What really happened in Singapore?


By David W. Virtue
April 28, 2010

Looking back on an extraordinary week in the life of the Anglican Communion, several things have become abundantly clear.

Orthodox Anglicans, mainly from the Global South, are on a clear trajectory away from western pan-Anglican liberalism and pansexuality. The grab bag of sexualities that has so galvanized the Anglican Communion for the past 12 years and more is over. The Global South who represent more than 80% of the communion are forging ahead with a clear understanding that the gospel is driven by the overwhelming desire to expand God’s Kingdom through evangelically driven mission.

Speaker after speaker emphasized the need to move on from the West’s obsession with homosexuality. They made it absolutely clear that they would no longer engage the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church in Canada in any further dialogue or “listening”. Any idea that “process”, a euphemism for prevarication and a continuance of talks that leaves everything permanently unresolved, is no longer an option.

The Anglican Covenant, a document aimed at bringing everyone together even with a disciplinary section in place, proved less appetizing to this gathering of 130 archbishops, bishops, clergy and laity. They did not endorse the Covenant and made it clear that it was unsatisfactory on a number of levels.

They realize that TEC and the ACoC will never be excluded from future Primates’ gatherings. Any sanctions brought against them will be rejected even though they continue to flout communion resolutions.

As Dr. Chris Sugden put it so cogently, “The time has come to recognize that the solution is not the covenant.”

While the Covenant is not likely to solve the current crisis, archbishops saw it as having ‘futuristic’ value. They believe that the document in its present form is not yet ideal for the Anglican Communion. It does not address the “ecclesial deficit” in the communion.

Ironically, the communiqué was barely out when two Anglican Church of Canada leaders wrote saying General Synod 2010 will consider the Covenant, but given its present practice with regard to same-sex blessings, the Church cannot in good faith adopt or approve the Covenant.

“It cannot because the Covenant insists on a primary commitment to the universal and apostolic church, a commitment that the movement for same-sex blessings rejects as opposing its standards of justice.”

The Episcopal Church will not consider the Covenant until the 2012 General Convention. By then it will be a memory or a toothless document with no power to hold the Anglican Communion together.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, in his installation sermon as Primate of Nigeria on March 25th in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, said that if the Communion Covenant is to carry the spread of the homosexual lifestyle throughout the Anglican Communion, it will fail. The danger of his [ABC’s] view is the establishing two authorities in the Church, one of the Bible with the other being a the canon of a deviant subculture. We refuse to accept it.”

The second major event to occur in Singapore was the announcement made by Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the establishment of an Anglican Ecumenical Council of the worldwide Anglican Communion. He believes it will bring to an end a dozen years of primatial communiqués, reports and endless talk of “process” and “listening” that has achieved nothing to resolve the crisis of faith and leadership within the Anglican Communion.

Norms adapted from the ancient apostolic canons (35 & 38) on how a council should function offers a legacy rooted in Sacred Scripture and Tradition that results in a significant expression of apostolic authority. The urgency of this matter will result in Archbishop Kolini addressing this with his fellow primates in various ecclesiastical gatherings over the next few months.

Historically, Councils were ecclesiastically binding based on the ancient models, said Kolini. Where Lambeth conferences, Indaba groups, regional Synods and Conventions, have been found lacking, the conciliar norms would seek to resolve the ecclesial deficit that has furthered the Anglican crisis and has crippled the Anglican Communion’s four Instruments of Unity. In this ecumenical conclave, what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, says Kolini. “The Ecumenical Council is the way forward. This is an unstoppable movement not another communion. We will prevail.”

“With the ecumenical council we come full circle. It was in North Africa that the first ecumenical council was held and it is now out of Africa that we will have another one. It is historically irresponsible not to take action. The trumpet blast is the call for a new Council. The hope is that we can get it done this year.”

So the big question is, will the Anglican Communion officially split?

The answer is no. Why? “There is really only one Anglican Communion,” said Congo Primate Henri Kahwa Isingoma. “It is the North American Churches that have gone far from the roots of our common faith.”

Isingoma went on to explain that the Global South is a “resistance” movement to stem the tide of theological liberalism. For him and other archbishops at the meeting, the Anglican Communion is defined not by self-styling but by biblical orthodoxy.

