Thursday 12 February 2009

Who wrote Archbishop Peter Akinola's letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury?

The American Anglican Council has published an open letter sent by Archbishop Peter Akinola to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Why was the letter sent now?
The reports which accompany the letter were prepared prior to the Primates meeting, shared with Global South colleagues but not released more widely in the hope that they “would receive assurances from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada that they were willing to exercise genuine restraint” towards their Anglican compatriots in North America.

This is a remarkable hope from Archbishop Akinola and his Global South colleagues, and I don’t believe this explanation. Could there be another reason? Comments posted on Stand Firm and VirtueOnline might provide an answer. Conservative Americans are critical of the GS Primates because they weren’t more vocal in Alexandria. For example:

“I don’t see why the report wasn’t issued to the participants at the meeting, or released before the meeting.”
“Supposedly the vote for the communiqué was unanimous. I find it hard to believe that ++Akinola, ++Kolini, ++Orombi would sign onto a pledge to not proselytize.”
“I am very sad: such a loss of an opportunity for the GAFCON Primates.”
“So, if I read people’s comments right, it’s over? The liberals won, the Primates rolled over and, if you’re a Christian in the Anglican communion you’d better find yourself another denomination? GAFCON and co. proved to be paper tigers and, thus, there is no real protection for the orthodox and it’s just game over for Anglicanism, full stop.”

Who initiated the letter?
Archbishop Akinola says he asked The American Anglican Council to prepare the report (actually, two reports were attached) in preparation for the meeting. I suggest that the letter was initiated by American secessionists who were being criticised by their own constituency who were accusing the Global South Primates of selling out on them. The letter was posted on the American Anglican Council web site, not the Church of Nigeria web site.

Who wrote the letter?
Talking with senior members of General Synod, the name that came immediately to mind was Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream. My textual analysis experts haven’t been let loose on the letter yet, but there is a confidence in ascribing the letter to Canon Chris and not Archbishop Peter.

In the letter, Archbishop Akinola says the Primates were “treated to presentations that sought to trivialize the situation and the consequences for those whose only offence is their determination to hold on doggedly and truthfully to the faith once delivered to the saints.” This bears no resemblance whatsoever to the description of what was taking place inside the meeting that I gained from a number of primates. There was no trivialising of the situation. Archbishop Peter was in the meeting and knew the reality of what happened – Canon Chris wasn’t there. It is this dishonesty and misrepresentation which is repeated over and over again which so damages the Christian community and the integrity of our faith in Jesus Christ.

What is the purpose of the letter?
Well, it’s unlikely to change the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is patiently working to hold all strands of the Anglican Communion together. It’s another attempt to persuade people who haven’t yet got it that The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are the bad boys. According to the secessionists (who are of course innocent of any offence), the brokenness of the Communion is entirely the responsibility of others who need to change their behaviour radically. Their constant caricature of the two North American Provinces continually leads to a further erosion of respect for the conservative coalitions and the Christian high ground they claim to occupy. What annoys me is the assumption in the final sentence of the Akinola/Sugden letter that only conservatives do nothing “that will compromise the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ that is our only hope.”

1 comment:

  1. You expressed my thoughts on the letter except I don't know Sugdon's writing style well enough to make that connection. Spot on!