“Africans justified in boycotting Lambeth”
Opinion leaders in the Anglican Communion’s global North and some in the global South, have suggested that conservative African voices affiliated with Jerusalem 2008 should still go and argue their case over homosexuality at Lambeth 2008. I spoke to ANDREW NOLTE, a commentator on political and religious issues fellowshipping with a pro-Jerusalem Anglican congregation in the United States. Excerpts.
JM: Where do you fellowship?
AN: First, I should tell you that I’m attending an Anglican church affiliated with the primate of Rwanda. So you can quote me, as long as you put in the disclaimer that I don’t speak for my congregation, the Anglican Mission in America or the Rwandan church.
JM: Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what are your thoughts on homosexuality and the worldwide Anglican Communion?
AN: Homosexuality is symptomatic of a much larger problem in the Northern provinces. When a Church primate tells Time magazine that saying Christ is the only way to God is “putting God in a box,” it’s time to ask if part of the church has forgotten the gospel. This to me is at least as troubling as the Gene Robinson business. The Anglican Communion is rooted in a historic tradition which takes scripture, reason, tradition and experience as the four pillars of Christian truth, with scripture as the keystone of the whole. The primate’s statement explicitly rejects Christ’s claim that “I am the way, the truth and the light, and no one comes to the father but through me”, and implicitly rejects and undermines his divinity. The point is that, in Christ, God put himself in a box for us so that we might come to know Him, and if the primate of the Episcopal Church can’t figure that out, what’s she doing as the primate?
JM: Any difference with what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has himself said on issues that matter to you?
AN: Likewise, if the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the established church in Great Britain, is willing to say that sharia is “inevitable” in parts of Britain, what does that do to the position of those like (Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter) Akinola who’ve got radical Islamists pushing for Sharia in parts of their country, sometimes through violence?
JM: How does Rowan’s rhetoric on Sharia add value to your position on homosexuality?
AN: We have to see the debate over homosexuality in this broader, and I think even more troubling context. The Anglican Church in the US and its fellow Northern provinces seem like an example of Christ transformed by culture: the politically correct, relativistic Jesus, rather than Jesus the Christ. I believe those who support the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) agenda within the Anglican Communion are well-intentioned and sincere fanatics, who believe that this change is called for by God and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
JM: They also argue, don’t they, that a conservative like you has his theology incomplete and lopsided on matters of poverty and marginalization.
AN: And certainly, yes, progressivism’s critique of conservative churches–that they haven’t cared enough about the poor and oppressed–has some validity in the Western context. But if this desire to embrace the marginalized is not matched with Christian orthodoxy, it will be not only dangerous but ineffective.
JM: Where should all this talk leave conservatives as regards Lambeth 2008?
AN: Regarding Lambeth specifically, not showing up does not seem like a good option. Even (reformer Martin) Luther showed up to the Diet in Worms, if only to proclaim “Here I stand, I can do no other”. However, I think the Jerusalem conference also seems like a worthy undertaking. Importantly, I can understand why some provinces are unwilling to attend Lambeth, given the failure of the Communion’s hierarchy to follow their own rules vis-a-vis the disciplining of homosexual pastors, bishops and the provinces who appoint them, and refusing to commune with American representatives at the Lambeth worship services might be another option. These are differences of strategy and tactics however, not goals.
JM: But some will accuse you of fanning a schism in the Communion and disregarding the spirit and possibilities for amity and unity between liberals and conservatives in the end.
AN: It’s important to keep in mind that schism doesn’t come from those who seek to preserve the teachings of scripture and the historic traditions of the church, but rather from those intent on pushing their own agendas regardless of these teachings and traditions. This is why the context of the homosexuality issue is so important. Were the issue being broached with the support of serious scriptural argument and a strong reaffirmation of the Gospel, we might be called to deal with it differently, though I remain deeply skeptical that such a case can actually be made. However, in the context of a broader rejection of the truth of the Gospel and an accommodation to elite Western cultural opinion, the church must respond with a firm and unequivocal no, because such change gets in the way of the Gospel.