A magisterial dismissal

UPDATED

The Very Rev. Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, has written a magisterial dismissal of the Kigali statement. (In the eyes of this observer, who, admittedly, didn't think much of the statement to begin with.) It appears in this week's issue of Church Times, and called to my attention by the Pressmail service of St. Matthew's, Westminster. (You can subscribe to pressmail by sending an email to pressmail@stmw.org.) The piece is beneath the continue reading button, but I wanted to call attention to one particular point that Slee makes because it touches on an isue that I have attempted to raise myself:

"Then there is finance. Delegates paid their own fares (what from?) with nothing for accommodation, conference facilities, and resources. Who paid? He who pays the piper calls the tune.

There should be a debate about the dependency of certain Anglican Primates on external financial resourcing, and a call for transparency and accountability. Whoever paid for the conference at Kigali had an agenda that needs examination. Those who benefited need to show that their judgement was unaffected by hospitality.

There is something unpleasant about Christian leaders from the developing nations accepting invisible financial assistance from those who once were their (white) masters, and from whom they have proudly gained independent status as Churches. There is a new colonialism abroad, which shows all the exploitative tendencies of the old in new forms."

Here is a response to Dean Slee's piece from Archbishop Yong Ping Chung. Interesting to see this appear on the Anglican Mainstream site. AM, a British-based group, received $12,000 in funding last year from the American Anglican Council. (That's according to the AAC's IRS Form 990 for 2005.) So, an organization sustained in part by conservative American donors is downplaying the influence of conservative American donors.

Why the Kigali declaration is wrong
By Colin Slee

Kigali is unrepresentative, sectarian, unAnglican, and colonialist, argues Colin Slee


The statement of the recent meeting of Primates at Kigali has reverberated around the Church like the aftershocks of an earthquake, giving an impression that something definitive has happened to the Anglican Communion, and that schism is inevitable (News, 29 September). Yet, before the Anglican tradition slides into a suicidal panic, certain presuppositions should be examined.

Schism is never inevitable unless two parties to an argument are determined to separate. This week, the world celebrated Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 75th birthday and his chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC worked because both sides of apartheid were desperate that it should - the alternative was too horrific to contemplate.

The word "irreconcilable" should possibly be the most unused in Christian vocabulary; it is theologically questionable. The New Testament presents a narrative of God at work through Jesus Christ "reconciling the world to himself" . If God can undertake that task for creation, it is not for Christians to regard the transitory differences of opinion that bedevil the Church as adequate cause for irreconcilable estrangement.

Sectarianism is different; it requires only one party to say to the other: "I don't care what you think - I am going off to walk by myself." Kigali, and many earlier statements, show strong sectarian inclinations. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus speaks of the children in the market place: "We piped for you and you would not dance, we wailed and you did not mourn." He is denouncing intransigence and contrariness.

It is said that the Archbishop of Canterbury wishes to keep the Anglican Church as one Communion, and will make concessions to the loudest demand at whatever cost. Yet Dr Williams's current request is for consideration of a covenanted relationship that permits disagreement without schism. Kigali paid scant attention to that request; it set conditions for the Communion on the terms of its determination. The inclination towards sectarianism is clear. The Archbishop has called for genuine debate; Kigali calls for walking apart.

The status of the Kigali declaration must also be questioned. It has no credibility as a declaration of Anglican decision. It was a private meeting. The "Global South" has no mandate as an organ within the structures of the Anglican Church.

Kigali spoke a great deal for the "Global South". That is a tendentious term, because much of the Church in the south of the globe does not wish to be associated with it. The Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, a man imprisoned on Robben Island because of his courage in the face of division, was the first to disassociate himself from Kigali and the Global South; the Archbishop of the Philippines has also done so; the Archbishop of Papua New Guinea absented himself to make his disapproval clear.

The Primates imply two unsubstantiated claims in the Kigali declaration which are worthy of examination. First, some speak in terms of "the majority" of Anglicans, and base this on the statistical size of the Anglican Church in their provinces. These statistics are open to challenge.

Anglicans of the Global South are not counted on the same basis as the electoral rolls and Easter communicants of the Church of England; it is not possible. The Elizabethan Settlement carefully steps away from any concept of majority rule as theologically unsound, because it implies imposed belief and the alienation of minority opinion.

Second, most Kigali Primates spoke as if they had the authority of their provincial synods. Their synods meet at long intervals, and had not been consulted (by definition) about the Kigali statement; the Primates had no authority from them.

This is not Anglican governance as enshrined in the concept of the bishop in synod. The Anglican tradition requires the laity, the clergy, and the bishops each to have a voice. Then the synod - the coming together - of thought in decision can be articulated by the bishop, or, in the case of a province, the archbishop.

Then there is finance. Delegates paid their own fares (what from?) with nothing for accommodation, conference facilities, and resources. Who paid? He who pays the piper calls the tune.

There should be a debate about the dependency of certain Anglican Primates on external financial resourcing, and a call for transparency and accountability. Whoever paid for the conference at Kigali had an agenda that needs examination. Those who benefited need to show that their judgement was unaffected by hospitality.

There is something unpleasant about Christian leaders from the developing nations accepting invisible financial assistance from those who once were their (white) masters, and from whom they have proudly gained independent status as Churches. There is a new colonialism abroad, which shows all the exploitative tendencies of the old in new forms.

The Kigali statement has another critical weakness. It claims unanimity (with South Africa as an exception). But subsequent statements (for example, from the Archbishop of the Philippines) and "private" comments suggest otherwise. So there are signs of intellectual (and possibly financial) coercion. This raises questions about the courage of church leadership -questions that may be applied equally to the bishops of the Church of England.

