For Henry Luke Orombi, Anglican archbishop of Uganda, the topic for his chapel sermon on Friday, February 16, was an obvious choice. That is the day when Anglicans worldwide remember Janani Luwum, honored as a modern martyr.
But this time, the commemoration of the Ugandan archbishop who confronted Idi Amin became the prelude to a fateful turning point for global Anglicanism.
Once every three years, the top leaders of the world's 78 million Anglicans, called primates, gather for consultation and study. In mid-February, 35 of the 38 primates assembled for the first time on African soil amid threat of Anglican schism over homosexuality. In 2003, an openly gay priest, V. Gene Robinson, became the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, throwing Anglicans into a historic struggle between left-leaning revisionists and conservatives.
In their Windsor report (issued October 2004), Anglican leaders demanded that the Episcopal Church (the American branch of Anglicanism) repent of the Robinson consecration, forbid any new gay bishops from taking office, and stop the blessing of same-sex unions. On the first of their five days of meetings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, primates received a report from a panel that said the Episcopal Church had met two of the three Windsor demands. Yet there was "more work to be done" to end same-sex blessings. To conservatives, it seemed that the Episcopal Church had once again outmaneuvered them.
The next day, Orombi, a tall, charismatic figure, preached at the noonday chapel service. He described the importance of martyrdom in Ugandadoing what it takes to stay true to the gospel. In February 1977, Janani Luwum, the Anglican archbishop of Uganda and Rwanda, was arrested along with leading Christians by Idi Amin, a dictator with the blood of thousands on his hands. The leaders were all accused of treason.
Days earlier, Luwum and the others had publicly called Amin to repent for the brutal slaughter of political opponents. Luwum had also demanded that co-opted church leaders separate themselves from political "powers of darkness."
The archbishop was executed almost immediately after a violent interrogation. Luwum's murder brought a stagnating church back to life as tens of thousands joined in revivals after his murder.
"His death changed the political climate of Uganda," concluded Orombi.
The example of Luwum speaking up despite the consequences was not lost on conservatives. Even as Orombi described Luwum's example, a statement was posted on the Anglican Church of Nigeria's website: Seven Anglican archbishops were refusing to join in Holy Communion with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church. This included Orombi and primates from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Central Africa, Singapore, and South America.
The seven said, "We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the church has been torn further. We have made repeated calls for repentance by the Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart."
The seven then formed a working base of conservative strength laboring behind the scenes for the remaining three days of the meeting, stiffening the resolve of Anglican leaders to require the Episcopal Church and Jefferts Schori to conform church practices to Lambeth 1.10.
That 1998 resolution said homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture." But Anglican revisionists in the U.S., Canada, and Britain have flouted Lambeth 1.10 by ordaining sexually active gays, blessing same-sex relationships, and affirming Robinson's election.
On their final day, primates met in a marathon, 14-hour session, finally releasing a stunning setback for revisionists. In a 10-page communiqué, the primates said:
It is "not acceptable to the majority of the communion" for a person living in a same-sex relationship to be a bishop.
The Episcopal Church has an "ambiguous stance" with regard to same-sex blessings and has not prevented its local pastors from providing such blessings.
Intervention by Global South bishops and primates to shield conservative churches has increased tension and triggered litigation over church property.
The primates then recommended:
Further refinement of the Anglican Covenant to clarify the church's common beliefs.
Creation of a new pastoral council and the position of "primatial vicar" in the U.S. to resolve disputes at the local level.
That the Episcopal House of Bishops not give their consent to any gay person to become a bishop and "make an unequivocal common covenant" not to authorize any rite for the blessing of same-sex unions.
That Episcopal leaders cease suing breakaway churches; and that churches halt legal action to remove property from Episcopal oversight.
That intervention by primates stop after the new council and vicar are functioning.
The primates gave a deadline of September 30 for Episcopal bishops to act, noting that there would be unspecified "consequences" if the requests were unmet. At the closing press conference, held near midnight, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams admitted the new structures were an experiment. "Pray for it," he said. Back in the U.S., revisionist Episcopal bishops decried the communiqué. One suggested strongly that it was time for the Episcopal Church to pull out of the Anglican Communion.
Despite the clear victory, some conservatives struck a conciliatory note. A Global South conservative, Archbishop John Chew of Singapore, told ct, "The communiqué is a total package, not a zero-sum game." Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said in a statement, "The result can surely be described as an answer to prayer. What we have is an interim proposal for an interim period with interim structures."
But a handful of visionaries see something strategic happening within global Anglicanism beyond a tug of war over human sexuality. Archbishop Orombi said in a short interview that a deep level of structural change is beginning to occur.
His own national church is growing both in numbers and capacity. In Kampala, Anglicans are building a new cathedral with double the seating capacity, and starting new missions. Archbishop Orombi sees a new wave of Christianity gaining momentum in the Global South, with global implications. It's a third wave of global Anglicanism: The first wave was the initial creation of the Church of England and the English Reformation in the 16th century; the second wave was embodied by the Church Mission Society, which spread Anglicanism worldwide.
About the third wave, Orombi says, "The revival we are experiencing is not going to stop in Africa."
