Wednesday, August 03, 2005

the reverend deacon thorpus on ++nigeria's heat

In case you missed it, Beloved, here is the Rev. Dcn. Thorpus's comment from the post below re: ++Peter Akinola's late agitation. To clarify my own position: when I said "this is awful", I was refering specifically to the apparently increasing likelihood that the Communion as we have come to know it is not long for this world. That saddens me enormously. I don't want to have to take sides. I want ECUSA (and Canada and the C of E) to be faithful. What is awful is to be forced to face the prospect of choosing between being an Episcopalian and being an Anglican, or to be faced with the prospect (given ++Akinola's talk) of being neither, of being out of communion with Canterbury and Salisbury and the historical sees of my fathers.

What is also awful is that ++Akinola may cause fissures in an already tennuous alliance. Being out of communion with ++Griswold is one thing; being out of communion with ++Canterbury is something else altogether. Will everyone in the Network be willing to go there? I doubt it.

Finally, and as I said before, I don't think that the C of E went too far, at least superficially. What they have said is that homosexuals can be "partnered" in terms of civil law, but must nonetheless live chastely. And they don't seem to me to be tampering with the notion of "chastity" either. If homosexuals want to live together as celibates and let one another have power of attorney and inheritance and what not, frankly, I don't have a problem with that -- and neither, so far as I can tell, does the Bible or the Tradition. Is the C of E rejecting some tenet of Christian doctrine with this? If they are, I don't understand what it is... provided, of course, that they stick to what they've said, that they're not being disingenuous. I therefore can't see what set ++Akinola off. Can it be something that the C of E said? And my commodiousness in this regard is seemingly buttressed by the distemper of, e.g., Affirming Catholicism ("Scripture, Reason, and Catholic Vestments in the Modern World"):

The Bishops have missed a terrific opportunity – the statement reflects the Church’s own politics instead of the good news of the Gospel. This was a chance to reach out to lesbian and gay people in a way which would reflect Jesus’ care and affirmation. Instead their advice falls short of genuine pastoral care and reflects the contradictions at the heart of the Church’s current position. Something better is called for.

But the main point, Dcn. Thorpus's comment:


I'd like to speak on behalf of Akinola. What are we condemning here? Tone? Rhetoric? These are superficialities and entirely understandable given the history of condescension from the Western Provinces. When all this conflict started, the Western liberals' response was to call for listening and tolerance. The African Anglicans have listened and listened and now it is time they were listened to, and if it takes inflammatory rhetoric and a 'tone' to get through our thick, jaded ears, can't WE be tolerant for once? can't WE listen for a change? This man is speaking only Catholic orthodoxy, and he is married more to that than to Anglicanism (which concept itself becomes nonsensical without Catholic orthodoxy). Do you think the Apostles would have applauded the C of E? Would St. Cyprian or St. Augustine have been more concerned about being politic than being Apostolic? This is the Faith we're talking about here; the stakes are very, very high. I think Akinola is quite correct that the C of E's policy is just as bad as Robinson's election and New Westminster's policy; worse perhaps because here the ABC himself is part of the betrayal. This is Braveheart's Robert the Bruce, Judas with a very politic kiss and a band of armed guards. This action of Williams' is not that of a primate of the entire communion, nor calculated to increase the unity of which he's supposed to be a symbol. Can you blame the Global South for being fed up with the Western church's games, our stall and waffle and stall and waffle tactics while all the while we allow the slow creep of ideologies that undermine the Faith? I wish WE had never had to put up with it, so I certainly can't blame Akinola for wanting some real leadership out of the ABC or for his willingness to step up and provide leadership for the Communion when the ABC decides he can't.

Akinola is not mad. He's not a freak or a weirdo. He IS angry, and he has a right to be. He IS fighting for the soul of his church, as we are. He IS living up to his responsibility as a primate and a bishop in God's church.

