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"Cloud of Witnesses"
Anglican Communion Institute ^ | 2/09/2006 | The Rev. Dr George Sumner

Posted on 02/09/2006 5:14:27 PM PST by sionnsar

             The questions before us in this and the following lecture have to do with the relationship of Anglicanism and mission:  what if anything, has been distinctive of how mission has transpired in our tradition, and what does this tell us, normatively, about how we ought to think about, and more importantly, go about, Anglican missionary practice?  The very first thing to note is that we are investing our energy in something of a growth industry.  A matter of weeks ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury stated, in his call for a Lambeth Conference 2008, his desire that the conclave should focus, not on resolutions associated with contentious issues, but rather on our mission, separately as dioceses and together as Anglicans, all of which is a consequence of the “mission of God in the world” (an allusion to the ubiquitous theme of the missio Dei, about which we shall have more to say later).  Other similar examples are easy to find. The Anglican seminary of this province, the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, several years ago reorganized its entire curriculum around the watchword of “mission,” and in this they are in the company of other schools, of varied theological commitments.  A diocese distressed by factions  is told that its energies are better spent in mission. 

The noted Alban consultant counsels us a few years ago that we must turn our flagging parishes from “maintenance” to “mission” as be fits our “post-Constantinian” age (in spite, I guess of all the mission that took place in the bad old Constantinian days).  The list could be multiplied.  At the very least we can conclude that our topic is no arcane theological blind alley or exoticism, but at the very heart of the tussle over what Anglicanism has been, and ought to be.  

    I am reminded at the outset of studying algebra in school.  You will recall that the task was not so hard when there was but one unknown, an “x”; all you had to do was to isolate that x on one side and work out its worth.  But things got considerably more challenging when the equation had two unknowns, an “x” and a “y,” for more complex manipulations involving both variables together, were involved.  It is in the latter, more challenging situation that we find ourselves. For both the term “Anglicanism” and “mission” are very much contestable concepts on the contemporary theological scene.  In both cases, theologians of a variety of stripes tend to us the same terms while meaning very different things.   Furthermore both terms are invoked with appeal to the same root metaphor, namely the incarnation.  For more than a century, going all the way back to Bishop Gore and the Lux Mundi group, Anglicanism has claimed to be “the religion of the incarnation.”   But as our friend Christopher Brown so ably showed a few years ago in a SEAD publication, The Rule of Faith,  Anglican appeals to the “incarnation” have become an amorphous claim about  the Spirit evolving in human culture.  As a result Anglicanism as “incarnational” has tended to become a warrant for the cultural agenda of a particular cultural setting. 

In closely parallel fashion, missiology, the study of the Christian mission, has been galvanized in recent years around the term “contextualization,” the adaptation of Christian belief and practice in particular cultural and social locations, and once again the supposed warrant has been the incarnation of Christ. But at times contextualization too has been overdetermined by the local cultural factors, so that the single universal claim of the incarnation itself seems overshadowed.  In both the case of “incarnational” Anglicanism and “contextualized” missiology the cliff to be feared is historicism and relativism, the dissolution of the Gospel into a thousand diverse cultural constructions.  In short, Anglicanism and the theology of Christian mission tend to make the same context-defined move with the same danger.

        The second way in which Anglicanism and missiology are linked, in this case by the same stigma, is of course the Pax Britannica, the rule that has involved both established religion and the colonial empire, with whose reach many of the younger Churches of the Communion began.  Aren’t both cursed from their birth by the power of the state?  One of the unexamined assumptions of the North American revisionist case was that the cause of diversity would serve the interests of post-colonial Third World Churches.  The decisive retort here was delivered by another friend of ACI, Lamin Sanneh of Yale, who shown how guilt in the contemporary First World Churches is every bit as self-absorbed as the missionary hagiography of the generations before.  At its simplest, the imperative for both Anglicans and missiologists in our moment is to listen to our Third World co-religionists, and in this spirit post-colonial guilt will simply not suffice. 

