Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Archbishop Tutu’s mold, he argues for a broad-tented church in which believers of various stripes live in harmony :: NYT


“The marks of our church are grace, tolerance and living with difference,” Archbishop Ndungane, 65, said at the church’s whitewashed estate here, outside Cape Town. “We need to make a distinction between issues that are fundamental to the faith and second-order issues. This is not a church-dividing issue.”

Most if not all of his 11 counterparts on the African continent disagree. The most conservative of them are demanding that the Anglican Communion — the third largest network of Christian churches, with 77 million members worldwide — end years of reflection and debate on homosexuality and take a firm stand against it. *

To force the issue, several say they will refuse to sit down in Dar es Salaam with Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion. She supports the acceptance of both gay clergy members and church ceremonies to bless same-sex unions.

The prospect of such a boycott dismays Archbishop Ndungane, a short, blunt-spoken man with a scholarly bent. “It is absolute nonsense,” he said in his high-ceilinged study. “To be quite frank, they are behaving like schoolboys. She has been constitutionally elected. We should be embracing her. She is a super person.”

He said he could not understand why a debate over homosexuality had sidetracked what he saw as the church’s true mission in Africa: confronting AIDS, poverty, war and famine.

“I wonder if somebody could calculate how much money is being spent on these meetings, which deal with one issue and one issue only, when we have 48 million orphans?” he asked. “Whose agenda is this? Definitely in my view, this is not God’s agenda.” Nor is it the average Anglican’s agenda, he said. “I interact with people on the ground. They don’t care about the lifestyles of the people in America.”
HIS views on homosexuality are considerably more liberal than those of his African counterparts but more conservative than those of the leaders of the American church. His church accepts gay priests in its clergy, but on the condition they remain celibate.

Archbishop Ndungane said the church decrees that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman and that only married couples should engage in sex. The Episcopal Church does not forbid gay priests in monogamous relationships from having sex.
His supporters say they expect him to work with others behind the scenes to avoid an even more serious rift this time. Should those efforts fail, the archbishop said, he is fully prepared to speak out.
On discovering his calling:
“I wanted to make big bucks. I wanted to be a commercial lawyer.”

But at age 19, he stopped on his way to a soccer game to listen to an anti-apartheid speaker and abruptly changed course, devoting himself instead to protests against laws that determined where blacks could live, work, go to school and be buried.

Three years later, handcuffed and chained, he was shoved off a ferry onto Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other activists were imprisoned, a place he describes as hell on earth. There, as he pushed wheelbarrows in searing heat under the watch of sadistic guards, he wrote, he discovered his calling as a priest.
*UPDATE: Kendall Harmon writes, of this paragraph:
What is being debated is how an Anglican Communion with a standard of teaching and practice deals with a communion member who, repeatedly warned not to contravene that teaching and practice, nevertheless does so anyway. I wish that some day more reappraisers would realize that one of the worst things ever to happen to them was what transpired in 2003. It set back their cause–which is to change the Anglican Communion’s teaching and practice, and with which I disagree–decades if not longer. The Anglican Communion standard of teaching and practice is for any sexual practice supported by the Scriptures as the churches East and West have understood them, and against any sexual practice forbidden by the Scriptures as the churches East and West have understood them. The debate is whether to change that, and unilaterally acting without even deep support from the province in question, much less actual support from the General Convention for the doctrinal change–sowed massive seeds of trouble and disorder.
That's a point of view quite close to that of the bishop-elect of Virginia, and I beg to differ that it is a view that is not representative of Harmon's reasserters. They refuse to enter in a conversation to reappraise teaching, and they go so far as to label The Episcopal Church no longer Christian. They want a veto on reappraisal.

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