The fundamental argument is that the Global South is the upholders of the “faith once delivered” while it is Anglicans to the north and west who have abandoned biblical authority. It is they who have moved, not them. Why should they be forced out? An Ecumenical Council would establish the truth, even if the Archbishop of Canterbury refuses to recognize this new reality.

What it might do is force Rowan Williams to “fess up” where he belongs in the Communion. If he aligns himself with Western pan-Anglicanism, he will lose the Global South. This Encounter galvanized these bishops around Biblical revelation and the gospel.

Furthermore, Williams will not now be able to adopt a policy of divide and conquer. When the All Africa Bishops Conference meets in Kampala in August, they will be made fully aware of this communiqué. They will be told in blunt terms what the price of staying in the communion is.

If Williams hopes he can wait out the retirement of the old African evangelical guard and work his charm on the new younger bishops, he is sorely mistaken. Ditto for the ACC and Canon Kenneth Kearon.

What was clear in Singapore is that Global South leaders will never again sit down with the likes of Jefferts Schori and Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, to talk about homosexuality. Those days are gone.

If not appearing at future Lambeth conferences and Primates meetings and the forming of GAFCON/FCA and ACNA are considered schismatic acts, so be it.

The orthodox don’t believe they have to go anywhere; they are staying because the truth of historic Anglicanism is on their side. What will happen (and in fact has started to happen) is a complete disengagement, isolating and marginalizing of TEC and ACofC. Global South leaders will not be seen with these leaders again.

Thirdly, there was a deep awareness at this Encounter of the damage TEC has done by using its considerable financial resources to manipulate leaders they would like to see in place (Polynesia and Burma to name but two) and using money for projects so as to leave their footprint behind and the feeling of being owed for TEC’s beneficence. The Japanese were a no show at this Encounter having sold out to TEC years ago.

Global South leaders will never be bought, even if they take money from TEC to pay for projects that benefit their people. The gospel is too precious to compromise for the souls of men, women and children.

In the meantime, the Anglican Global South has opened a “decade of mission and networking”. Anglicans also plan to reform existing ecclesiastical structures to better reflect its global face.

They plan to achieve financial independence. This will reduce the possibility of other Churches influencing their theological convictions, noted Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.

Fourthly. Mindful of the material needs of their people, participants recognized the need for social engagement to deal with poverty alleviation, capacity building, stewardship and establishing an economic empowerment fund in a culture of globalization. Networks for mission and ministry based on the Great Commission were center stage.

Fifthly, the chaos created by the consecration of two homosexual bishops (and possibly more) has created a rift that will never be healed. Homosexual behavior is a sin that must be repented, not endorsed. The GS bishops were clear about that. Same-sex blessings and rites are just an extension of the whole homosexual agenda.

“These things are there, but you don’t have to praise them. You don’t celebrate them. You don’t rejoice in them.” said Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. Indeed, you don’t.

“They are not allowing the Church and the Christian ethics to influence their society and their culture,” said Middle East Archbishop Mouneer Anis. “They are allowing the culture and the context and the mores of society to come in and penetrate the Church.”

The Anglican Communion has itself perceived this “ecclesial deficit” and has proposed the adoption of an Anglican Communion Covenant. However it is clear a covenant will not resolve the “ecclesial deficit” only paper it over.

“Whatever they think is right in terms of modern cultural trappings will be made to supersede Scriptures,” said Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Sixthly, the communiqué recognizes the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as “a faithful expression of Anglicanism” and calls for the recognition of the ACNA by other Anglican bodies.

This was done in the face of two TEC Communion Partner bishops, both of whom recognized the importance of this recognition. The two groups might differ in ecclesiology, but they are united on what the faith means and how people should behave.

Most, if not all of the Anglican leaders in Singapore, saw no hope of reconciliation with TEC or the ACofC, nor were they interested in finding language like “listening” or “process” to artificially keep it going. Those days are gone.

A fundamental realignment in the Anglican Communion has begun. Its trajectory cannot be changed or altered. Remaining orthodox bishops, clergy and laity in TEC will now be forced to ask themselves where their future lies.

The Global South knows where it is going and they are not taking along any of the West’s theological and moral baggage. Those days are gone. The ball is now squarely in the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.