       So we set out on our investigation of Anglicans in mission not once, but twice.  Our first foray will ask what has tended to be distinctive about Anglicans in mission, and it will embark by telling a story from the global Anglican scene. This first safari will move from these specifics of the global Anglican story to some missiological conclusions. Our second foray will, after the requisite theoretical throat-clearing, tell a story from the other side of the aisle, that of wider mission scene, will try to discern a more general shape to Christian mission,  and will then consider what the distinctively Anglican  set of features contributes to this shape.  In both arguments we seek to know what has been distinctively Anglican about mission, and so what should be.  Could it be that in thinking the two terms together we might get some purchase on how we ought to think of each on its own?  So far we have seen that Anglicans like to think that theirs is a religion of the incarnation, and that its’ meaning has been compromised in our time.  Could it be that in thinking Anglicanism through from a missionary point of view that we come to see the conditions under which this claim can in fact have substance and make sense?   Could it be that thought through together we can “save the appearances” of the “incarnational” claims of both Anglicanism and mission?

            The epicenter of attention for Third World Anglicanism has been Africa, and the parts of Africa which have grown most dramatically and spoken most authoritatively in recent years have been east Africa and Nigeria. Now I am not crazy enough to pontificate about Nigeria with a scholar-bishop from Kaduna sitting nearby, so the case-study I want to focus on is the coming of the Gospel, and the transformation of the Church, and the recent developments in the east African Anglican Church. It is a good story for one thing, and it can teach us lessons far beyond its geographic limits. 

        As with most places where the Anglican Church is growing, the story of Anglican east Africa really begins, not in Mombasa, or Kigali, or Kamapala,but rather in Clapham and Cambridge, England.  For what Roland Oliver called the missionary factor was the Church Missionary Society. 

The first and most important thing to note is of course its name, the Church Missionary Society, in conscious contrast to their fellow evangelicals in, for example, the London Missionary Society.  They were indeed evangelicals, but they were evangelical Churchmen, loyal to the established Church even as they decried its moribund nature, insistent on having bishops on their board even as those bishops expressed their deep suspicions of what they called the “serious clergy.”  The dean of mission scholars, Andrew Walls, has written about the perspective of those evangelicals of the early 19th century, and he has stressed that,  while they did indeed think that the Bugandans, to whom the missionaries went, were heathen, they assumed the same thing about most of the proper English gentry in C of E parishes.  And yet they were adamant about their loyalty to that Church. 

       This has proved to be a decisive fact, not only for that era, but for ours as well, not only for those who brought the Gospel, but for those who received it as well; so let us pause for a moment over this simple fact.  A generation ago, an influential book by Charles Hummel about the charismatic movement was called Fire in the Fireplace.   Such was the basic assumption of the CMS, that renewal must take place within the confines of the Church, and they understood the inevitable tension that this would create.  Their theology put conversion at the very center of the Christian life.  But his dedication to “fire in the fireplace,” and its concomitant commitment to infant baptism and the Anglican structure oriented to formation of a nation through the gradual effect of common prayer and Bible reading, was bound to co-exist uneasily with the emphasis on moment of giving one’s heart to Jesus.  The tension resulted in many of the struggles between the parties in 19th century England, and is of course still very much with us.  One way to see most debates in the area of the doctrine and practice of the Church is as efforts to think through   the full breadth of the reality of conversion. Divisions like “evangelical” and “catholic” may be seen as emphases within this spectrum, which ideally find their balance. 

The CMS was made up of evangelicals who deliberately kept themselves under the “catholic” constraint of the rest of the process. It makes one’s ecclesiology messier, and richer too.

       The instrument of this Churchly Gospel outreach was a voluntary society.  This was very much in keeping with the era, which would soon thereafter, in the Victorian era,  see a plethora of similar societies.  One of the most consequential would be the Mothers’ Union, which is surely one of the secrets of the success and power of the African Church (and their decline one of the reasons for the malaise of the Church at present).  But the voluntary society find much older precedents in the monastic orders which were the engines behind the evangelism of pagan Europe.  As society or as order, these bodies combined  dedication to a specific purpose with a specific charism with loyalty to the catholic whole. As I already mentioned, mission societies were in no way the private property of the Anglicans: the 19th century was full of groups from the White Fathers on the Catholic side to the China Inland Mission among the Protestants. Still, Anglican success may be identified with mission societies, and they left a distinctive mark on the nature of the work, and as we shall see, the nature of the younger Churches that were born.     


