Rwandan revamp of Anglican ecclesiology

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican Covenant, Church of England Newspaper, Global South.

The Rev. Dr. Kevin Donlon of the Global South Anglican Theological Formation and Education Task Force at the 2008 Gafcon conference in Jerusalem

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The new Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, has vowed to carry on the policies of his predecessor, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, and push for the reform of the Anglican Communion.

In an interview with the New Times of Kigali published last week, the new archbishop, who will take office in January said he would hold fast to the church’s traditional teachings on human sexuality.

“Anything that is contrary to God’s family set-up is not acceptable; there is nowhere in the Bible where same-sex marriage is encouraged. God created a man and woman to be the basis of a family,” the archbishop said.

The Anglican Church of Rwanda has also been at the forefront of the reform movement within the Anglican Communion.  While it supports in principle the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Anglican Covenant process, it has been less than enthusiastic about how such a structure might work, given the anarchy now prevalent across the Communion.

At the All African Bishops Meeting in Entebbe in August, discussion of the Anglican Covenant among the gathered bishops took a decided second place to the conciliar programme for a renewed Anglican ecclesiology propounded by Rwanda and the Global South group of churches.

An August 2008 paper prepared by Dr. Kevin Donlon, an American priest of the AMiA, and a member of the Global South Anglican Theological Formation and Education Task Force, argued the Covenant was yesterday’s solution to today’s problems.

The paper, entitled The Challenges of Covenant and Canons for the Future of a Ius Commune Anglicanae, concluded: “The Covenant as an instrument by itself fails to address the fullness of the conciliar tradition that needs to be regained by Anglicans.  A church rooted in the catholic heritage is called to be church rooted in the claims a deposit of faith that includes a canonical and conciliar tradition that is one of the marks of the church since the Apostolic Period.”

“Anglicanism abandoned a conciliar and canonical understanding of the church when Henry Tudor ascribed all legislative responsibility to the Parliament at the Reformation. A draft of a Covenant without a canonical and conciliar structure illustrates once again that Anglican leaders seem unable to grasp the conciliar nature of the Church.”

Frustration with the present model of “instruments of Communion” and objections to an international church that centered round the authority of an English bishop not accountable to the wider church, has fueled discussion within the Global South about new ways of ordering the church.

“A new model for a new day is required where conversations about Canons and Covenants are not simply the speculation of non-binding conferences that insure autonomy over and above authority. The blending of covenant and canon is a way to embrace the conciliar model where matters of faith and practice at all levels of the Church come into an expression of praxis that is framed in a theology of the church that is biblical, Christological, salvific historical and ecclesiological in character consistent for the ages,” Dr. Donlon concluded.

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