I was involved with the Church of England up to the debates that led up to 2008 Lambeth Conference, as a member of Changing Attitude and Deanery Synod. It led me to quitting the church. Very few in the church outside ECUSA, including the Archbishop of Canterbury (who himself has published in support of lesbian and gay Anglicans in the past), were moved to stand up to Archbishop Akinola in Nigeria. Those openly supportive of Jeffrey Johns and Gene Robinson were prepared to speak out – but few liberal Anglicans, including those who supported the ordination of women and women bishops, were willing to stand up to the move that would bring in a system of Episcopal control that would make discipline in the Anglican Communion more on a par with that in the Church of Rome. So, a system that recognised local autonomy and variation between provinces (such as accommodation of polygamy in some circumstances in some cultures), when it accommodated homosexuality in the west, became intolerable to certain provinces; most vocal in this was Akinola in Nigeria. The result of this is the proposition of a covenant between churches, that expects all churches to submit their local needs, cultures and identities to that of the ‘whole’. In other words, a system of control that is completely alien to the Anglican Communion. Instead of denouncing homophobia in the Nigerian church, what has happened is the Archbishop of Nigeria has managed to bring about a situation where, if the sign the covenant, any church in the communion that accommodates homosexuals fully into the life of the church, can be excluded from that covenant. ECUSA – well they ain’t going to sign. The CofE is more difficult to call, because if they don’t, what has traditionally been a moderating voice in all this (apart from Carey), the Archbishop of Canturbury, will effectively no longer be the primary bishop – that role will pass to another within the Covenant (and that would probably be Akinola); effectively this is an African coup within the Anglican Communion. What is interesting, from a Kiwi perspective, the group of Anglicans here that appears to be coming down in opposition to this move is the Tikanga Maori, precisely because of their concerns with the loss of sovereignty, and that concern is rooted in their historical experiences with the church and its relationship to the colonial process. So, what Nigeria wants to do is take the communion back to what they were sold by the Church Missionary Society in the 19th Century, while the first word on this from a Maori Diocese is that the last thing they want is take things back to the way they were under the Church Missionary Society – because they feel they sold them out. OK, a long rant, and veered from the point. But, this issue of how you relate to other cultures is embedded in this – over the past 50-60 years, the Anglican Communion has tried to acknowledge and accommodate the aspirations for autonomy and variation regionally. So much so you have homosexual bishops and homophobic bishops. That has split the church more than the issue of women priests and bishops (although the fault-line carries a similar trajectory – apart from some hard-line Anglo-Catholic old queens). I contend that it is the reluctance to speak out on the widespread homophobia in African churches, and that reluctance was precisely because of the former colonial relationship the church was involved in, the desire not to be seen behaving in that way, nor of being seen as racist, that has allowed the Anglican church to be moved into the position it is now headed towards. It is happening because liberals are in a double-bind, they know something is wrong, but they can’t speak out against it, because that would appear illiberal.
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