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SINGAPORE: AC-NA/Kenyan Bishop reflects on Singapore GS4 Encounter

SINGAPORE: AC-NA/Kenyan Bishop reflects on Singapore GS4 Encounter

By Bill Atwood
May 1, 2010

And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you,that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord God of your fathers promised you. - Deut 27:2-3

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Clearly, when the Jews left the wilderness and crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, their struggles were not over.

They still had many challenges and battles to fight, but the passage of crossing the Jordan was a tremendously important one, and the Lord called them to mark it with large stones.

The Fourth Global South Encounter (GSE4) that was just held in Singapore was a huge passage for many, but particularly so for the Anglican Church in North America. I have noted with interest that some people have expressed great disappointment with the lack of "action," but I'd like to suggest that they may have missed some points of tremendous significance.

First some background:

GSE4 gathered 130 delegates from 20 provinces of the Anglican Communion. The term "Global South" is not unique to Anglicanism, but it has special application in the Communion. A complicating detail is that the term is used differently by different people. For some it is simply a description of everything south of the 20º northern parallel.

For others, it is a description of the developing nations of the "two-thirds world." In that application, it would exclude nations like Australia and New Zealand because they are considered "western" in culture and economic development.

It is hard to imagine in that model why Hong Kong and Singapore would be included in the Global South list. Of course, the Diocese of Singapore includes the missionary deaneries of Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Nepal. (Oddly enough, even though there is a tremendous distance between Singapore and Nepal, there are natural links. Many Nepalese go to Singapore to work so it has been a fruitful connection.) The third way that the term "Global South" is used is a doctrinal one.

As the influence of the Episcopal Church has spread, a number of provinces that are located below the 20º northern parallel have adopted TEC's doctrinal postion. A number of them are both dependent and responsive to financial support from TEC.

Some of those provinces are quite small. Mexico, for example, has fewer members in its province than there are in the youth group at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya.

This becomes an issue in the structures of the Anglican Communion where Mexico has an equal voice with Nigeria (20 million), Uganda (10 million), or Kenya (5+million).

For those who decry this reality and say, "It is not about numbers." let me point out that numbers of "votes" are still used in decision making in the current structures; the numbers are just not at all representative.

Many of the Anglicans who live geographically in the "Global South" do not include the theologically liberal provinces in their thinking when they use the term.

This application of "Global South" implies doctrinal fidelity to Scripture and "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Fidelity to the historic Anglican formularies is actually the point around which GAFCON (now the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans or FCA) gathered originally. It is how people of like faith are being incorporated into fellowship and mission cooperation regardless of where they live.

Because the term "Global South" is used in so many different ways--even by those who were in attendance in Singapore, in my judgment, it demonstrates how important the need is for GAFCON/FCA to exist and to help provinces with agreed-upon theological foundations to cooperate and collaborate together to love and win the world for Christ.

The need to gather around theological agreement had picked up momentum under the leadership of Archbishop Peter Akinola who insisted on incorporating faithful orthodox "Western" leaders in the third Encounter in Egypt. He was also the chairman of the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem which welcomed orthodox Westerners as well as Global South provinces.

In Singapore, Western leaders were also invited, but there was even a further development. In this "Trumpet," the Communiqué from GS4E, orthodox North Americans were received as full partners.

It is clear that future meetings would welcome the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America to be seated as a primate with "Global South" primates. Given the fact that the leaders of 70-80 percent of the active Anglicans in the world were represented in Singapore, it is remarkable that there was so much strength in the Communiqué.

There will always be a few cautious people who are hesitant to "do anything," so the incorporation of language that addresses "the crisis" as a salvation issue is stunning. In the past, there has only been a willingness on the part of many to speak of disrupted church order.

Now that there is a declaration that people's eternal destinies are being impacted, there can only be an increase in clarity that the direction of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada is wrong.

It is also important to notice that the Communiqué "upholds" Archbishops Anis, Orombi, and Ernest in their criticisms of the current state of institutional structures. Archbishop Ernest's decision to cut off conversation with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada until there is a genuine demonstration of repentance is shared by others as well.

It was not possible to tell from the conversation precisely how many provinces will no longer be willing to participate in Communion meetings that include TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, but it was many. If TEC and the ACofC are invited to future meetings, the gathering could probably be held in a Volkswagen.

The inclusion of representatives from the Anglican Church in North America was profound, but there was even more. Archbishop Bob Duncan was the celebrant at a conference eucharist. This is, remember, the Anglican Communion.

The gathering didn't just allow representatives of the new province to receive communion, Archbishop Duncan was the celebrant as primates, bishops, and other delegates from 80 percent of the Anglican Communion received communion.

This is the heart of what it means to be "in communion." TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are clearly continuing the path of estrangement from the vast majority of Anglicans who are biblically-based. Another personal observation.

I have been working with many archbishops of the Anglican Communion for two decades. It is wonderful to see that the same strong and rich graces that make their ministries so inspiring are also evidenced in Archbishop Bob Duncan.

Many of the archbishops commented about the gracious way that he is carrying out his ministry. It was readily seen in Singapore.

All this brings me to three things:

1. Whatever moderating influences there might have been desired from TEC, it was not possible for the handful of liberals present in Singapore to stop the strong language of the Communiqué calling for every (orthodox) province to declare full communion with AC-NA.

2. AC-NA will be incorporated in future meetings, presumably as a normal participant.

3. The clarity of GAFCON/FCA addresses a hunger for clarity that is found in many Global South provinces. GAFCON/FCA can only rise in influence. In fact, as the week went on, more and more people were openly discussing the fact that GAFCON/FCA epitomizes the "new Communion structures" that are so obviously needed.

It is evident now that the "gathering power" in the Communion has shifted from institutional mandates into theological agreement. I believe that the influence of the Global South will be directly tied to how closely and deeply they embrace the Jerusalem Declaration. That seems to be well on its way.

The Anglican formularies contained in it were quoted in the GS4E Communiqué. It does not take penetrating analysis to see that theological clarity is not optional as we move into the future. It is absolutely essential.

For those in the AC-NA, Singapore marked a tremendous passage. There is such overwhelming acceptance and approval of the launch of the new province that it cannot be ignored and is worthy of being marked. Now, with 80 percent of the Anglican Communion recognizing that salvation is at stake, the institutional structures will either embrace AC-NA (which rose to deal with those very issues) or the Communion structures will demonstrate themselves to be irrelevant. For many people, they already have.

---The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood is AC-NA and Anglican Church of Kenya Suffragan Bishop for International Affairs

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