        Thirdly, it is a remarkable fact that Christian mission on the Protestant side of the aisle was really rediscovered by those 18th and 19th Century evangelicals, among whom the Anglicans were prominent.  For all their theology of proclamation, the Reformers were quite content to remain within their northern European timezone. Luther in TableTalk actually mused about the odd fact that so many of the elect turned out to be Saxons!  Similarly the Anglicans prior to the evangelical revival saw no need for mission. 

There was, at least initially, a strong relationship between this sensibility of evangelical Churchmanship and missionary zeal.  They had a zeal for saving perishing souls, but also felt the weight of social responsibility for those who had been liberated from the evils of the British slave trade.  What missiologists would rediscover as “holistic mission” 170 years later was an assumption of the CMS’ founders. 

         The ecclesiological aptness of the society as instrument did not mean that all went swimmingly.  The CMS struggled to find Englishmen and women (who soon outnumbered the men) to go, many of the early missionary being borrowed Continental Lutherans.  When they did find people to go, they died of fever in dauntingly short periods of time (this in fact being a significant impetus to the idea of a native bishop, the Europeans being incapable of survival long enough for their task).  The converts were few, the demands of the freedmen’s town many and seemingly distracting, the only early accomplishment (and in fact the key one) being the mastery of the languages.  The traders and first colonialists were decidedly cool toward these religious fanatics troubling the local waters.

      Though all these setbacks, CMS was blessed by the remarkable leadership of its first general secretary, Henry Venn, a scion of one of the first families of Anglican evangelicalism. The most important thing to note about him is his dedication, from the earliest days of CMS and throughout his career and spanned the middle of the 19th century, the promotion of a mature and independent native Church with the risks necessary to avoid dependence.  In this he was far ahead of his time, and dismayed by the backsliding he saw in the next generation of CMS missionaries.  His opposition to the hasty integration of missionary and native into one Church was to avoid the dominance of the former over the latter.  His support of the native bishop, and his general leeriness toward the missionary bishop (who at that time would have been a European) was for the same reason.  Venn’s watchwords “the euthanasia of the mission” and “three self- self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting,” became famous in the 20th century in very different settings, with only partial awareness of the borrowing.  But for our purposes it is important to see that he envisioned churches that were in full fellowship with the churches of their missionary guests, of equal maturity and evangelistic responsibility.  For all the later problems and inexcusable delays in the attainment, these goals of Venn’s set a course that proved decisive, and has made an enormous difference for the eventual vigor of the resulting churches.   

      The early setbacks were many, but then some remarkable things did happen.  Conversion can take place from the bottom up, with individual decisions for Christ as the evangelical missionaries usually hoped, or from the top down, with the decision of the king of chief, a distant reminiscence of medieval Europe and a rarer event.  But this is exactly what did occur in Buganda in the 1870’s, though it came at a great and famous cost.  To the court of the Kabaka came emissaries of Islam, of the Catholic White Fathers, and of the CMS.  Respectively, it is to the fault of the latter two that the listeners could not discern in any way that three religions were not being offered to them, so vitriolic were the mutual critiques of Catholic and Protestant.  The key players were the young courtiers, ready for a new spiritual message, excited about their new literacy, urging one another on in their late night prayer sessions, refusing the sexual advances of the ruling Kabaka, singing hymns to Christ as they made their way to be martyred in the fires of the hill of Namirembe.  This was the decisive event, complemented by the martyrdom of missionaries like the CMS man Hannington.  A religious civil war followed, with first the Christians and then the Anglicans victorious, the latter aided by General Lugard of the British, in this case the colonial military power drawn reluctantly into the fray by the riveting story of the suffering of the slave trade that the resultant outcry in England. 

In a single stroke the empire of Buganda became Christian, and a majority Anglican.   As once imperial warriors had once gone out from Buganda, now evangelists fanned out to the client states and beyond, the most famous being the apostle to the pygmies, Apolo Kivebulaya.  Of course the huge task of turning a whole society to the Christian way remained, and was aided by a new literate elite, and the borrowing of the old clan system for new Christian affiliations.

