Thus spake the Global South

Updated with commentary below the fold.

The Global South Primates have spoken.


On the whole their closing document is rather toothless and says nothing that we have not already heard. While there were hints this week that the current crop of Primates in the Global South see a bigger picture than the never-ending Anglican wars, on the whole, we are still a very bad church and should be treated accordingly.

Still, they still want the Anglican Covenant to serve as ecclesiastical traffic cop, with the power to ticket and suspend offenders. They also won’t congress with their counterparts in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada because they believe our churches reflect irretrievably erroneous doctrine that threatens the salvation of all who come near it.

While we can agree that the Anglican Wars have distracted us from our main mission of communicating the Gospel and following the Great Commission, the Global South Primates and Friends prefer a new-style Anglican Communion with both the ecclesiastical cop and an ecclesiastic glazier so they can install windows into the souls of at least bishops as a condition for admission

Some excerpts.

6. We were appreciative of the greeting given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, by means of a brief video that was shared at the beginning of our time together. We rejoiced in the welcome given to us by Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of the National Committee of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) of the China Christian Church and the presence and warm greeting offered by His Grace Bishop Suriel representing His Holiness Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

16. In contrast, we continue to grieve over the life of The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture. The recent action of TEC in the election and intended consecration of Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles, has demonstrated, yet again, a total disregard for the mind of the Communion. These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved. Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action.

21. Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

22. Over the last 20 years we have been distracted by conflicts and controversies that have kept us from effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While we have been so distracted, Christian heritage, identity and influence has continued to decline in the West. We believe that there is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure; especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office; in order to achieve an authentic expression of the current reality of our Anglican Communion.

The GS primates and cohorts are showing their evangelical background with the strange Anglican-American mix of Reformed, Puritan and Arminian thinking blended together– as distinct from the more catholic approach that most Episcopalians may be used to. They are saying that (based on their reformed background) that the church reflects the sovereignty of God by adhering to firm discipline relative to doctrine. But they are also saying that one can lose their salvation by holding to erroneous doctrine. They want to adhere to a Arminian (aka Wesleyan or Methodist) approach of saying salvation is by grace and we have an obligation to convey the message of salvation, but they can’t shake the Puritan idea that church discipline and holding to right doctrine is a core expression of the nature of God.

So…in their view, if you are a Christian who follows an erroneous doctrine, you can lose your salvation. This is the underlying charge against the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada and against progressives generally…it is the same charge that Protestants used to level against Catholics…that our (erroneous) teaching can not only lead unbelievers away from saving knowledge of Christ, but can lead believers into losing their salvation. This is why a super conservative church can decide to leave a very conservative diocese, they are trying to save themselves from even association with an erroneous teaching that threatens the salvation of the believers in that church.

It is also why they want the Primates to meet without Canada and the US present. It boils down to cooties…but on a cosmic, salvation-affecting level.

This sounds foreign to most of us partly because the way we do theology has changed a tad since the 17th and 18th centuries, but mostly because we base our way of thinking about Church in the catholic notion that the whole ekklesia together reflects the whole body of Christ, and that communion among differing schools of thought or approaches around the One Christ, who share a common Baptism and Eucharist, is more important that adherence to single ideas.

Bishop Behase’s reference to Nicea, as well as the whole of his letter this week is a reflection of this thinking. This is what Bishop Jefferts Schori means when she talks about salvation being found in community. It is not only, or even mainly, about intellectual assent to certain propositions, as the evangelicals in the GSP believe, but about following Jesus in ekklesia. Dean Knisely is fond of quoting Tertullian in this regard: “One Christian is no Christian.”

Benhase’s letter is important because provides a solid theological basis for doing what we are doing. It is not about right belief in the intellectual or dogmatic sense, but it is about ekklesia in communion reflecting the unity of Christ and communicating the Gospel to the world.

