Now that the 2nd All Africa Bishops' Conference is all but ended, a flurry of communications has arrived at our electronic transom.
The five-page statement was a clear challenge from the Anglican bishops of Africa to the Church, the continent and the rest of the Anglican Communion, and it pulled few punches: "While we will always be prepared to listen to voices from other parts of the global Communion, it is pertinent that the rest of the world listens to the unique voice of the Church in Africa," wrote the bishops.
"The Anglican Church in Africa has continued to witness growth so that the centre of gravity of Christianity today appears to be shifting to the continent. Nonetheless, the Church's relevance and impact on global mission and to social, economic and political transformation of the continent remains a challenge."
It was to these last items that most of the document's 'commitment' statements referred. The Church, the bishops said, needs to address the causes and effects of poverty and injustice on the people of Africa.
"We must be actively involved in working with partners at all levels to ensure equal access to medical care, food security and the promoting of good health practices to prevent the major causes of death on the continent, with particular attention to primary health care for African families, especially mothers, children and the elderly.
"The Anglican Church in Africa must join the global movement that refuses to stay silent about the current socio-economic and political state of affairs. We should stop agonising over the deplorable state of African underdevelopment and start organising towards a proactive, pragmatic engagement with good governance and infra-structural development."
Next, we have a communiqué from the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), who are happy that irony-infected Ugandan President Museveni graced them with his presence and "call[ed upon them to] stand against the alien intrusions and cultural arrogance which undermines the moral fiber of our societies." After spreading the good (vague) word about their meeting with Rowan Williams, these Primates go on to describe "the way ahead" as they see it:
A. In order to keep the ethos and tradition of the Anglican Communion in a credible way, it is obligatory of all Provinces to observe the agreed decisions and recommendations of the Windsor Report and the various communiqués of the past three Primates Meetings, especially Dar es Salaam in 2007. We as Primates of CAPA and the Global South are committed to honor such recommendations.
B. We are committed to meet more regularly as Global South Primates and take our responsibilities in regard to issues of Faith and Order.
C. We will give special attention to sound theological education as we want to ensure that the future generations stand firm on the Word of God and faithfully follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
D. We are committed to network with orthodox Anglicans around the world, including Communion Partners in the USA and the Anglican Church in North America, in holistic mission and evangelism. Our aim is to advance the Kingdom of God especially in unreached areas.
E. We are committee to work for unity with our ecumenical partners and to promote interfaith dialogue with other faiths in order to promote a peaceful co-existence and to resolve conflicts.
F. We are committed to work for the welfare of our countries. This will involve alleviating poverty, achieving financial and economic empowerment, fighting diseases, and promoting education.
Interestingly, the "way ahead" doesn't look to have anything to do with the proposed Anglican Covenant. (Anyone on the ground care to elaborate?)
Butter wondered, as did we, where the reports of positive outcomes and information sharing went. Happily, Butter has documented the sense and feeling of that goodwill and servanthood for us. (More on that, here.)
Next up: the bishops of Rwanda:
...Anglican revisionism in the West continues and the need to “Secure our Future” as Faithful Anglicans has become even more acute....
We ask you to prayer fully consider the contents of our Dispatch for Action for a pastoral plan that will indeed “Secure our Future”.
1. A RENEWED AFRICA OFFERS A RENEWED ANGLICAN IDENTITY
1.1 The Church since the days of our risen Lord has realized the need to express and strengthen their Koinonia by coming together in fellowship to meet contemporary challenges to the faith. The witness of the church was consistently a beacon to: a) address the numerous doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversies in a manner that forges the way forward for CAPA; b) create and foster a clear identity and unity among CAPA Provinces; and c) insure the strengthening of our structures that are conducive to witness to the Faith and fruit bearing in the Christian community.
1.2 We request that the CAPA Primates and Provinces initiate dynamic and effective structures that will strengthen our Anglican and African identity for Africa, the Communion, and the World.
2. STANDARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
2.1 The Anglican Communion has a serious problem of identity. As with most of the Christian Traditions, we face external cultural forces along with internal ecclesiological challenges that must be met and dealt with in this pluralistic society where major religions and aggressive ideologies are competing for the hearts and souls of humanity.