    We are of course telling a much longer tale, best told by the great CMS missionary (and later general secretary of the CMS in the second half of the 20th century, John V. Taylor), in his Growth and Decline of the Church in Buganda, and we are approaching the punch-line.  The excitement of the first generation of converts gave way to the malaise and discouragement of the second.  It seemed that many reverted to pagan practices in times of crisis and stress. Villagers who were fenced from communion due to marital irregularities, often related to polygamy, were more common than not.  The transition from mission to Church, the handing over so central to the great Bishop Tucker and to Venn before him, had gone quite sour.  And then a second, sudden, remarkable event took place, like bolt from above.  The year was 1935, and the tensions between white members of the CMS Rwanda Mission, and the native catechists and leaders, unmistakable.  A missionary, with the name of Joe Church no less, met a Bugandan named Nsimbambi and they got to talking about their sense that their spiritual lives were stalled. 

But they had it out spiritually, admitting openly to one another all their resentments throughout the night, and coming to a state of spiritual reconciliation and invigoration greater than either had ever known.  They told others about what had happened, about their putting their sins openly “in the light,” about their becoming brothers in a new way, and the practice, with the accompanying revival, began to spread, first throughout Buganda, and then outward to Kenya, Tanzania, and Zaire.

        What resulted was called the Balokole movement, for the Bugandan word for “the saved,” for that is what those touched by the Spirit in the movement believed themselves to be.  It is also called the East African Revival, and it too is a crucial reality to reckon with if you would understand African Anglicanism.   It was characterized by fellowship meetings in which sins would be confessed and the Word of grace heard, in which spiritual accountability and counsel take place.  

It has an evangelistic zeal which led to dramatic Church growth.  It transformed relationships between men and women; where I lived, in central Tanzania, it was revival men who were first willing to carry water or help with household chores with their wives.  It was marked by a certain Puritanism, as the abandonment of smoking and drinking became visible markers of the move from the darkness of the old life to the new light.  It retained the strict evangelical refusal to have any truck with any traditional religious practice, though it took over the healing and purifying function therein.  It was not for the most part pentecostal in the sense we today think of.  On the negative side of the ledger, it could evince a certain judgmentalism, as Balokole would in the early days, sit in trees outside churches and shout out the secret sins of parishioners as they exited the services (I challenge any of you to try that one). 

      The significance of the Revival was in sum this:  by its means east African Anglicans found a way to be evangelical and Anglican Christians in an uniquely east African way.  Its origin and its leadership were totally east African. 

Whatever inculturation should mean, this was a legitimate form for that process in east Africa. Now the second weakness of the Revival was that its white-hot emphasis on holiness, on the Spirit’s power to transform lives, could verge into a perfectionism.  Now an Anglican revivalism with small group accountability and perfectionist tendencies? Who is the precedent for that?  I know of no evidence that the Revival’s originators knew anything of the theology or spirituality of John Wesley, but the parallels are uncanny. And the danger was identical as well, for the revival took place in an environment, to a lesser extent in Uganda and a much greater extent in Kenya, that included many break-away African independent Churches. The risk was that the revival would split off from Anglicanism, just as their Methodist forebears had two centuries earlier, and in fact there were some minor defections.  But for the most part they remained in the Anglican fold, in no small part because of some judicious CMS bishops in the 1940’s who were willing to compromise and so avert a crisis provoked by protest against what was seen as the theological modernism at the theological college.  To this fact, fraught with consequences for African and global Anglicanism, we shall return shortly.  

    In spite of some tensions, there was a key fact to note is the similarity between the parent CMS and the progeny, the revival, namely being a movement and a sodality distinct from but loyally within the episcopal structures of the Church.  I believe that this key feature is ecclesiologically significant; in fact one could I believe develop a whole ecclesiology that would see the narrative of interaction and stress between ecclesiola dedicated to renewal and mission and catholic structure, the ecclesia itself, as the crucial feature (with monastic societies,, missionary societies, and social action groups in the former category).  A catholic friend suggested to me that one may find a parallel point in Hans Urs von Balthasar about what he called the Petrine and Ignatian impulses or moment in the theology of the Church.

     I also believe that the isomorphism at hand was no accident.  There is in the spawning of new movements from missionary parents an effect of what I would call “resonance,” in which parallel features, in transposed form, appear in the new movement in a kind of echo effect.  In the case of the Balokole the specifics of its holiness emphases and its gatherings bore a similarities to the Keswick movment which so influenced many of the CMS missionaries themselves.      