Now the RCs (and some Anglo-Catholics) believe that the differing branches of the Body can be united under some kind of existing central teaching authority. In the RCs case it is the Pope. In the case of some Anglicans they’d like that to be The Covenant. The problem is this: to make the evangelicals in the GS happy, the instruments of unity would have to both teaching authority and disciplining authority…the power to ex-communicate for the sake of the rest of the Body. The Catholics in our midst want this to be a sign of our ekklesia, with the “local authority” (provinces and bishops) having this disciplinary authority.

This is where Benhase’s reference to Elizabeth is important. He is saying that our form of catholic faith and order has worked whereas Puritanism and other forms of strict order have failed, with successive divisions over points of doctrine and the fall back on kinds of half-way covenants.

Archbishop Williams basically believes in a more catholic view of the church, but tries to hold the evangelical line by saying we “can’t” do something (like ordain gay bishops) until everyone in the communion agrees. Since he already held beliefs that are suspect to the GS crowd, they don’t trust him to do what needs to be done, which poor Rowan won’t (and can’t) do anyway.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury were to be consistent with his thinking, he would be saying that schism is the worse sin because it breaks up the body and tears branches from the vine. An Elizabethean Catholic approach would require that these bishops remain in communion with us precisely because we differ because our only unity is found in Christ.

Posted by
Category : The Lead

Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted. We also ask that you limit your comments to no more than four comments per story per day.

14 Comments
  1. EH Culver

    “These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved.”

    “The plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures” referred to here must be either a surface reading or a reading of certain agendas into the text. The “careful exegesis” called for by the Archbishop of Canterbury has been done many times over, and nowhere have I read anything about same sex relationships in the ancient world that resembles anything like the ones that exist today.

  2. Leonardo Ricardo

    Who could know the real motives of the Global South contingent? We have been given many true examples of why and how they are driven that are far away outside of any decent desire for fellowship and the loving of one another at the Body of Christ…I´m afraid their tainted strivings can´t be covered with words of puritan holiness…these fellows, and they are mostly fellows except for Alison Barfoot, have poisoned their own well and expect everyone to drink from it…dangerous and seat-of-the-pants self-deceiving.

  3. “These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved.”

    I keep hearing this and the only example given is the issue of blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of GLBT folks. Is this single issue really that fundamental? It rivals doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, etc..? I’m not sure to what other “matters” they refer, unless it is such statements as Jesus being “a way” rather than “the way” to God. But if that is the case, then why keep coming back to this one issue?

    Sounds like the Nicene Creed is no longer enough, or the GS would have us add a fourth section beginning “We believe in the plain teaching of scripture that marriage be limited to one man and one woman…” Just thinking of the ridiculousness of adding such an issue to such a basic statement of faith as the Nicene Creed shows how comparatively minor these issues should be in comparison to what are truly more “fundamental” (i.e., creedal) issues.

  4. I don’t agree that we are all distracted- I am not at all distracted from sharing the Gospel but maybe it is just that multi-tasking is how I live – especially since we had children – ask any parent –

  5. Roger Mortimer

    “…..and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture”?

  6. Roger Mortimer

    It’s what many of us assumed it would be – an attempted primatial power-grab: “….we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion …. there is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure; especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office; in order to achieve an authentic expression of the current reality of our Anglican Communion.”

    “…the current reality of our Anglican Communion”!

    (Some understanding of the use of the semi-colon wouldn’t hurt.)

  7. Brava, Ann Fontaine!

    The closing document from the Global South Gathering puts me in mind of certain of Bp. Mark Lawrence’s statements and letters. He and the rest of the GS group seem to really believe that any association with a church which ordains a person in a same-sex union or blesses a couple in a SS union threatens their very salvation.

    One wonders how the Communion Partners remain, if not whole-heartedly in TEC, at least connected through the pension plan and the health insurance plan. How can the retired bishops who left TEC accept their pension checks? Wouldn’t the money be tainted?

    June Butler

  8. Bill Ghrist

    “we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10.”