Today's gospel from the BCP Daily Office lectionary (mark 8:34-9:1): "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Surely Jesus ranks with Mad Akinola as the most inflammatory of religious leaders. We should not blame Akinola for being extreme, because it is a fact that the Gospel sometimes demands extremity. We could only blame him if 1. he were lukewarm; or 2. he were wrong. The former is his own complaint against the West, Williams being a poster-child. Akinola may be hot, or he may be cold, but he is correct in not being lukewarm. It is only the latter that we should be discussing, whether he's actually standing up for Catholic orthodoxy (in which case he deserves our support despite his tone) or for some other, mistaken theology.

And let us have no hogwash about carrying on the conversation peaceably. That has been done and Akinola has received only condescension for his efforts, only betrayal and a watering down of his 'tone' to the Western ears (as in the Primates' communique). If he is too inflammatory, why can't we be the responsible post-colonialists and say it's at least partially our fault as well? Have we listened when he played nice? Let's be honest. We like to hear Africans talk about AIDS or poverty, but when they talk theology or ecclesiology have we treated them like equals? Only now, when the phenomenal growth of his churches threatens the power of our own, do we turn a cynical ear. Let me be postmodern for a bit: are we really competant to judge whether his tone is justified? In our view, of course it seems inflammatory. We've been dancing with this stuff in the West for a century and having a fine time. But he has people literally dying because of who is consecrated bishop in New Hampshire. Who are we in the insulated West to say his language is too extreme?

Sorry for the soapbox, but this really rankles me. Jesus never said we wouldn't sound extreme. We should never condemn a Christian for sounding extreme, as in the gospel for today. It's not the extreme prophet of whom Jesus promises to be ashamed at the last day; it's the disciple who thinks his worldly status is worth more than the gospel, who thinks there are mitigating factors and he can afford to sweep his faith under the rug. "Of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

9 comments:

J-Tron said...

What other conclusion would you expect a progressive organization to come to? The C of E position is ridiculous, or rather it holds up to the light the ridiculousness of the general notion that somehow sex is always disordered even in the bonds of a loving, monogamous, covenant relationship. Of course we disagree about that, but since that's the position that many of us take, I can't see how we can get around criticizing. But the difference between a statement like that from Affirming Anglican Catholicism and the move that +Akinola is attempting to make is that the AAC's criticism stops at the level of criticism. No one has suggested that ECUSA or anyone else jump out of communion with Canterbury over this situation, just as I don't believe anyone has suggested we declare ourselves out of communion with +Akinola over his sentiments. It seems hard, based on the evidence, to imagine that +Akinola is interested in anything other than a power grab and/or general hatred is hard for me to see. Perhaps that is not being charitable towards him, but frankly I think that he leaves people with very little choice. As Deacon Thorpus says, he is not lukewarm. One therefore must either accept his hatred or reject his madness. Though I hope that the Lord would guid me to be charitable if he were in need, I still have to choose the latter. Anything less than rejection of this man's vitriolic anger would be a rejection of the gospel and an embarrassment to the Catholic faith.

Johnny Awesomo said...

J-tron,
funny...you would rather be in communion with a bunch of "madmen" than forcibly correct their hatred/madness. You won't force him to stop preaching hate, but you will force him to accept your western ideals of tolerance. That is so weird.

Adam said...

I'm gonna have to agree with WB on this one. I don't think it was too far, but I do think ++Akinola has gone a bit too far. Sometimes his statements are less about preserving some biblical standard than about yelling and screaming about homosexuals and being frankly homophobic.

Such narrow-mindedness and vitriolic statements about gay and lesbians instead of solid catholic theology extend into the Anglican blogdom as well. That is one of the main reasons, besides the fact that many of Fr. Harmon and his commenters seem to be so protestant, that I will not visit Titus 1:9 or its comments section. It is too frustrating. Well, that was off-topic and a bit uncharitable. Sorry, but it had to be said.

