By George Conger
[14/10/2015, Anglican Ink] The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, is travelling to Cairo to meet with the primates of the Global South and GAFCON movements. In a roundtable discussion organized by the Council on Foreign Relations held in Washington on 13 Oct 2015, Archbishop Welby stated he would be flying Cairo to join a meeting of the conservative and center-right primates of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishops from Asia, Africa, North and South America are meeting this week at All Saints Cathedral, Cairo, to discuss a common response to Archbishop Welby’s invitation to attend a primates’ gathering in January in Canterbury. Sources tell Anglican Ink that no decision has yet been reached, but the working understanding among the group is that they will act as a bloc.
Thomas Gjelten, National Public Radio's religion and belief correspondent, asked Archbishop Welby if he shared Pope Francis view that “ideological colonization”, the “tendency of liberal congregations in the north sort of imposing their kind of liberal agenda around social issues on the south.”
Mr Gjelten added: “We’re all familiar, I think, with what happened here in the Episcopal Church a few years ago, with the ordination of a gay bishop, and the ramification that that—ramifications that has had throughout the south.”
The archbishop responded by first noting of the important role played by religion in the lives of the “people in the global south, whether it’s politicians or church leaders, religious leaders, we need to remember that religion in the global south is still THE predominant feature of life.”
African leaders, he noted, believed “colonization has not stopped, it’s merely undergone a metamorphosis, a sort of Ovidian metamorphosis. It’s become—it looks like something else.”
The issue of human sexuality was “one that goes intensely deeply into the way that the world is understood by all of us. It’s a question of identity for many people—for almost all people. And the imposition, as it is seen in the global south, of new approaches to what it is to be human is resented more deeply than it is possible to describe. And this isn’t obscurantism. It is a sense of, hang on, you are telling us whom and what we should be.”
“A senior figure in one country said to me a few years ago—he said, I didn’t go through—he was an elderly man then—he said, I didn’t go through the colonial period and get rid of you people in order for you to come back in a different form and do the same to me as you were doing before. And I think there’s that sense that colonialism has not stopped.” Archbishop Welby noted the issue was influenced by modern man’s self-understanding. “The postmodernist move toward radical autonomy has a profound effect on the way we see how society should be structured, which does not cohere with many other countries.”
The archbishop rejected the notion that truth was relative to culture, time or place -- Christ was central to the Christian, but how Christ was understood could be influenced by culture.
“At the heart, at the core is the encounter with Jesus Christ—with the risen, living, present Jesus Christ. For those who are Christians, we understand that in different ways, but we meet Jesus. It is—it is all about Jesus. There isn’t another way. It’s not a body of doctrine in which Jesus features. It’s about Jesus, and the doctrine springs from the church’s struggle to understand who this figure was, this figure understood to be both fully god and fully human.”
The issue facing the Anglican Communion was one of doctrine, if it could develope, how it could develop, and whether development must be uniform across the Church.
“We struggle with wanting our own view of how that doctrine applies to be the universal view. So no, we can’t just say, well, you know, in England you can believe this and in Kenya you can believe that. That’s not how Christian faith works. At the heart of—you know, we believe that in Christ we’re all one. National barriers and racial barriers and stereotypes are broken down or extinguished, dissolved. That is crucial, and that’s my hope and vision for the Communion. My prayer for the Communion is it will be a which says, in a world of immense diversity coming at you, in your face, there is hope to live together, to be a people who collaborate for the common good, serving Christ. And the Anglican Communion is one of those bodies that should demonstrate that.
The ordination of women was an example of staggered development, he said, in response to Mr. Gjelten’s question that the Churches of the Anglican Communion had approached the “issue of the role of women sort of at their own pace.”
One of his responsibilities as Archbishop of Canterbury was to help the Communion “build structures that enable us to be able to trust each other and not to be drawn into conflict by our structures within any institution, any global institution. And that’s a massive challenge. It’s a massive challenge for everyone here, as well as for us.”
Secondly, you do have to spend time going to see people and sitting down with them and listening with them. So when I’m in Cairo later in the week, I will be sitting, listening to some global south primates who will be quite critical of the things I’ve done, and they may well be right. There’s often plenty to be critical of. And I will listen to them. We will pray together. And the diversity is held in personal relationship.”
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