Who will stand for a united Anglican voice to bring the Way, Truth and Life in a hindered and divided Church?
Given the growth and the faithfulness of the Anglican witness in Africa, the time has come for CAPA Provinces to undertake the obligation from the Lord to protect and prevent the erosion of faith from these external forces. The Anglican Provinces of Africa possess a vibrant spirituality, a dynamic biblical witness, and numerous expressions of creative ministry to young and old, rich and poor, north and south.
Given such giftedness, we challenge the All African Bishops’ Conference to adhere to the Statement on the Global Anglican Future as proposed at GAFCON 2008.
3. COLLEGIAL LEADERSHIP AND FAITHFUL WITNESSS ARE OUR HERITAGE AND OUR FUTURE
3.1 Additionally, the Anglican Communion has added peculiar ecclesiological problems of its own that must be resolved. We call this today our “ecclesial deficit”. It cannot be resolved by a Covenant that requires little of those who ascribe to it and maintains no clear direction for discipline. Therefore, we propose that there be a structure based in the historic models of the church to resolve these crises.
3.2 Each provincial jurisdiction was birthed by Mother Africa. Mother Africa seeks all her children both temporally and spiritually to come together as a true Communion, united through a conciliar process rather than a separated Federation. Such a style of leadership would mean a more effective voice and a greater impact in the Communion. It would be monumental if the CAPA Primates and their bishops would make such a call and show the world that they are ecclesiastical leaders who understand this issue as the key to a real Global Anglican Future and are willing to boldly undertake the responsibility and leadership to begin this work.
4. SECURING OUR FUTURE
4.1 Based on the faith once delivered to the saints, the leadership structures as mentioned above; as well as a clear understanding of our own identity and dignity, we are now able to confidently unlock our potential and creatively address our issues of social, theological, and economic concerns with one voice. In so doing we will be able to develop sustainable programs by developing strategic alliances and partnerships for the future
Timely to all this: Where does the fault line run in the Anglican Communion? Is it somewhere between Africa and the West, as these documents seem to suggest, or could it be closer to the North Atlantic? "Preludium" blogger Mark Harris has some helpful backgrounding thoughts.
The single most damning bit of Anglican Communion activity in recent years has been the development of Primate's meetings from occasions for sharing to occasions for control. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been as much party to the efforts to control as have other Primates and the current situation where it appears that some Primates will not attend Primates meetings so long as others (notably the Presiding Bishop) attend is in some part as much the ABC's fault as it is the threatening Primates.
The question of who controls the Primates Meetings and to what end has overtaken the purpose of those meetings, and the 'enhanced' role given the Primates has been a source of new and divisive energy in the Communion. That role was strongly supported by the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and without much in the way of cautionary words. The first cautionary word might well have been to suggest that the Primates Meeting is simply a meeting for conversation and that no one is expected or required to attend.
The Fault Line runs through the Primates Meetings, and the break in to two large masses of Anglican peoples may well be signaled by the failure of the Primates to meet as a whole or to do so with such control mechanisms in place that the Primates Meeting ceases to be an "instrument of unity" but rather an instrument of destruction.
It is time to give the Primates Meetings a rest. A long rest.
Now there's an absorbing and potentially polarizing suggestion to a massively diffused issue. (And, we'll add, well in line with Harris' "Not one thin dime" article concerning composition and funding of the global Anglican Communion Standing Committee.) On Africa in specific, Harris opines the future may well be more hazy than we think, with provinces more dependent on circumstance and less destined to steer themeslves into iceberg-infested waters than maybe we think. The situation is subtle but potentially severe:
There is little doubt that the population of Africa will grow considerably as will the number of persons who are Christian in Africa. It is not at all clear how many of them will be recognizably Anglican, or in any sense related to the ancient churches of the west or east. It is not at all clear if the leadership of the churches in many parts of Africa will escape the temptations to corruption that are rampant in many countries in Africa. The bishops will indeed need to be the church at its best and highest if they hope to address in meaningful ways the many problems of the various countries in Africa.
At present what seems to be the case is that there is a good deal of post-colonial posturing going on about how the West is decadent.