Thorpus said...

I am honored, WB, to be given my own thread here; and humbled that I misunderstood some of the comments on the previous thread. I agree that the entire situation is tragic and I weep that our catholicity may be endangered, desiring, as you do, all Anglicans to be faithful.

As I understand Akinola's talk, though, the suspension he suggests would not leave us headless, so to speak. The ABC would still lead the Communion, but C o' E would be disciplined as a province, in the same way USA and Canada were intended to be. The important distinction is between the office of ABC as leader of the C o' E, and the office as leader of the entire Communion. Thus J-tron's very correct analysis:
"No one has suggested that ECUSA or anyone else jump out of communion with Canterbury over this situation, just as I don't believe anyone has suggested we declare ourselves out of communion with +Akinola over his sentiments." Keep in mind, however, that there have been myriad attempts to do just this. "Impaired communion" is such an attempt. Akinola's attempt to translate theology into ecclesiological reality (i.e. theology matters) through discipline or a change in communion status is not new. The global south has been trying to send us their message for decades. And the message is "you can't abandon the apostolic faith with impunity, not in Anglicanism anyway." This message conflicts with the one we've been sending from the West: "believe and do what you like, we don't care because we're not sure we belive it anyway and and we definitely won't let a presentiment against you succeed, if you abandon the faith as a bishop." But, as the Windsor Rept. says, impaired communion is not a generally recognized category. The Catholic way to handle such determined and fundamental theological differences is to call a synod, decide whether heresey is involved, and condemn it if it is. Then those who are determined further to be heretics choose to risk their communion status. This is exactly what Akinola is saying (about ecclesiology, anyway: I've never seen his supposed homophobia documented, nor seen it in any of his statements I've read). Abandoning the faith and organic leadership of the church (as embodied in the Lambeth conference [synod] and the Primates' meeting) means you risk your communion status. I really don't see what is the problem with that idea. It's purely patristic and wholly catholic. I can see us being shocked that he DARES apply the rules to the ABC's home turf, but that just shows Western arrogance.

As far as fissures in the orthodox alliance go, I agree that we want to avoid those. It's very important for we who depend upon those alliances for canonical survival to maintain those relationships. We have to be politic, and if it were me saying what Akinola has said, I would have said it differently, toned it down. But remember, he's got 17 million Anglicans at his back just in his own province, and how many million more in the Global South who, right now, look like they're going to follow him anywhere. He's consolidated support among the African bishops, even bringing South Africa into line. As far as being politic goes, he's pretty shrewd and he has his ducks in a row. Akinola doesn't have to worry about losing his support because he's been too inflammatory. He DOES have to worry about losing it because he's not inflammatory enough -- an exaggeration, of course, but you get the point. If he's courting anyone (of which I'm not convinced), it's not the embattled faithful of Connecticut. We sue to him for help, not the other way round. One of the African primates, when asked about helping the embattled Americans keep their church property, said, "It's like we're pulling you from a burning building, and you want to go back in to save your possessions." paraphrased, of course. Akinola can afford to offend tenuous allies: and this not only politically, but theologically as well. If he holds his line firmly, the worst he could end up with is a new Communion sans Canterbury; a traditional, orthodox body bound by scripture and maintaining the Anglican tradition. Does that ideal sound familiar? The only sticking point is whether they could claim Catholicity if they don't follow Canterbury (although they're probably worried more about whether they could claim salvation). And who in the C o' E, given its history in the Reformation, can say that that sort of move, if done properly, will necessarily risk their catholicity? We have to believe it can be done without that result because that's what we claim for our own beginnings. The only thing is to make sure it's done properly.

