Friday, September 21, 2007

Anglicans in the News

This Sunday, we will not be driving to Wisconsin for church.

Instead, we will be at Wheaton College's Edman Chapel for a "Midwest Anglican Awakening" joint eucharist and worship service. This event is the joint endeavor of five area AMIA and CANA parishes. Eighteen additional churches from five states will also be part of the worship service. (That number includes folks from our little church plant, who will be driving nearly 1.5 hours to come.)

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria will be preaching the homily. While certain people are pretty upset and planning demonstrations, we are pretty excited!

This article by Philip Jenkins (HT to my friend Barbara G) explains:

The most important figure today in the Anglican Communion, a worldwide federation of churches with some 75 million adherents, is probably a man few people in the West know anything about : Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, of Nigeria. An uncompromising traditionalist, Akinola presides over the most vibrant and almost certainly the largest Anglican community in the world--at a time when the Anglican world's true center of gravity has shifted to Africa.

It was no small matter, then, when Akinola went public this past summer with blistering denunciations of proposals to consecrate openly gay bishops and to sanctify gay marriage. ... Reacting to a proposal in the Church of England to ordain a gay bishop (a proposal ultimately withdrawn after intense pressure from African and Asian leaders), Akinola thundered, "This is an attack on the Church of God--a Satanic attack on God's Church." And during the buildup to the U.S. Episcopal Church's controversial ordination of Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire, he announced, "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."

American and European readers may be inclined to dismiss such remarks as coming from a hidebound bigot, or perhaps from a demagogue seeking attention--but they would be wrong to do so. In his attitudes toward sexuality, and above all in his attitude toward religious authority, Akinola represents a deep-rooted conservative tradition in African Christianity that is flourishing and growing, and that is simply not going to vanish as levels of economic growth and education rise in Africa. ...

Nigeria is a land of intense interfaith conflict. ... This struggle provides the crucial context for African concerns about sexual morality. Across the continent Muslims have tried to make converts by arguing that the Christian West is decadent and sexually irresponsible--a belief that finds daily confirmation in Western films and television. If the Anglican Communion accepted gay bishops or approved gay unions, Muslims would gain an enormous propaganda victory in Nigeria--and in a dozen or so other African countries in which Christians and Muslims compete for converts, often violently. When Akinola speaks out, therefore, it is...because he feels that the very existence of Christianity in his own territory is under threat. At stake, he believes, is the religious map of much of Africa, and the global balance between Christianity and Islam.

There's a lot more in the article about this amazing man and about the incredible growth of the "intensely Bible-centered" Nigerian Anglican church. With its emphasis on the Scriptures, with sacrament and liturgy, and with great freedom of the Spirit in its worship, the Nigerian Anglican church is a highly successful version of the "three streams, one river" kind of church:

In the late 1970s Nigeria was home to five million or so Anglicans; that number has now grown to perhaps 18 million, and it may double by 2025 or so. (To put that in perspective, North America has about four million Anglicans, and the number is stagnant or shrinking.)

Another group who is upset by the Archbishop's visit is The Episcopal Church (TEC). Chicago's bishop has been whining a bit, I'm afraid:

Bishop William Persell of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has told diocesan clergy that Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola "did not extend the normal courtesy of contacting me about his visit" within the diocese. (from this article)

He and others in TEC are ticked that an important Anglican leader like Akinola isn't even acknowledging them. And by this visit he's supporting AMIA and CANA, groups which TEC calls schismatic because we won't hang in there with them while they ignore the Scriptures, ordain gay men and lesbian women as priests and bless same-sex unions. (Ya think?)

Oh yes, that drama is still going on--and mounting, in fact. TEC has been given an order to agree to cease and desist with the all the above nonsense by Sept. 30, or else. (Ordaining and blessing, at least; we can't stop them ignoring....) The big question is what the "or else" will be, but I gather that the leaders of the rest of the Anglican world (as the statistics above indicate, TEC is a teeny tiny--though wealthy and influential--drop in the Anglican lake) are about ready to cut off TEC and leave them and their money by their lonesome.

Ahh, it's an interesting time to be Anglican.

Here's a link to the Chicago Daily Herald's coverage of the Midwest Anglican event.


elaine@bloginmyeye said...

I'm strapping on my seatbelt. I'll see ya there!

Islandsparrow said...

I'd love to be there to hear him!

Anne Kennedy said...

I'm so jealous! I hope someone takes pictures or video. Lots of prayer needed this weekend through the whole HOB.