SINGAPORE: Southern Anglican Leaders Open Fourth Meeting in Distress
By Edmond Chua
April 20, 2010
A historic gathering of worldwide Anglican leaders started yesterday at St. Andrew's Cathedral. But the fourth 'Anglican Global South to South Encounter' (GS4E) was already marked by intense feelings of distress.
The Anglican Global South, grouping 20 provinces in the southern hemisphere, represents three-quarters of the 75 million Anglicans around the world.
"My sisters and brothers from around the world, I am troubled, I am sad; in fact I am confused," said newly retired Nigerian Archbishop Peter J Akinola.
Speaking at the opening service, Bishop Akinola traced the recent history of the inability of the Anglican Communion to resolve its theological-ethical crisis.
Calls to two erring North American provinces to repent have all been ignored. The Episcopal Church (TEC) had ordained two openly gay bishops, one only recently. The Anglican Church of Canada had blessed same-sex unions.
Many provinces, in turn, declared themselves in 'impaired communion' and 'broken sacramental communion' with the two provinces. Nonetheless, the Communion at large has vetoed all calls for action for the past eight years, Akinola noted. Instead, the Church has resorted to administrative structures in its attempt to resolve matters.
The African bishop openly expressed his fears that an Anglican Covenant, which Global South leaders are expected to discuss at the meeting, would be another ineffective measure.
The signing of a covenant will not stop TEC from pursuing its own agenda. This is evident from the fact of its recent appointment of a lesbian as a bishop.
"The Communion is still unable to exercise discipline," said Akinola. "We lack the courage to call a spade a spade."
Furthermore there is no preventing TEC from signing the Covenant for political reasons and continuing to disregard the 'mind' of the Communion on human sexuality.
Even in the case that TEC does not sign it, the cutting of a covenant would not do any good for Anglican unity.
Akinola said: "If the churches in the Global South sign up, would they then become a new Communion?
"Wouldn't that further polarise the Church?"
The lack of repentance on the part of those provinces has also distracted the Communion from its real mission to make Christ known.
Akinola said: "We in the Global South cannot continue in this way. Yet, we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
"This Encounter must show us the way forward in all of this."
His successor Nicholas Okoh delivered the first thematic address in the evening expressing equal anguish mingled with indignation.
"Our identity as Anglicans now is, putting it mildly, confused and confusing," he said.
Archbishop Okoh called for self-examination and self-repentance.
Speaking in a loud, strict voice, he said: "We in the Global South and the Anglican Communion have sinned.
"We are deeply estranged one from the other. What we are doing is essentially outward and cosmetic. It lacks power and loyalty to God."
In closing, he emphasised the 'absolute' necessity for economic empowerment in the Global South.
Beyond the ethical dimension, the archbishop cited the danger of wealthier members buying the loyalty and compromise of poorer ones.
Okoh also warned of the adoption of another Gospel out of fear, an action he called 'treachery'.
Although the deity of Christ is 'increasingly' becoming offensive in some parts of the Communion, the early Church had witnessed in a pluralistic context.
"To deny these fundamentals is to abandon the way; it is apostasy; it is 'another Gospel', which is condemned in Scripture," he said.
Topics to be broached during the GS4E include Communion structures, missions and ministry and economic empowerment.
Besides the Global South leaders, GS4E is seeing the participation of four Western provinces. Special guests include the Chairman of the National Committee of the Three Self Patriotic Movement of the China Christian Church and a bishop of the Coptic Church.
Primates' (senior archbishops) meetings will be held concurrently with the GS4E.
The GS4E will conclude Friday afternoon.
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