As to whether the C o' E went too far, I think they've transgressed in allowing the appearence of a biblically proscribed behavior although technically they have not allowed the behavior itself. Who on the Bristol streets is going to split the hairs you split, WB? They're going to say, "they let their gay clergy marry." and practically, they'd be right. This is an unenforceable policy, and because no policy actually exists if it is not enforced, it amounts to allowing the behavior. It's the kind of thing you would only do if your church is trying to allow the behavior but pretend, for the sake of a few excitable consituents, that you're not. It is disingenuous, at least from Akinola's side of the Mediterranean, and that's the madness in it that he's pointing out.

As you say, the decision "falls short of genuine pastoral care and reflects the contradictions at the heart of the Church’s current position. Something better is called for."

J-tron, I don't think a general sex-a-phobia is at the root of all this. it's the theological tenet that same-sex intercourse is contrary to God's law. And what kind of power-grab do you see here? Akinola's ducks are in a row. He has HIS church in the bag already, and with it plenty of power. He thinks the West is morally bankrupt: why would he want to take over our churches? If it's a power-grab in the sense of gaining a controlling vote in the Lambeth conference, I think you're right on. The only question, then, is motive. If it's for simple self-aggrandizement (which I doubt), it is to be condemned. If it's to edify the church, to fight the damaging (in his mind) theologies that plague the whole Church, who can blame him? Wouldn't you do that in a heartbeat if the chance were offered you to fix a major problem in the world-wide communion? I would. I support Akinola's power-grab because he has the backbone to defend the faith by enforcing our rules, unlike some of our other leaders.

And since when has it been the policy of Christianity to reject anger categorically, especially when Our Lord turned the money-changers' tables and St. Nick put on his boxing gloves at Nicea? It's only natural that theology should stir up strong feelings -- the bible realistically acknowledges this -- but the biblical advice is "in your anger, do not sin." When the church is at stake, why should we not be emotional? I don't know which statements you guys have been reading, but I have not read vitriolic hatred from Akinola, not like I have seen from certain US bishops; and I have seen many an orthodox person accused of vitriolic hatred in error during the course of this crisis. I think the 'vitriolic anger' analysis is simplistic and does justice neither to our intelligences nor his; a deeper, more trully tolerant, honestly post-colonial, brotherly Christian attempt is called for in our church.

Rob said...

Deacon Thorpus,

I agree with you and also WB on several points about Archbishop Akinola's statement. I especially, to uses your words, feel "that the entire situation is tragic and I weep that our catholicity may be endangered, desiring, as you do, all Anglicans to be faithful." However, let's let Archbishop Akinola's statement be what it is, and let us all strive to be Anglican's regardless of our respective provinces, nationalities, cultures or races. Though I do not always share his sentiments, I definitely am trying to listen to what our Nigerian brother is saying. Frankly, I am frequently dismayed by his rhetoric and tone because it makes it difficult for me to hear his point when all I hear is his ire. Yet, let us not diminish it. You seem to argue that his tone and rhetoric are trivial compared to his passion to defend the orthodoxy of the Church, but then you make claims about latent racism in the world-wide Anglican Communion and post-colonialism. About what is he so mad? From where does his rhetoric and tone come? Can his tone an rhetoric be superficial yet be so caught up in the West's inability to listen adequately and justly to what an African or a person with a black face has to say about the condition in which our Communion is? I would argue that, by your own assessment, the West's colonial attitude has had a major impact on our relationship with the Church in Africa that remains, sadly, to this day (and I'll acknowledge my own complicity in that, sinner that I am). You also, rightly argue that Archbishop Akinola cares deeply about what is happening and what will happen to the Church. If this is from whence his overt anger stems, how could it possibly be superficial? If it's superficial, why should I care that he is angry? I will speak only for myself when I say that I--as one attempting by the grace of God, to be a faithful Christian--am trying diligently to listen to what the Archbishop is saying, not as an African but as one who is also seeking to be a faithful servant of God and the Church.