    Hmm? I wonder how many of the Global South folks are in compliance with this part of Lambeth 1.10? “We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;”

  9. Dä'ved Äyan

    “These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved.”

    Tom S., you have your sights set on too large a parameter for understanding this passage. These are puritan Calvinists speaking. In this statement the key words are the very salvation of those involved. They are referring to the “personal salvation” of GLBTQ folks. They hold to the idea that “liberal/progressive” churches/christians, by advocating acceptance of sexualities apart from heterosexuality, and acceptance of monogamous unions, apart from marriage between a man and a woman, that we encourage GLBTQ folks to continue on a pathway of sin, which can only end in their eternal damnation come Judgement Day.

  10. E Sinkula

    “These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved.”

    I thought salvation was through faith in Christ, not my sexuality?

  11. Paul Martin

    So, in place of salvation by grace through faith, we have salvation through theological orthodoxy? Doesn’t sound like that old time religion to me.

    The more I hear from these folks, the more trouble I have understanding why the Anglican Communion is so important.

  12. tgflux

    How can the retired bishops who left TEC accept their pension checks? Wouldn’t the money be tainted?

    Touche’, June! *LOL*

    IMO, the GS bishops have made faith in Christ entirely into a work: one EARNS one’s salvation, by holding the correct theological (and sexual ethic!) propositions in one’s head.

    Do I believe “correctly” about God?

    Not a clue here. I profess the Creed every Sunday, and hold to it. I can say “I believe this” of it. But DO I really “believe” it, properly? Not only is that above MY paygrade, it’s above EVERY human’s paygrade—inc. the GS bishops’!

    But then again, I don’t really think that “The Faith” is about beliefs, anyway.

    It’s about TRUST.

    I TRUST Jesus.

    I TRUST God-in-Christ that, when I receive the Body&Blood, I am truly fed.

    Whether I’m correct or “erroneous”? I don’t let that bother me to much—there’s a Gospel to be LIVED, keeping me busy!

    JC Fisher

  13. “IMO, the GS bishops have made faith in Christ entirely into a work: one EARNS one’s salvation, by holding the correct theological (and sexual ethic!) propositions in one’s head.”

    JC Fisher nailed this one! The flaw of the Reformation has always been the rapidity with which it converted “salvation by grace through faith” into “salvation through correct belief.” (The Counter-Reformation of course had its own flaws. Anglicanism, as the via media, has generally succeeded in adopting all of the above.)

  14. A profoundly true quote, Andrew:

    “An Elizabethan Catholic approach would require that the bishops of the Anglican communion remain in communion with one another – precisely because we differ: because our only unity is found in Christ.”

    Our unity, our communion, is in Christ alone – who are we, then, to break that communion… but rather, we should seek unity in diversity, and a sort of New Elizabethan settlement, based on prayer and gracious love and respect for the faith integrity of one another.

    The great genius of the Anglican Church over the centuries has been the way it has afforded space for grace, and for communion in diversity, avoiding the controlling rigidities of sectarianism.

    To quote Father Ron Smith: “by prayer and supplication, we need to seek the mind of Christ as to how we all might best bring the freedom of the Gospel into our diverse communities – with integrity and faith – bringing Christ’s redeeming love into the part of the world in which we are called to serve.

    We must not imitate the culture of those who want to fracture the Church on the basis of their own perceived ‘holiness’. Rather we should seek to carry out, humbly, the mission of Christ in our own context and environment, while allowing others to do what they see as their own mission, in theirs.”

    The communion needs to afford space for grace – and this implies not controlling one another, but each person, each church, walking the way of the cross, with integrity, and according to conscience, allowing the grace and peace of God to gently invade us, to grow us, to draw us towards the perfection we find in Christ alone.

    The human church will never be perfect. Therefore much grace and compassion is needed. Grace to share in communion even with those of differing views – because we are one in Christ.

Comments are closed.