If honest disagreement has to be concealed, it ceases to be honest. Individuals need to put their heads above the parapet, and stand up to bullying. Bishops wear purple to represent their role as the first to give their blood for Christ and the Church. We are witnessing a haemorrhage of episcopal courage, and that is grave.

The Very Revd Colin Slee is Dean of Southwark.

Comments (12)

I then must ask who paid for Njongonkulu Ndungane's ticket? Lets move on, Chicken Dinners are served everywhere.

Indeed they are served everywhere, so what's your point. The Dean makes some valid observations and it would be interesting to see who is really working behind the scenes paying for it all. Hmm, Howard Ahmanson, the IRD or some other group of nefarious conservative politicos???

My point don't imply it is just the conservative organizations receiving financial backing when ALL organizations are financially supported by others. Does George Soros and his organization The Open Society Institute and their contributions to the LBGT organizations ring a bell?

If we could focus on the sources of funding and the degree of transparency of organizations within the Episcopal Church and hte Anglican Communion, I'd appreciate it.

Jim,
Hold on a minute-you just posted: "Here is a response to Dean Slee's piece from Archbishop Yong Ping Chung. Interesting to see this appear on the Anglican Mainstream site. AM, a British-based group, received $12,000 in funding last year from the American Anglican Council. (That's according to the AAC's IRS Form 990 for 2005.) So, an organization sustained in part by conservative American donors is downplaying the influence of conservative American donors."

Anglican Mainstream and the AAC are not Organizations within the Episcopal church or the Anglican Communion. They are Conservative, thus fair game? Liberal George Soros and his organization used $30,000,000 of US Taxpayers money to fund liberal organizations.

Brad, I think what I was trying to say was fairly clear, but let me take another run at it:

If we could focus on the sources of funding and the degree of transparency of organizations engaged in the debate over the future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, I'd appreciate it.

With respect, Brad, while Anglican Mainstream and AAC are not organizations of the Episcopal Church or of the Anglican Communion, they certainly see themselves as in the Anglican Communion, and many within the Episcopal Church. From the AAC's Mission Statement: "The American Anglican Council is a network of individuals (laity, deacons, priests and bishops), parishes and specialized ministries who affirm Biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy within the Anglican Communion." Certainly, it is within the Anglican Communion and within (or displacing) the Episcopal Church that they wish to have an effect.

I do think "following the money" should apply to folks at both poles of the discussion. That said, it is worth noting whether the support comes from (to choose arbitrary numbers) 1000 donations of $100 or from 1 donation of $100,000. Neither is sinful per se. However, one arguably represents a wide movement, and the other the interest of a small group. In these discussions of who represents whom, that is of interest.

Well, I've given the AAC money, so I suppose that you can blame me, and lots of people like me. The AAC didn't ask me beforehand, but I approve of their supporting meetings of the global south primates, if they did, and if they didn't, I would encourage them to do so in the future. Why is this such a shock? I expect people to give to organizations doing things they support if they believe it is good stewardship.

Marshall,
AAC Members are individuals who are Episcopalians or were Episcopalians and most all are Anglicans but the AAC Organization is an advocate organization along with many other groups outside, not within, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The Revisionist gay support Groups Integrity, Oasis, Claiming the Blessing, etc. are the same-advocate groups outside the Church.
I am pleased that you agree that "following the money" should be applied to both poles of the discussion. That has not been the case on this edow blog, but as sure as I'm standing here, if Jim researched the IRS records of the aforementioned progay organizations as diligently as he has the AAC records he would find the same sort of financial support.

More importantly,I believe that Articles implying that orthodox Christians are "following the money" is an injustice to any Christian or Christian organization, for the stakes are far more important than any sum of money-it is our Salvation we risk.

Brad wrote: "As I'm standing here, if Jim researched the IRS records of the aforementioned progay organizations as diligently as he has the AAC records he would find the same sort of financial support."

I've actually done that work. There's even a mention of it in Following the Money. These organizations' budgets are quite small compared to those of the AAC and the IRD, and, come primarily from membership dues.

The first part of Following the Money pays particular attention to two kinds of donors 1) donors who have no interest in the church, but back one side in our current controversy as a means of advancing an agenda that has nothing to do with the church--this group includes the five foundations; and 2) a donor whose views are so extreme that even recipients of his largesse have returned contributions rather than be associated with him, i. e. Howard Ahmanson.

As part of my research I looked into whether there are similiar donors feeding groups such as integrity. I didn't find anything.

I can understand that it is uncomfortable to acknowledge that an organization which you support has received millions from a man who doesn't believe it is necessarily wrong to stone homosexuals, but that is the fact.

Jim,
I can speak for the local AAC-Washington Chapter (AAC-W) which is an Affilate of the National AAC, because I am an officer in the AAC-W organization.The AAC-W doesn't have membership dues,we don't have five foundations writing us checks, and we don't have any have any wacko millionaire contributors.

Now as far as Integrity and the other gay advocate groups go,I am not that interested in where they get their contributions,I don't care and for that matter why do you care? All of us have agendas I guess, you mention Howard Ahmanson contributing to the AAC.I replied take a look at George Soros and his contributions.
I think we ought to move forward, and I invite you to come to one of our AAC-W meetings this Fall to meet us.

Well, we may be beating a dead horse, but just to say this one more time, Howard Ahmanson has contributed heavily to groups involved in the current controversy in the Church and Communion. This is by these groups' own admission. George Soros has not.

Add your comments
Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Advertising Space