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New Choice of Pope from Global South is Game Changer for Anglicans

New Choice of Pope from Global South is Game Changer for Anglicans

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
March 18, 2013

The choice of a new pope from the Global South to lead one billion Catholics has profound implications for Anglicans.

As both western Catholicism and western Anglicanism wallow in sexual immorality with sexually abusive priests and pansexual behaviors endorsed by some Anglican jurisdictions, the Global South has quietly been converting the masses to Christ.

Tens of millions of evangelical Anglicans from Africa to Asia to Latin America show the true face of Anglicanism - black, under 30, and female. White western Anglicanism is locked in post colonial attitudes, a bankrupt theological liberalism, and much more. It now finds itself being sidelined into irrelevancy.

The recently retired Archbishop of Canterbury found himself unable to comprehend the underlying death wish of postcolonial western pan Anglicanism. With his tattered Covenant in one hand and a compromised Windsor Report in the other, he watched unable to comprehend or identify with a growing vibrant evangelically driven global south Anglicanism.

The liberal theological tradition of much of western Anglicanism has been held together by reason and experience. Now the predominant mindset of universalist-minded leaders like Jefferts Schori and Fred Hiltz, her Canadian counterpart, demonstrates a decline that cannot be reversed unless there is full repentance. A counterpoint theology upheld by the Global South believes in divine revelation, forcing many once loyal Episcopalians to leave and lay the foundations of a new North American Anglican Church linking itself to the Global South.

The deeper truth is the Global South now owns the Christian Faith; the West is being swallowed up in post modernism, Gnosticism, cults, a "health and wealth" gospel, a variety of apostasies and heresies ably documented by New York Times writer Ross Douthart in his book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,

Regardless of whether you are Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran or Pentecostal, the Global South make-up is solidly Christian, so it makes complete sense that the largest church on earth should tap a leader from its most populace corner of the world with some 339 million Catholics (Africa has 186 million Catholics).

It is no coincidence that this same catholic leader should have as a friend and partner in the gospel an orthodox evangelical Anglican in the person of Argentina Anglican Bishop Gregory Venables, an English born cleric transported thousands of miles from his home, who is living proof that the gospel is transnational in character, color blind, but united in one central truth that Jesus is Lord.

These Global South Christians are having no truck with pluralism, talk of interfaith alliances, Islam, LGBT sexualities, diversity, inclusion, Indaba, Ubuntu or any of the nomenclature that make up the theological compromises of western Christianity, watered down by the theologically burnt out forces of the Spong's, Crossan's and Countryman's of this world.

One recalls the statement made by the inhibited and disgraced former bishop of Pennsylvania, Charles Bennison, who likened the growth of the Anglican Church in Africa to the Nazi Party. Well, the Nazi Party is no more and Bennison is no longer around to kick an already much weakened Episcopal Church in the groin. His legacy is summed up in two words - farce and failure.

Is it any wonder that Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, will attend Pope Francis' installation Mass - the first time a patriarch from the Istanbul-based church has attended a papal investiture since the two branches of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago.

A realignment of world Christianity is underway that will not be stopped. Western protestant Christianity is withering and dying. Protestantism is no longer the dominant religious force in the United States; it has been overrun by a generation called Nones. Catholicism in North America has been weakened, not just because of sex scandals and picking and choosing from the church's ethical smorgasbord, but because Catholicism has become sterile and old. It lacks spiritual life. Most Catholics are pray, pay and obey with only about ten percent having a lively Evangelical Catholicism, according to combative Catholic layman Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant.TV. Was it such a huge surprise to see an evangelical Anglican archbishop in the person Robert Duncan and a reformed protestant theologian, Ray Sutton, making nice with Pope Benedict recently.


Is an Evangelical Catholic Revival on the cards for the Roman Catholic Church? David Brooks, columnist with the New York Times writes, "I'll leave it to Catholics to decide if Francis is good for the church. The subject here is how do you revive a movement in crisis. The natural instinct is to turn Donatist, to build an ark and defend what's precious. The counterintuitive but more successful strategy is to follow Augustine, to exploit a moment of weakness by making yourself even more vulnerable, by striking outward into complexity, swallowing the pure and impure, counterattacking crisis with an evangelical assault."

"No one can guarantee that Jorge Bergolio will come up with the goods but in the twelve years we have worked together I have neither seen nor heard anything which changes my opinion of him as a fully committed, born again, Spirit filled man of God. An example of a normal Christian if you like. He has always had one priority. The gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. His humility and straightforwardness are not something he adopts, it's what he is. The love and compassion that flow from him is totally unselfconscious. The Western institutionalized church as a whole simply has not taken the rest of Christendom seriously. Now we might see a change," Argentina Bishop Gregory Venables told VOL.

George Weigel, an American author and conservative Catholic who currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, says that the Catholic Church is on the threshold of a bold new era in its two thousand year history. As the curtain comes down on the Church defined by the 16th-century Counter-Reformation, the curtain is rising on the Evangelical Catholicism of the third millennium: a way of being Catholic that comes from over a century of Catholic reform; a mission-centered renewal honed by the Second Vatican Council and given compelling expression by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

"The Gospel-centered Evangelical Catholicism of the future will send all the people of the Church into mission territory every day-a territory increasingly defined in the West by spiritual boredom and aggressive secularism. Confronting both these cultural challenges and the shadows cast by recent Catholic history, Evangelical Catholicism unapologetically proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the truth of the world. It also molds disciples who witness to faith, hope, and love by the quality of their lives and the nobility of their aspirations. Thus the Catholicism of the 21st–century and beyond will be a culture-forming counterculture, offering all men and women of good will a deeply humane alternative to the soul-stifling self-absorption of postmodernity."

