Friday, September 21, 2007

WSJ: US dissidents go global

Andrew Higgins writes this page one article in this Wall Street Journal of September 20th. The topic is the relationship of those who have left the Episcopal Church and the African bishops who have taken them in.

Like many WSJ stories it is gives one some of the color of the story at the cost of not covering all points of view about these boundary crossings.

Here are some excerpts:
The Rev. John Guernsey, rector of a church in a middle-class Virginia suburb, stood early this month before thousands of Africans here on a rickety, ribbon-bedecked podium. Clutching a wooden staff in his left hand, he shouted in Runyankole, a local tribal language: "Mukama Asimwe!" -- Praise the Lord!

Mr. Guernsey, 54 years old, had reason to rejoice. A defector from America's Episcopal Church, he had just been made a bishop -- by the Church of Uganda.

"I had no idea that this is what God had in store for me," said the bespectacled Virginia priest after a five-hour consecration ceremony in Mbarara, a Ugandan district best known for its long-horned cattle.

Mr. Guernsey represents a religious byproduct of globalization: A small but growing number of Christians in North America are turning to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere for spiritual direction. Some priests call the phenomenon "theological offshoring."
More than 200 American churches have relocated their spiritual guidance offshore, switching allegiance to more conservative Anglican churches in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Bolivia and Argentina. No longer part of the Episcopal hierarchy, they report to overseas leaders and follow the more orthodox theology espoused by their new foreign base.

Some of these are new churches created by dissident Episcopalians. Others are established parishes that bolted from the Episcopal Church.
Mr. Guernsey is now back at his All Saints' Church in the Virginia suburb of Woodbridge. The Episcopal diocese to which he used to belong now has three resident bishops in its territory. One was named by the Episcopal Church. Then there are the Uganda-ordained Mr. Guernsey, and the Nigeria-appointed Mr. Minns. Each has the accoutrements of a bishop -- a purple shirt, flowing red vestments and a special ring.
Uganda "is certainly very different" from Woodbridge, says Mr. Guernsey, who first visited Africa as a student. The average family income of around $54,000 a year in Virginia is 154 times that of $350 in Mbarara. But the African country's church is in tune with the Bible-based spirit of his Virginia parish, says Mr. Guernsey. "This is about fundamental issues of scripture that won't go away." Homosexual acts, for instance, are illegal in Uganda, where politicians and priests denounce them as Satanic.
After Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, the church served as a rare pillar of stability in a country tormented by coups, war and economic collapse. In 1977, the dictator Idi Amin, a Muslim, had Uganda's Anglican archbishop murdered.
Which begs raises the question, where is the wisdom in the church in Uganda devoting its energy to persecution of homosexuals rather than building up the poor? Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for raising the issue.

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