Archbishop Mwamba on the future of the Anglican Communion

As we move closer to September 30, 2007 deadline imposed by the Primates, it may be important to reflect on the thoughts of all of the African Primates, and not just the thoughts of those now making headlines. The Church Times reported this February on the keynote address made by Archbishop Musonda Mwamba of Botswana to the Ecclesiastical Law Society conference “The Anglican Communion: Crisis and Opportunity.” This address offered a different perspective than that expressed by other African primates, and is worth repeating:

LOUD voices from Africa, aided by the “almighty dollar” and internet lobbyists, are distorting the true picture of what Africa’s 37 million Anglicans really think about sexuality and the future of the Anglican Communion, says the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Musonda Mwamba.

. . . The minds of most African Anglicans were concentrated on life-and-death issues, and they were “frankly not bothered about the whole debate on sexuality”, he said.

In an incisive address, the Bishop concluded that the minority of Africans who had “the luxury to think about the issue” did not want to see the Communion disintegrate. They valued the bonds of affection, and would prefer to follow the process recommended by the Windsor report. He rebutted as “simplistic and a distortion of the truth” the belief that the African provinces were a monochrome body.

The voice many people heard was the Church of Nigeria’s, a conservative voice, which embodied various streams of influence, and echoed the cultural abhorrence of homosexuality. It was “a voice of protest, which advocates separation rather than reconciliation”. Perhaps unconsciously, it was also influenced by interfaith strife in the country.

Charting the history leading to Nigeria’s rejection of the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop said that the influence of the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, went beyond Africa to the United States, where, through the creation of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), he had encouraged like-minded Episcopalians to cut ties with the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Bishop Mwamba described this as “a voice prepared to exclude those whose voices or views are deemed incompatible with the Bible, a voice relatively quiet in speaking out on life-and-death issues of poverty, AIDS, and responsible governance. But, having said all that, we must keep in mind that there are many bishops, clergy, and laity who do not accept all that this voice represents, and who nevertheless find themselves silenced.”

The Church of the Province of Southern Africa best exemplified the liberal voice, the Bishop suggested. Its bishops had recommended that questions of doctrine and morals should be handled through the structures of the Communion, and had concluded of “the mystery of human sexuality” that there was a need for deeper theological reflection and informing insights.

“The liberal voice in Africa sees the crisis in the Anglican Communion as diverting the attention of the Church from the major life-and-death issues in the world — hunger across the globe, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, HIV/AIDS, and other issues,” the Bishop said.

“The context in which the liberal voice speaks was born in the evils of the apartheid era. . . So the constitution of the rainbow people of South Africa is based on values of dignity, freedom, and equality, and does not permit ordinary citizens to discriminate against gays and lesbians.”

The moderate voice of Africa, “nicely snuggled between the liberal and the conservative”, was exemplified by the Church of the Province of Burundi. It had stated that it remained committed to the Anglican Communion on issues of sexuality.

Read it all here. Does the Archbishop’s analysis still hold?

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