Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Just don't call it a divorce!", pt. 3 - As noted in today's NYT, the Presiding Bishop of the U. S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA), Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori will be facing a "hostile reception" as she meets her international counterparts in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this week. As noted elsewhere, the internecine wrangling within the Church over (among other things) the ordination of openly gay clergy represents a small but growing problem both within and outside the church, as it affects its standing within much of the Anglican Communion. For her part, Dr. Schori proposes that those within the ECUSA who are displeased with the "leftward drift" of the church "represent a small percentage of the whole, but they are quite loud."

Of course, amongst the other 37 provinces of the greater Anglican Communion, the problems facing the ECUSA may take on greater significance than Dr. Schori is willing to let on.

In the global picture, however, those unhappy with the Americans are a significant bloc, and some are ready to cut off the American branch of the Anglican Communion. Conservatives were emboldened recently when an influential bishop, N. T. Wright of Durham, England, said in an interview, "Even if it means a bit of pruning, the plant will be healthier for it."
Indeed, several ECUSA churches have recently seceded from the home church, some looking to Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola for doctrinal supervision, as Rev. Akinola has had some success in forming a rival network of conservative Episcopal churches.

The fact that an African clergyman has found American churches willing to accede to his spiritual guidance does not entirely surprise, as among most Christian denominations, the United States is seen as the most fertile ground for missionary work. What might surprise is the attitude of some mainline Protestant clergy when they consider the theological contributions of their co-religionists in South America and Africa. According to an opinion piece in the December 1, 2006 Wall Street Journal, during a November visit to Harvard, "the well-known liberal priest" Andrew Greeley spoke on the changing demographics of Catholicism, as much of the church's growth is coming from the developing world. Father Greeley proposed that "[w]e will depend on them for vitality, but they will continue to depend on us for ideas."

The Journal piece went on to note that this level of condescension is hardly singular to Father Greeley.
Timothy Shah, a senior fellow in religion and world affairs at the Pew Forum, believes that Father Greeley's attitude is "fairly widespread" among academics and theologians in Europe and North America... He cites the recent controversy within the Episcopal Church over the issue of homosexuality. When African primates declared at the church's 1998 conference that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Scripture," the American bishop John Shelby Spong, of Newark, N.J., suggested that African Christianity is backward: "They have yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we've had to face in the developing world."
Yet again the Left, particularly the Christian Left, demonstrates itself to be the wellspring of racist condescension and stereotyping. Whatever befalls the ECUSA in the weeks and months ahead, Dr. Schori will get a full dose of the reasoning of her African co-primates in a matter of days. We may yet find out who will depend upon whom for new ideas about an old faith.

No comments: