Are the Leaders of Africa's Anglican Churches "Despotic"?
Anglican Consultative Council secretary general decries GAFCON
By David W. Virtue, DD
December 15, 2016
A Nigerian Archbishop who is also secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council -- an instrument of unity in the Anglican Communion - blasted Anglican provinces in Africa as the cause of "disagreement even hatred" between fellow Anglicans and conceded that there was no hope or possibility of the Anglican Church ever agreeing on human sexuality.
"They [the provinces] must live together or splinter into groups and that will not glorify the Lord," Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon told Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, in a radio interview.
He confessed that he took the job because he felt called to do something to address the "disagreement and even hatred" between fellow Anglicans. He said much of the hatred came from the Southern hemisphere. Asked what he thought of Australian Archbishop Peter Jensen, who is playing a leadership role in GAFCON, Fearon said, "unfortunately for me I know all these characters... we were good friends. He invited me to Sydney. He asked me what I thought of GAFCON and I said I am sorry but it is not a movement of the Holy Spirit because it is divisive."
While the Anglican leader said his commitment to reconciliation remained firm, he conceded that on the root of the disagreements, human sexuality, he said there was "no way" of finding agreement. "It's not possible," he said. The alternative to finding a way to live together was to allow separate "splinter groups".
The former Nigerian archbishop criticized the leadership of Anglican churches in Africa, calling them "ineffective." He said he was speaking from experience, and described them as "despotic".
"Church leaders in Africa generally do not see themselves as leading the way Christ leads his Church. Rather, the African Church leader sees himself - mainly 'himself' - in the light of the traditional rulers, those with absolute authority."
Fearon said that not all African Christians were against same sex. "We need to hear from those who subscribe to same sex and those who don't. Not everybody is against same sex."
Fearon said he had come across "hatred, vilification and character assassination".
The former Archbishop of Kaduna in Nigeria said he was wholly committed to Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference which sets a traditional line on sexuality. He described it as a "benchmark" of Anglican teaching. He said the next Lambeth Conference will take place in 2020.
"I am conservative - I've always been conservative", he opined, and said he wanted to address the issue from the perspective of Jesus Himself; "What is the Lord doing in his Church?"
Fearon ripped GAFCON of being a breakaway movement, even though it bills itself as a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion. GAFCON chairman Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh recently warned in his Advent pastoral letter that the Anglican Church is at risk of "sleepwalking into fatal compromise". GAFCON is among several groups supporting the orthodox Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as well as GAFCON -- UK.
Idowu-Fearon accused GAFCON of "shifting" its position and then he said that he had even told one of the leadership team; "It is not a movement of the Holy Spirit because it is divisive. GAFCON was given birth but I have never subscribed to the principle of GAFCON."
Pushed by Canon Ellis, Fearon said he would back the creation of a body for dialogue and reconciliation between GAFCON and the Anglican Communion.
His said he had experience as a bridge-builder between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and across Africa meant he felt he had something he could offer to the warring Christians. "In my country, there is deep rooted hatred between Christians and Muslims. Hatred is very deep."
Fearon repeatedly described himself as a "messenger" and "ambassador."
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