Poor Bishop or "Moderator" Duncan, who had addressed the GAFCON gathering as those who
recognize that the Reformation (Elizabethan) Settlement of Anglicanism has disintegrated. We know that we are at a turning point in Anglican history, a place where two roads diverge. One road is faithful to Jesus’ story. The other road is about some other story…The choice before us is a choice before all Anglicans. It is just as certainly a choice before the upcoming Lambeth Conference,
sounding a note open to, if not openly encouraging, a movement ending in full schism. He assailed "[t]he distortion of Anglicanism in the West – the deceit the Enemy has sown," namely "that Anglicanism should be the bridge between the Church and the world." Give him credit: Duncan seemed to mean it; he just received approval from the state of Pennsylvania for a new corporation, "the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh."
But while he assailed Anglicanism building a bridge to the world, his GAFCON comrade Nazir-Ali was busy extolling what sounds to me like correlationist, i.e. liberal, theology, saying
Translatability belongs to the very nature of Anglicanism. In the preface of the BCP and the Articles of Religion, every church has a responsibility to render the good news in terms of its culture.
If he keeps that up, he'll get an office at 815. Just another gaffe? Or a sign of theological incoherence accompanying the ambient political incoherence? Is our trouble as a communion rooted in accepting correlation at all, or do we rather need more of it?
Speaking of the dangers to Christianity of cultural immersion, I have to mention this press-conference exchange between Baxter, Akinola, Orombi and Jensen. There's capitulation rooted in prejudices, about which one has never bothered to attain a critical perspective:
Iain Baxter: You’re not aware of any who are in jail for being lesbian or gay?
Peter Aknola: I am not aware of any.
IB: But these are the laws in your countries.
PA: But where, give me an example?
IB: I can give you an example: one woman who has claimed asylum in the United Kingdom, she has applied for asylum, her name is Prossy, she is a Ugandan lesbian, she has been… first of all she was jailed, she was raped in the police station, before that she was marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, the British government has accepted this, the fact that she was tortured, and have agreed this in her asylum application, but however they are saying she could be sent back safely to a different village in Uganda and she is appealing. That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue. Do you support these laws, or do you think they should be repealed?
PA: OK. Every community, every society, has its own standards of life. In ancient African societies we had what are called “taboos”, things you should not do, and if you break the taboos there are consequences. Alright, so in your Western society many of these have arisen but in some of our African societies many things have not arisen and this happens to be one of them. In fact the word in our language does not exist in our language. So if the practice is now found to be in our society it is of service to be against it. Alright, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.So if you say it is good for you, it is not good for us …. If they say it is not right for our societies then it’s not right, and that’s it..
Cheap grace indeed: Akinola falling back on sheer moral relativism to excuse his participation in what he himself called "taboo," a relativism one would have thought incompatible with commitment to the Gospel.
Orombi sounds a different note, one even more confused. At first, sure, he seems to be merely agreeing with Akinola, adding that those oppressed by the law for their being homosexual are being moved back to proper godliness:
Can I just come back to say that, that’s an example given for my country. There’s very little influence to stop the legislation of a law, an institute, in practice by the church. The church’s practice is to preach, to proclaim, so that people who find themselves in a position where they go away from the word of God, the same word of God can bring them back to life.
But then he seems to flip out of the frying pan altogether:
I would be in trouble if I were to say to my people in Uganda that tomorrow I can officiate at a same-sex marriage in my church. First of all the church will be closed.. Two, I might even be fired from my job because the question they are going to ask me is “Have you not read the word of God? And teach us now.” Simply saying that the Christian faith that we practice, which was brought from the West, by the way, taught us what biblically sexuality is. We’ve embraced that faith, we are practicing that faith, and moving away from that faith would be a contradiction to what we have inherited.
He speaks--falsely, it seems to me--as if the Gospel and the moral obligations following from it are settled by what was brought from the West, or whether his church buildings will be closed, or even whether he would be out of a job. Incredible.
When the topic comes up again, Orombi simply sounds as if he has lost his grip on reality, prompting Jensen to jump in and say what neither Orombi nor Akinola could bring themselves to say:
RB: We’re not talking about freedom of expression, he was specifically referring to the use of torture and rape.
HO: I would not believe a thing like that is done in the public knowledge of the people of Uganda because the gay people who are Ugandans are citizens of the country and we would cherish the fact that we would want to send it our people. For some of those things probably you get information in England and we may not even get information, I don’t know how they get their information.
Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen: Can I add to that, because I think it needs to be said, on behalf of these brothers, if not by themselves, any violence against any person, is in Christian terms wrong....
In my view, Jensen's right to jettison Akinola's moral relativism and Orombi's mix of mercenary motives and flat-out denial and simply say the violence was wrong, period.
But it seems to me Jensen displays another type of cultural immersion, one First-Worlders have seen time and again in the polished equivocations of partisan press-conferences: the techne of the spin artist. It's not that there is anything wrong in the propositional content of his spoken paragraph; he's got serious polish:
I certainly have public condemned and will continue to publicly condemn any violence against any people and in particular gay and lesbian people. I am certain that this is, I understand, what Archbishop Orombi says and that is exactly the position and I am very glad that this opportunity has arisen for the question to be raised again because I thought it was not answered in the answers which were being given to the others side of the question. But I think I am right in speaking for all of us here and, indeed, if that were not the case I would certainly stand alone here and say it but I am sure I speak for all in saying that any such violence, any such behaviour within the prison system, for Christians of another variety, or whatever, is condemned by us.
He knew what needed to be said, and he said it and said it well--it's a perfectly formed and most likely sincerely felt bit. The problem is rather in the performative aspect of his utterace, which functions rather as a whitewash, as denial. There is sound evidence that Jensen in fact is not speaking for Akinola and Orombi. Maybe Akinola and Orombi are on pilgimage to a point where they will be able to sincerely speak what Jensen did, but there is reason to think they are not quite there with Jensen yet.
And that in itself is a grave problem; the future of the Anglican Communion, and the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church in Canada, and the Church of England to a large extent has been in the hands of those two--and their assorted ghostwriters.
It's been five years or so, and the Anglican right's leadership has not developed to the point where its members openly agree that violence against--and the political oppression of--gays is wrong. Jensen paraded his personal convictions at just the right moment; good for him, But it does not settle the issue. It is as if Jensen wove a story, a bit of narrative everyone would like to believe in because it would be so much nicer if it were true. But our really, really wishing we could count on Akinola and Orombi's moral convictions does not make it true that we can count on their moral convictions--indeed, Orombi seems to have tried to rationalize oppression. How many GAFCON leaders share their ambivalence? Is socking it to the Episcopal Church real good, and securing the private property of Minns' Virginia congregations on the side, that important? Surely not, surely not.
We should not let Jensen's skillful display distract us from what remains a very real problem in the Anglican Communion, a problem many suspected was there before GAFCON, and one which GAFCON has confirmed.