SOUTHERN CONE PRIEST BLASTS NORTH AMERICAN PROVINCES
"It is a truly devastating moment to see one’s Church paraded with few morals, no discipline, divided and in disarray"
By Andres Lenton
On a popular level ecumenical relations in Peru are the worst I have ever known. I have lived in four countries on three continents and have a working knowledge of the Church in most of the countries of South America. Any opportunity to pull down another part of the Christian Church is rarely missed. Suspicion, half-truth and prejudice seem to dominate the religious landscape.
The most popular concept of the Anglican Church is summed up in one name, Henry VIII. According to a pamphlet published by a leading bookshop, we are responsible for the birth of North American sects which are now multiplying in Latin America. So when it comes to ordaining a bishop who is a practising homosexual and who has left his wife and children, it confirms all the worst fears and justifies prejudice.... and things have to be called by their real name.
Fertile ground for damaging a rival denomination.
The leading daily newspaper in Peru is El Comercio. In their story on Canon Gene Robinson’s ordination we were treated to a full page with grand headlines, colour photos, salacious detail and innuendo which leave a reader in no doubt about the true nature of the Anglican Church. It confirmed the reader’s worst fears about a church started by an immoral king. It was a truly devastating moment to see one’s Church paraded with few morals, no discipline, divided and in disarray. There was no sense of the ordination being a unilateral decision on ECUSA’s part, or that it went against the teaching of the Communion and the vast majority of its bishops. Balanced statements from New York or London about the Anglican way of doing things simply went unheard.
It was a grim day to see one’s Communion pulled down in such a way. For the first time in my ministry of over thirty two years (seventeen as a bishop) I could find no words to defend or cheer us. Despite the clear teaching of Scripture, despite almost 2,000 years of teaching, despite the overwhelming mind of the bishops at Lambeth in 1998, despite the Primates’ appeal only weeks before, apparently we were part of a Church in which any group could decide what they liked, a Church in disorder and disarray.
It is difficult for a Roman Catholic to believe that things can happen in the Church without authorisation from the powers that be. So when ECUSA officially sanctioned the ordination it was seen as been a universal decision, approved by the leaders of the Communion, and we were all tarred with the same brush. Of course the real position of the Anglican Communion has now been clarified by the Primates and the Windsor Report, but that is not newsworthy in Peru, and an injustice done to the Anglican Church is not worth correction.
For a missionary diocese like ours it has been a body blow. I have seen heads go down. That is what happens when your Church is dragged through the mud publicly. It is at times like that one we needs to be able to say to one’s brothers and sisters, “Stop. Look what this is doing to us.” But then in the third world one gets used to one’s voice going unheard. What does it matter to ECUSA if the insignificant Anglican Church in Peru is discouraged or wounded because of their ‘prophetic’ decisions?
The Church is part of the Gospel we proclaim. If that community of faith is publicly discredited, belonging to it becomes much more questionable. A good number of our members, families and individuals, have left because of Gene Robinson’s ordination (and there has been a similar story in five other republics of our Province). They found Christ in the Anglican Church, but could not come to terms with the stories that were circulating or the pressure and comments from other denominations. In the end they felt they had to go. Too much clergy time has been given to damage control instead of mission and teaching, persuading people that it was worth staying in the Anglican fold. In some cases parents have been suspicious of sending their children to our schools because of a supposed lack of sexual morality. Clergy have suffered comments and criticism. Our credibility has been severely questioned and our capacity to respond in mission has been gravely impaired.
In the letter from the first Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:28) we find the telling phrase, it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us. That should be the bench mark of all decisions in the Church. But how could we ever say that about the decision made by ECUSA and the consequences that have so wounded our Communion around the world?
The following presentation was made by Rev Andres Lenton, ACC representative from the Province of the Southern Cone to the ACC meeting in Nottingham, England The Rev. Lenton read the prepared for the ACC by Bishop William Godfrey, Bishop of Peru and former Bishop of Uruguay. He was also their as a member Archbishop Venables, the Primate of the Southern Cone.
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