Disputing Gerson

This letter appeared in today’s issues of The Washington Post:

In his May 16 op-ed column, “Missionaries in Northern Virginia,” Michael Gerson did Christians in the developing world a disservice by assuming that leaders such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria have their best interests at heart.

Mr. Gerson wrote: “A mother holding a child weak with AIDS or hot with malaria, or a family struggling to survive in an endless urban slum, does not need religious platitudes.” Yet he failed to mention that Archbishop Akinola and others in his movement would deny that child food, medicine or a mosquito net if it were provided by a donor with whom they differ over theology.

Children die, but the bishops retain their reputation for righteousness among their conservative supporters in the United States. This is an inversion of the Christian ethic. No longer do I sacrifice for others; they sacrifice for me.

Mr. Gerson predicted that this brand of faith is about to sweep the country, but after four highly publicized years of trying, Archbishop Akinola has won the loyalty of only one-third of 1 percent of the parishes in the Episcopal Church, in part because his support for draconian anti-gay legislation in his country has alienated potential allies.

The archbishop’s grass-roots support is trifling, but he remains useful to high-profile cheerleaders such as Mr. Gerson who are willing to ignore his egregious views, and their effects on African Christians, in order to gain advantage in the American culture wars.


Canon for Communications and Advancement

Episcopal Diocese of Washington


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