and broken world.
These men and women came from the four corners of the earth to proclaim what they believe. They made a bold statement about the future and they will not be deterred, even if their own uber leader has lost the plot.
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