          As significant as what the revival did (and didn’t do, namely leave) was, yet more important was what happened afterwards.  In a revival the worry is always what in Swahili is called kupoa, namely to cool. And so it inevitably did, though was still a tangible force with the same shape as in its beginning whn I was in east Africa 20 years ago, and is still present today.   Of equal significance is the fact that it was able to make the transition to established leadership, to providing most of the bishops in the east African Churches.  It was able to institutionalize its revivalist influence.   The stress on holiness, the zeal for evangelism, and the sense of a decisive conversion have been conveyed to the Church as a whole (while its theological shortcomings have endured as well). And in east Africa these qualities have a close relationship to the unven but continual and at times dramatic growth of the Churches.    

     On the ecumenical front, the revival influenced Anglicans have shared the profile of evangelical Anglicans in general. Here it is worth recalling that the international ecumenical movement was in large measure a child of the missionaries and the younger churches they helped to plant.  The old denominational differences paled in the face of the contrast with paganism or Islam and the challenges the churches faced. In this spirit the Protestant denominations readied a plan for the reunion of the churches in 1917 (presaging by a generation the South India plan) which was scuttled at the last minute by the Anglo-Catholic bishop of Dar es Salaam, FrankWeston.  Since that time, work toward such organic reunion has been prominent, but a common evangelical orientation has made cooperation relatively easy. 

      Yet more surprising has been what might be called intra-Anglican ecumenics. Tanzania is unique in having a province with churches founded by the CMS and the UMCA< the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, the very anglo-Catholic society founded in the mid-19th Century in the wake of publicity around the work of David Livingstone,  The highest and the lowest of Anglicans are found together in a single province, and yet recent years have seen continually closer cooperation and unity which has continued without abatement even in the present atmosphere.  This too can be traced in part back to the ecclesial loyalty and stalwart Anglican identity which was part of the Balokole identity, along with its revival emphases.  These qualities of loyalty and identity have held firm in spite of a Church environment throughout most of east Africa, and Nigeria for that matter, which can be characterized as enormously fragmenting and fissiparous. New independent Churches spring up like bugs in the rainy season. These qualities then are not irrelevant to the present stress within the Anglican communion.

     There is much more one could say about the east African Anglican story (most dramatically the story of 20th century martyrdom in Uganda as well as the struggle with AIDS), but we have touched on the basics. Obviously, for all its problems, it is in terms of both spiritual vitality and growth   But why did this take place? And how do these reasons in turn contribute to our understanding about what’s Anglican about mission?  Well, the best answer, as always is the Holy Spirit, but in human terms what were the contributing circumstances?  I want to offer four reasons, and then see where these lead us.  First of all, in Bengt Sundkler’s posthumous and magisterial history of the Church in Africa, we are the first key common factor to Church growth throughout Africa, including its Anglicans.  The Church flourished in the midst of what Sundkler calls, in Zulu, the mfecane, the churning. By this term he referred to social, cultural, and political upheaval: migrations during drought, wars, change in mores, urbanization, etc.  In such a world an opportunity for evangelism was opened for people who lived between worlks, people who were comfortable in several cultures at once:  creole market women in Sierra Leone, migratory workers in South Africa, young Kenyan men and women who ran away and grew up at the mission station, and so forth.  These in-between persons had a new identity as Christians which proved durable and portable and so particularly suited to the volative context .  This dovetails nicely with the second theory, offered classically by philosopher Robin Horton, who proposed that in such a situation, the worldview that had wider explanatory reach, that  could make sense of the wider world beyond.  Third, the dynamics of the witness of the first generation of believers has been highlighted by scholars like John Karanja of Kenya

and Cyril Okorocha of Nigeria, both friends of the ACI.  They emphasize in their own ways that local believers themselves, often catechists, were the original evangelists.  In numerous other cases first-generation Christians mad their witness as they went home to attend traditional initiations and made costly decisons about the parts of rituals, sometimes sacrificial, they could and couldn’t attend.  These Christians acting out an implicit theology of inculturation, and a liturgical theology to boot, through their actions.   Their strong and prompt spiritual identification with the tradition taught them by the missionaries allowed them to make subtle distinctions and powerful witnesses to Christ.  Fourth, we can point to the power of the tradition, especially in the second and third generations,  to adapt itself to different settings is underlined.  One of the most insightful writers on this score is none other than our own  Philip Turner.  In an article about the seeming liturgical and spiritual conservatism of the Ugandan, revival-influenced Anglicans of the 1960’s, he showed that their adhesion to the inherited Christian beliefs and practices was for the most African of reasons, namely an affinity to tradition and a sense that the first missionaries, and more distantly, the very apostles themselves, were their “eponymous ancestors.” 

