The Anglican community is on the brink of schism, but a permanent split has been narrowly averted after archbishops overwhelmingly agreed to impose sanctions against the US “Episcopalian” church, which for years has been embracing the pro-sodomy “zeitgeist” currently prevailing in North America and Europe. In addition, a statement was issued in support of the “traditional doctrine” that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The punitive measures and clarifying statement came after four days of “painful” talks in Canterbury aimed at moving the world’s 85 million-strong Anglican fellowship beyond deep divisions over sodomy between liberals and conservatives.
An agreement, published on Thursday evening, said the US Episcopal church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage represented “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage”. In a passage that dismayed liberals, the agreement explicitly added: “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.” Furthermore, the US Episcopal church has been banned from representation on key bodies and barred from voting on issues relating to doctrine or strategy for three years. However, it will – at least for the time being – remain a member of the Anglican communion.
Conservative Anglican leaders were however disappointed by this agreement, saying that it did not go far enough in its condemnation of the homo-heresy: “This action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning … In particular, it must be recognised that the continuing brokenness of the communion is not the result simply of failed relationships, but is caused by the persistent rejection of biblical and apostolic faith … We are therefore disappointed that the primates’ statement makes no reference to the need for repentance.”
As Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes for Patheos, the pressure on the Anglican Church to adhere to historic Christian teaching regarding marriage was undoubtedly led by the Africans. This means that a young, orthodox church of the developing world has shown its strength. The Africans have stood up to the historic churches of the Northern, developed world to defend authentic Christian doctrine against dilution.
In global terms this is very, very important. The church in Africa is young, dynamic, orthodox and growing compared to the aging, liberal, declining church in Europe and North America. This success by the Africans on controlling the direction of global Anglicanism shows that power is shifting away from New York and Canterbury to Nigeria and Kenya.
This means that the churches in the developing world have effectively established an alternative power structure that has successfully challenged the liberal, ruling establishment elite.
This first step towards a re-orientation in global Christianity away from the domination by the liberal, intellectual, critical and relativistic Northern establishment and the fresh expression of a young, orthodox, vibrant and dynamic Southern Christianity could be of relevance also for other Christian denominations. Some might think that the pressure in Central and South America has already been a marker of the global shift South, but beneath the surface of South American liberation theology and independence has always been a Euro-centrist philosophical and theological bias. African Christianity is more African than South American liberation theology was South American. African bishops – Anglican or Catholic – may be conservative morally and theologically, but dance in the liturgy to jungle drums.
The reverberations will be felt in the Catholic Church. The tensions at last year’s Family Synod between the African cardinals and the progressive cardinals of Europe and the USA are still in fresh memory.
Both Catholic and Anglican Christians who wish to adhere to the historic Christian faith will increasingly look South for their leadership. Disenchanted by leaders who they perceive to be ambiguous on moral matters, weak on theology and spineless in defense of the faith, those who wish to stand up for historic Christianity will see their champions as bishops from the developing world. Not only are these bishops in the front line against moral decay, but many of them are also staunch and realistic warriors in the increasingly fraught conflict with militant Islam. This reorientation will mean that the African bishops–both Catholic and Anglican–may well find they have unexpected supporters in prayer and finance from those in the North who will be shifting their commitment and enthusiasm to the South.