His anger prompts a distinct emotional response in me, and as I see it, in many people as well, and I cannot help but think that it is, in some way, Archbishop Akinola's intention. He wants people to hear that he is angry. He is not lukewarm, and I believe that he does not really and truly expect me to be lukewarm about his either. Point of fact, it makes me angry to hear him be so angry, and I have to work all the harder to contend with his anger and mine to understand his position. Sometimes I want to throw my hands up and say, "Archbishop Akinola just wants to be pissed off and nothing more!" But, as you seem to want to point out, all of us need to take that anger seriously. I can't push aside his rhetoric and tone as superficial. I think to do so would be to say that I don't take Archbishop Akinola seriously, and that he is simply just mad or crazy or worse, just some African Archbishop that I as a Westerner don't need to listen to. His rhetoric and tone make me and, I would argue, a lot of other people sad and angry. If I can't be upset about it, how can I begin to listen to Archbishop Akinola?

father wb said...

"It's the kind of thing you would only do if your church is trying to allow the behavior but pretend, for the sake of a few excitable consituents, that you're not."

The liberals have reacted exactly oppositely. They have claimed that the bishops are pretending, for the sake of a few excitable (liberal) constituents, that they are allowing homosexual marriage, but that nothing has changed, as sex is forbidden in principle.

I don't know. The more I read ++Akinola, the more I agree with him about the Civil Partnerships thing. Especially that it "invites deception and ridicule." It is, at least, a step in the wrong direction.

But I still get the feeling that communion with the See of Canterbury is rather more important to me than it is to ++Nigeria. I'm not at all certain I would follow ++Nigeria over ++Canterbury.

J-Tron said...

JA,

I am not interested in forcing anybody to do anything. I'm happy to be in communion with "madmen" while not accepting their madness. In the same way that I'm happy to be in communion with evangelical protestants who deny the real presence and deny the necessity of apostolic succession, so long as the Church does not endorse either point of view. I'm happy to go to the Communion rail alongside +Akinola, although if I were his pastor I might have a few words of caution. But I deplore his bigotry in the strongest terms. A church that is built on a foundation of hatred is no church at all.

Thorpus, you said...

"I don't think a general sex-a-phobia is at the root of all this. it's the theological tenet that same-sex intercourse is contrary to God's law."

I don't know that I would call it "sex-a-phobia" as that would be a bit callous. I think that the underlying reasons are diverse, depending on which segment of the anti-gene alliance you are talking to. For you I'm sure it is about God's law, a particular understanding of scripture, perhaps the evolution of Tradition as well. But it is generally still, when all is said and done, about sex. Not sexuality, not love, not psychological health. It is about two men or two women engaging in physical sexual expression. The C of E stance brings that home. Why are folks in the Network camp upset about it? Because they don't like people being able to visit their friends in the hospital? No, they worry that the policy is "unenforcable" and that it leads to tacit acceptance of gay and lesbian physical sexual expression. If it's not about two dudes doing it then it's not about anything at all. Some folks don't like the idea of gay sex because they believe it contradicts scripture, some because they believe it hurts ecumenism, some because they just think it's yucky and they want to beat up queers, but it's still all about sex in the end. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking it's about something else.

You also said "And what kind of power-grab do you see here? Akinola's ducks are in a row. He has HIS church in the bag already, and with it plenty of power... If it's to edify the church, to fight the damaging (in his mind) theologies that plague the whole Church, who can blame him? Wouldn't you do that in a heartbeat if the chance were offered you to fix a major problem in the world-wide communion?"

