September 24, 2006

Fresh Air from Southern Africa

Archbishop of Southern Africa Njongonkulu Ndungane has issued an elegant rebuff to the Global South Communiqué in which he first of all establishes that he in no way approved of this document, even though it was presented in such a way as to suggest his approval — an approval widely reported in the press.

He goes on to say,

...There is no doubt that the tensions within the Anglican Communion, arising from actions within North America, raise serious and problematic concerns for our future. Yet I am deeply disturbed by the tenor of our approach, as reflected in this communiqué. To me, at least, it appears in places that there is a hidden agenda, to which some of us are not privy. For example, I am unable to understand why there seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the due processes of the Anglican Communion and the integrity of the Instruments of Unity, while at the same time we commit ourselves to upholding Anglican identity, of which these, as they have continued to evolve over the years in response to changing needs, are an intrinsic part. Thus, for example, recent meetings of the Primates, in which the Global South played a very full part, requested various actions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, which he has been assiduous in pursuing; such as setting up the Lambeth Commission, the Panel of Reference, and now the Covenant Design Group. Yet there seems to be an urgency to obtain particular outcomes in advance, pre-empting the proper outworking of the bodies for which we called.

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. As Peter writes in his second letter, 'Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.' We do not want the best of Anglicanism to be cast aside, and so to perish! And to allow the due processes of these bodies, and the Instruments of Unity, to be followed through will take such a short time in relation to the life of God's Church over two millennia.

I must also say that I am disturbed by the apparent zeal for action to be taken against those deemed not in compliance with Lambeth Resolution 1:10, with a readiness to disregard ancient norms of observing diocesan autonomy. Though this was upheld within the Windsor Report's recommendations, it is of course a practice that was adopted in earliest times by the universal church. It was thus ironic that that the feast of Theodore of Tarsus fell during our meeting: as Archbishop of Canterbury, in 673 he summoned one of the most important Synods of our early tradition. In addressing both the rights and duties of clergy and religious, its decisions included the requirement, already acknowledged elsewhere, of bishops to work within their own dioceses and not to intrude on the ministry of others. We are in danger of giving the impression of being loyal Anglicans, and loyal members of God's One, Holy and Apostolic Church, only where, and insofar, it suits us!

We must also be careful to avoid creating, in effect, episcopi vagantes. This is a difficult and complex area, which Resolution 35 of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 addressed when it said, 'The territorial Episcopate has been the normal development in the Catholic Church, but we recognise that differences of race and language sometimes require that provision should be made in a Province for freedom of development of races side by side; the solution in each case must be left with the Province, but we are clear that the ideal of the one Church should never be obscured.' In our time too, we must do all that we can not to obscure that ideal of the one Church.

I am also more than a little wary of calling into question the election processes of another Province in the way the Communiqué suggests, in relation to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. This introduces a completely new dimension into our relationships within the Communion, the reciprocal implications of which we have not considered. I would feel more confident if we addressed this question as a part of the more comprehensive reassessment of the nature of the Communion for our times, which is underway not least through the work of the Covenant Design Group.

An added concern for me is the apparent marginalisation of laity, clergy and bishops in the debate within the Global South. I was particularly glad that circumstances allowed me fully to consult both my fellow bishops, and our Provincial Synod, immediately in advance of the Kigali meeting. For a fundamental and indispensable element of our Anglican identity is that we are both episcopally led and synodically governed. I long for a consultative process that fully engages the whole Body of Christ, recognising that 'to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good' (1 Cor 12:7). Primates do not have sole monopoly on wisdom and knowledge at this crucial time, nor indeed at any other!

There is much, much more, and I could go on quoting. But please read the whole statement. It is a breath of fresh air, a bold proclamation of the Spirit.

Hear, hear!

—T S Haller BSG

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And reminds us that there really is no "Global South". If one examines only the canons relating to women's ordination in the provinces of Africa and Asia, it's immediately clear that there is diversity of opinion even on that single issue--quite a diversity in fact.