Most scholars have defined globalization primarily in economic and political terms. But now, some are seeing a different dimension develop. They call it global civil society.
British scholars, such as John Keane and Roland Robertson, believe this nascent global civil society is composed of businessmen, philanthropists, political activists, civic leaders, and religious leaders. These leaders stand outside official government channels and are not limited by diplomacy, nation-state structures, or multinational businesses.
From his post in Singapore, Archbishop Chew says he believes Christianity is globalizing afresh and that the Anglican Communion shows potential to lead the way forward. Chew says, "This line between Global South and nonGlobal South must be taken away. It's the Communion. We are insisting that the [Anglican] Communion be orthodox." Chew said most Anglican primates now realize their debates are global, not local, in character.
Conservatives say heterodox revisionism and fundamentalist Islam are the twin challenges they must face. And no national church seems to be stepping up to the twin challenges more clearly than the Anglican Church of Nigeria. It recently commissioned 20 new bishops to work inside Nigeria in mostly Muslim areas, and it has been highly critical of Anglican revisionism in North America and the U.K.
Within the next 15 years, the number of Anglicans worldwide is likely to exceed 100 million. That will make it the only Protestant group to achieve such a milestone. While there are more than 800 million independent or Protestant Christians worldwide, few denominations are likely to surpass 50 million adherents. Anglicans blew past the 50 million mark in the early 1990s.
Many observers believe that the long-term success of Anglican revival may hinge on the new Anglican Covenant. The covenant's great promise is to create a "common standard of faith and practice." Right now, only one in three Anglicans worldwide is British. The struggle is whether liberal revisionism/heterodoxy or historic orthodoxy/revivalism will define Anglican belief beyond the shores of its mother country for the next 100 years.
This kind of struggle is not unique to Anglicanism, but is also emerging among Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and other leading Protestant groups. One feature of the emerging global civil society is the rebirth of denominational Protestantism in many parts of the Global South, like United Methodism in Mozambique and the Assemblies of God in Australia. Many seem to be comfortable with Western-style denominational identity.
Chew said, "I hope [the covenant process] will be an encouragement to other sister churches. This will inspire a lot of Anglicans and others. They say to me, 'John, what you are doing can be so helpful to us.'
"They face the same problem. They are not as organized as us. The [Anglican] Communion is interdependent. It is life together. The way we struggle is very different from other people. It's not a numbers game. It's not a power game."
Road to Lambeth One reason the primates issued a deadline for the Episcopal Church's response is the upcoming communion-wide, once-per-decade Lambeth conference. Before the year is out, the communion's 700-plus bishops should receive invitations to Lambeth, held near Canterbury Cathedral. Archbishop of all Nigeria Peter Akinola said that his church, second-largest in the communion after the Church of England, would not attend Lambeth unless the issue of homosexuality was resolved.
Conservatives believe they must deal with sexuality issues long before the Lambeth meeting, because Archbishop of
Canterbury Williams has decided to keep legislative review of Lambeth 1.10 off the official agenda. The entire three-week Lambeth event is to be less legislative and more like a South Africanstyle "Indaba," or consultation of elders.
Conservatives fear Williams is turning Lambeth into an English "tea party" in which nothing substantive can take place. Increasingly, they believe Canterbury-led Anglicanism itself is in decline, because Williams, long a personal supporter of full inclusion for gays, endorses Lambeth 1.10 merely as one means to keep the communion intact.
In mid-March, the Episcopal House of Bishops will meet in Texas to consider their response to the demands of the primates. It is shaping up to be another clash of values and priorities.
That session will be no English tea party.
Timothy C. Morgan is deputy managing editor of Christianity Today.
Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Our special section on the widening division in the Anglican Communion has news stories and opinion pieces.
Christianity Today's Weblog covered Episcopal bishops' response to the primates' communiqué.
Christianity Today's recent articles on ECUSA and Katharine Jefferts-Schori include:
Church Divorce Done Right | Denominational splits just aren't what they used to be. By Ted Olsen (Mar 7, 2007)
Dividing the Faithful | Conservatives fleeing the Episcopal Church regroup apart. (February 9, 2007)
Falling Apart | Controversial decisions at the recent General Convention have accelerated the break-up of the Episcopal Church. (August 1, 2006)
Episcopalian General Convention Adopts Vague Resolution | Call for 'restraint' in consecration of practicing gays falls short of recommendations of Anglican leaders. (June 22, 2006)
General Convention Brushes Against Its Deadline | Conservatives, liberals can't agree on response to the Windsor Report. (June 21, 2006)
Conservatives Stunned by Bishop's Election | The new church leader supports same-sex marriages, vows to bend over backwards for those she disagrees with. (June 20, 2006)
Episcopalians Elect Female Nevada Bishop as Top Leader | Conservatives see election as confirmation of church's 'revisionist theology,' while one diocese appeals for alternative oversight. (June 19, 2006)
Gays in the Church Debated | Conservatives press Episcopal convention to repent of gay bishop's consecration. (June 16, 2006)
Several blogs are following the crisis in the Episcopal Church, including TitusOneNine and Stand Firm.
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