Drawing on thirty years of experience throughout the Catholic world, from its humblest parishes to its highest levels of authority, Weigel proposes a deepening of faith-based and mission-driven Catholic reform that touches every facet of Catholic life-from the episcopate and the papacy to the priesthood and the consecrated life; from the renewal of the lay vocation in the world to the redefinition of the Church's engagement with public life; from the liturgy to the Church's intellectual life. Lay Catholics and clergy alike should welcome the challenge of this unique moment in the Church's history, Weigel urges. Mediocrity is not an option, and all Catholics, no matter what their station in life, are called to live the evangelical vocation into which they were baptized: without compromise, but with the joy, courage, and confidence that comes from living this side of the Resurrection.


African, Asian and Latin American evangelicals are not standing idly by as the Roman Catholic Church reinvents itself as evangelical.

Latin America Catholics face stiff competition from growing Pentecostal forces that may well see a country like Brazil, more evangelical than catholic within the next 20 years.

TIME magazine noted that Latin America, unlike Europe, never had a Protestant Reformation. Now that is changing and Roman Catholicism is losing ground to the combined forces of secularism and Pentecostal Protestantism. "From Tierra del Fuego to the U.S. Border with Mexico, the Catholic Church has been hemorrhaging worshippers to evangelical congregations."

According to Latinbarometro, in 1996, Latin American countries were 81% Catholic and only 4% Evangelical. By 2010, Catholics had dropped to 70%, and evangelicals had risen to 13%. Brazil could once boast of 99% adherence to Rome. Today, Catholics number 65% to an evangelical surge of 22%. Latin converts overwhelmingly say they want to know God personally and they want to do so in their own cultural context.

The only real effort until now has been the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, an attempt to bring charismatics into the Roman fold that tends to be led mostly by laypeople. The Vatican knows it is dealing with a fractious faithful, but under this new pope, the emphasis might be less on drawing the faithful back in. Now might be the time, under Pope Francis, for the church to find its way back to its people.


Even with a humble Pope and his wonderful irenic relationship with the Argentinian Anglican Bishop Greg Venables, serious soteriological issues remain. The Rev. Roger Salter, a British-born Anglican priest now resident in the US, notes that even though we find a multitude of brothers and sisters in the Roman fold, the gospel is blurred and compromised and often hard to find in its main features, the gospel that is, through alien accretions of ideas and observances manufactured over successive centuries and often opposed from within (Origen on the status and prerogatives of bishops; Ratramnus on the error of transubstantiation, etc, etc).

Martin Luther's Justification by faith through grace alone based on the finished work of Christ's atonement still stands as the benchmark of Protestant Anglicanism, indeed the entire non-Catholic Christian world. The essential elements of the gospel unite Bible believing Protestants in spite of their range of differing emphases and disagreements. Similar differences, and controversies, exist in Rome but are glossed over through deference to the institution and the perceived Petrine authority and possible punitive action of the Pope. The institution rules, based on a shaky historical premise and dubious Biblical exegesis (it will be interesting to review the dents already administered by Hans Kung and note the effects of Gary Will's latest book).

"Increased pomp and ritual practices are not proof of more genuine piety, in fact they may be indicative of the very opposite, and substitute the piety of the heart. Form and essence constitute the major worry about Rome i.e. apostolic succession, which Origen defined as the continuity of the apostolic message; priesthood, which is passé and now passed over from Old Testament representatives of God and the people to the Saviour himself as our sole go-between before God; sacramental efficacy which is attributed automatically to administration and not to grace expressed in the faith of recipients. Baptismal regeneration is a denial of that intimate initiation of union with Christ created by the Spirit the moment a believing soul desires God and leans upon him without any human mediation present," writes Salter.

B.B. Warfield notes, "The sacerdotal system separates the soul from direct contact with and immediate dependence upon God the Holy Spirit as the source of all its gracious activities. It interposes between the soul and the source of all grace a body of instrumentalities, on which it tempts it to depend: and it thus betrays the soul into a mechanical conception of salvation . . . . It makes every difference to the religious life, and every difference to the comfort and assurance of the religious hope, whether we are consciously dependent upon instrumentalities of grace or upon God the Lord himself, experienced as personally present to our souls, working salvation in his loving grace."


But the reality of a Southern Cone Catholic Pope is still a game changer for Anglicans. It means that the Global South holds the keys to both Rome and Anglicanism's future.

The center of spiritual gravity has shifted for Anglicans from Lambeth Palace to Nairobi or perhaps Abuja, Nigeria. Later this year, GAFCON II will meet in Nairobi, another reminder to Archbishop Welby that he no longer holds the spiritual purse strings of the Anglican Communion.

Global South Primates will nod deferentially to Lambeth Palace, as they will at this week's enthronement in Canterbury, but they will not be suckered into "reconciliation" talks. These archbishops have the numbers, and the faith. They will no longer be lead around by the nose over sweet talk from a "Director of Reconciliation" or more Indaba talks. Those days are gone.

The Anglican Communion has moved on. Its epicenter has moved. It will not be reclaimed by a new archbishop however evangelical he professes to be.


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