Lausanne Day 2: The worldwide Church in Development and in the Global Anglican Crisis

Lausanne Day 2: The worldwide Church in Development and in the Global Anglican Crisis

Source: Anglican Mianstream

In a gathering of 5000 with scores of meetings and options it is only possible to note a few in depth.  Today the role of the worldwide church surfaced in two congress sessions.

Bishop Glenn Davies (North Sydney), Archbishop John Chew (Singapore), Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda), Archbishop Bob Duncan (ACNA) and Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis (Middle East) at the Anglican Dialogue at the Congress

In a world of competing beliefs, Christians not only bear witness to truth they have received, but bear witness as members of a community, the church, to which the truth of the Bible has been entrusted.  The morning Bible Study today highlighted the role of the Church as a body that included peoples of different races, classes and gender, expressing the reconciliation that Jesus has brought.

But what is the Church to do?  That issue surfaced in a discussion of the Christian response to the discrepancies of poverty and wealth.  Development agency leaders from the Global South spoke of the role that the churches could play as important community organisations in their societies.  Similar leaders from the west spoke of the resource base that western churches could provide to support the struggle against global poverty.

From my experience in working with churches in Asia and Africa responding to poverty I note that churches exist in those situations because in them people find hope in the purpose, love and power of God, a new identity as people beloved by God, and inspired by the reality that Jesus has overcome the injustice of all death in his resurrection. 

There is a great temptation for Christian development agencies, for all the fine work they do to regard the Christian churches as useful bases for their activities to address poverty.  However, churches define themselves as God’s agents to bring a new inspiring vision of who humans are and what they are called to be. It is this that provides the energy and inspiration to address the circumstances and culture of poverty.

One bishop from Latin America noted to me that in contrast with the first Lausanne Congress which he attended in 1974, few leaders of church denominations appeared to be at this gathering.  He thought this indicated a distancing of such leaders from the realities the churches were addressing. He observed that those attending the congress represent a broad swathe of Christian activists, often in agencies rather than local churches.

Regrettably absent from the congress are 200 Chinese Christians who were prevented from travelling to take part.  Some were stopped at the airports in China, others have had their passports removed for the duration of the Congress. A congress statement on the matter can be found here.

Four Anglican Archbishops are attending the congress, from Uganda, South East Asia, the Middle East and North America. They hosted a discussion session this afternoon on the Anglican Communion.  This dialogue was justified, contributors said, because a similar crisis of faith and teaching would be affecting all the churches globally under pressure from western secular culture. Therefore all the churches of Africa, Asia and Latin America needed to offer support and encouragement to those in the west in the same way that Global South Anglican churches had supported orthodox Anglicans in “the north”.

Archbishop Henry Orombi began by clarifying that the current crisis was about  more than the violation of biblical morality: it was about the wholesale revision of the historic Christian faith in which the divinity of Jesus Christ, his bodily resurrection and uniqueness were denied by Anglican leaders in North America.

This had given rise to a crisis of order since nothing had changed despite all the actions taken by the leaders of the Anglican Communion. 

“The Episcopal Church was invited to Lambeth 2008, and some of us went to Jerusalem for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).  Yet, key leaders of TEC still take part in every level of Communion affairs, and are given access to all levels of decision making to wear down the church in the hope that others will accept their false gospel,” said Archbishop Orombi.  He insisted that the divisions were not between the North and the South since there are orthodox believers who do not believe this new theology.

He noted that the Primates of the Communion had been given enhanced authority to act in provinces to restore order by Lambeth 1998. This was exercised in Rwanda in order to replace bishops in four dioceses who had not returned to their sees following the genocide.  But the primates were prevented from playing such a role by the British Anglican hierarchy when it came to the heresy of TEC blessing same sex relationships.  “We are seeing a realignment in the Anglican Communion. It is painful for everyone involved. But we are moving forward,” Archbishop Orombi concluded.

Archbishop John Chew of South East Asia traced the history of the crisis to the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop.  He identified providential developments before and after that decisive event. The Decade of Evangelism from the 1988 Lambeth Conference had been taken seriously only by Anglican Churches of the South and led to their vigorous life and growth. There had been a series of Global South to South Encounters from 1994 in Kenya  to 2010 in Singapore.  He noted the impact of the Anglican Communion Covenant as an occasion of realigning the Church in biblical, historic, reformed, global and missional Christianity expressed in common worship, communion and fellowship.

Presiding Bishop of the Middle East, Mouneer Anis, spoke of the role of the Anglican Churches as a bridge to the historic and traditional Orthodox Churches of the East.  He urged his 400  listeners to remember they are part of the one church of Christ started on the day of Pentecost. In a plea for Christian unity he critiqued churches which rejected many ideas and practices because they belong to the traditional churches and argued that many reformed and evangelical  churches have widened the gap with them.

Archbishop Bob Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America spoke of how “the ecclesiastical ruthlessness of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada might well have succeeded in crushing everyone who dared to stand in opposition, but for the intervention of orthodox Anglicans of the Global South. …Local congregations were taken under the protection of foreign archbishops and bishops. The colonial ecclesiastical power structure was being turned upside-down. …This “godly rescue” together with the willingness of  many North Americans to stand no matter what the cost is which the Anglican Church of North America, of which I am Archbishop and Primate, now exists, and why it is experiencing extraordinary growth despite all that has come against us from the old hierarchies and the wayward culture”.  He concluded:  “Ours is a rescue story in a global Church.  It is not necessarily an Anglican story. It is the story of the whole Christian Church at its best.”

At the beginning of the question session, in place of Archbishop Nicholas Okoh from Nigeria who was unable to attend the congress, Bishop Glenn Davies of North Sydney explained briefly how the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem 2008 was occasioned by the promotion of unbiblical practices and a different gospel in the Anglican Communion and the failure to exercise discipline despite calls for orthodoxy.  He noted that the Jerusalem Declaration (of which he was one of the drafters) from GAFCON in Jerusalem 2008 came about not through lengthy pre-council preparation, but from the input of the participants in the six days they were in Jerusalem.  It is expected that there will be a Cape Town Commitment from this congress.

In response to a question about the leadership of the Anglican Communion Archbishop Orombi differentiated between Archbishop Williams and the See of Canterbury.  “Anglicanism is not parallel to the Church of England,” he said, “It is clear to Archbishop Williams about where we stand with relation to what we believe.  It is very interesting to know that the Communion is divided.  We needed leadership, which was not provided. We are providing collective leadership for orthodox believers.  Such a move is seen as difficult, but a shift has taken place.  In due time delivery of a baby takes prolonged labour pains but a baby will be born healthy and well.  The Archbishop of Canterbury comes and goes every several years. The Church of Christ stays.”

An Anglican Networking lunch is scheduled for Wednesday, and a reception by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Southern Africa) and the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion for Thursday.

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