Akinola has been amassing support not just for his position but for his authority, through the creating and wrangling within CAPA, through the support of the creation of the new western alliance, through the tacit rejection of Windsor that comes with his insistence upon setting up a Nigerian province within ECUSA and Canada, and now through his fiery rhetoric against the C of E in favor of Alexandria. All of this has been accompanied by absolutely vile statements about his brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay and lesbian or who are supportive of gay and lesbian people. I have no way of knowing what motivates Bishop Akinola, other than what he presents to the world. But based on what I've seen, it's hard for me to see his motivations as being either personal power or personal hatred. Frankly, if I think that assuming his motives are power gives him the benefit of the doubt. But really, I'm not interested in guessing what's in the man's head. I don't need to. He makes the choice very clear. Either you're with him or against him. I am happy to be with him as a brother in Christ if he so chooses, but I would be sinning against the gospel if I said that the way he pursues his position is even remotely Christian. And that has little to do with a theological debate about human sexuality. Having such a debate with him would be impossible. I can have that debate with someone like wb, who clearly holds theological views that motivate him to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the Body of Christ. I can't have that debate with a man who calls my brothers and sisters in Christ "worse than dogs and pigs."

Finally, you said "And since when has it been the policy of Christianity to reject anger categorically, especially when Our Lord turned the money-changers' tables and St. Nick put on his boxing gloves at Nicea? It's only natural that theology should stir up strong feelings..."

I certainly do not reject anger categorically. The examples you give illustrate why that would not make sense. Particularly the model of Jesus in the temple. But Jesus was attacking what he saw as corruption, not telling people they were worthless. He turned over the tables of the money changers. He didn't walk up the money changers and slug them, spit on them, and then tell them that they had no value.

Heated debate is fine. The patristic fathers certainly thought so. They all loved to talk about what kind of giant idiots their opponents were, at least rhetorically. But considering that the Church is at stake, that we hold the balance of many souls in our care, it doesn't seem reasonable to me that we should display hatred for each other. You say that you've felt hatred has been a motivation of ECUSA bishops. I can't say that I've seen that myself, but if that is your experience I will happily do whatever I can to modify my own language or interaction, so long as that doesn't mean that I abandon truth. But it becomes infinitely harder for me to be open to brotherly love and the leading of the Spirit in these conversations when what I experience as hatred for me, what my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters experience as not only hatred but threat of harm to them, is given not only rigorous defense but tacit endorsement. And the fact that there has been no attempts to bring presentment against Akinola, or at least to reign him in, by his fellow bishops makes it even more difficult for me to imagine that Anglicanism has a future.

Anger is not unacceptable. Anger can sometimes be a great motivation to do justice, to preach the gospel all the louder in the world. But when anger bleeds into hatred, when emotion becomes emotionalism, then there is no sense in us continuing to pretend to have conversation in good faith, nor is there any reason to continue to pretend that we are in any way the Christian Church.


Pax Christi,


J-Tron

J-Tron said...

This is likely to be the first of many corrections, as my long posts always tend to get out in front of me.

Ahem...

When I said "But based on what I've seen, it's hard for me to see his motivations as being either personal power or personal hatred" I meant "But based on what I've seen, it's hard for me to see his motivations as being ANYTHING OTHER THAN either personal power or personal hatred."

Right. That is all for now.

Kirk out.

father wb said...

"worse than dogs and pigs."

For the sake of accuracy, and to stifle misinformation -- and potentially, slander -- before it gets rolling good (too late, probably, in the annals of the internet), I have seen this often cited on the internet as though verbatim, but I cannot find it anywhere as from ++Akinola's mouth. Here is what he DID apparently say:

"I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things."

'When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man. I mean it's just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it."

(http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2004/04/be-careful-what-you-pray-for.html)

Now this is rather different.

"I cannot think...etc." Fair enough. Sometimes I have trouble myself. Chalk it up to a failure of imagination, perhaps, but nevertheless....

"Even in the world of animals...we don't hear of such things." This is just a statement of fact (or not). I note, significantly, that it is not an explicit judgment of homosexuals as being "lower than beasts" or whatever they say he said. Either animals are sometimes gay or not. But this isn't necessarily bigotry. (++Akinola may still be a bigot, but this quote doesn't prove it to my mind.) I've heard that some animals (roosters and dolphins for example) can be queer as three dollar bills, but who knows. If ++Akinola says he's never heard of it, I'll take his word.