Turner effectively showed that notions of inculturation which are imagined to be in  zero-sum opposition to the power and flexibility of the larger catholic tradition of the Church are misconceived.  We misunderstand east African Anglicanism and its power if we suppose that it is unadapted or borrowed and thus somehow inauthentic.  This observation of Turner’s falls into the more general category of “functional equivalence” explicated by the missiologist Alan Tippett.  The term refers to the capacity of the younger Churches to find structures, liturgical practices, or Biblically inspired homiletical or catechetical themes which served the same function in the society as a structure, practice, or belief of the old way.  This is simply a missiological updating of the advice given by Pope Gregory, as reported by the Venerable Bede, in the very first wave of evangelization of Britain itself, namely to build its Churches on the sites of pagan temples, and to plan its feasts on the dates of pagan festivals.  What are we to make of these four reasons for the success of the endeavor, taken together?  What they all show is the expansive reach and adaptive resiliency of the catholic Christian tradition, and its role in the particular vitality of the African Christian movement.

   This observation is relevant to Anglicanism, for it includes it.  But we are interested in the Anglican branch of that catholic tradition, and what might be identifiable as an Anglican style of mission.    Here we can follow out some of the leads that have presented themselves in the process of our narrating the tale of Anglican east Africa.  First, and most prominently, we have seen the isomorphism between the CMS and the Balokole movement. More specifically, we have seen how they were both distinguished by, and paid various prices for, their insistence that they remain Anglican renewal movements.  For both this was not simply inertia or convenience, but rooted in a view of the Church, whether implicit or explicit.  Secondly, we have been, with the help of Philip Turner, that  innovation and adaptation and vitality took place in a way that cleaved to, and was ever mindful of, the liturgical treasure of the Prayer Book, and the pillars of  Anglican doctrine, for these had been “handed on.” The third point is one that we have not yet explicated sufficiently.  At the time of independence in the early 1960’s, most observers predicted that the Churches planted by the Europeans would dry up and die.  Later in the decade, in the “moratorium” era, many predicted that, if the Churches survived, it would be in a bitter and truculent mood due to suppression during the colonialist period.  They all could not have been more wrong. Not only did the Churches survive, they thrived; not only were they not encased in old resentments, they took part vigorously in inter-Anglican diocesan and church-side partnerships, and they did so increasingly as equals.  The evinced in other words, a sense of being part of a larger family, of being Anglicans, even as the colonialist epoch of that identity was left behind. 

     To be sure, one must always guard against the western disease of romanticizing of Africa. Those younger churches have had, and continue to have, serious problems, among them sorting out the legacy of polygamy, the burden of the use of money in desperately poor settings, and finally tribalism.  The last lies at the roots of the horrors of the recent east African past: Uganda and Amin, and Rwanda and the genocide.  Even in relatively pacific Tanzania complaints about the role of tribalism, for example in preferments and elections, are not unknown.  But at the very least, the African Churches are young enough, and so close enough to their Christian pre-history, to be able to identify tribalism as the enemy.  They know that to be a Christian is no longer to be able to settle into old tribal and clan loyalties. 

    We can now recognize what all these salient features share,  namely a sense of being ecclesially constrained.  They all share a sense that being part of the wider and older reality of the Church, its catholicity and apostolicity in creedal terms, has an impact on what their faith must look like, on what they can and cannot do, whatever their preferences may be.  This is in fact what has distinguished Anglican evangelicalism, what makes it a special gift to the wider global evangelical world, however frustrating and sullying the associations of the wider Anglican community may seem to some evangelical brothers and sisters.  African Anglicanism reminds us of something essential about evangelical Anglicanism that is not merely an accident of history, but an ecclesiological desideratum.  And I would go so far as to suggest that it shows us the terms under which, at the end of the day, any kind of  coherent Anglicanism may be found, whether more catholic or more evangelical.  It must begin with the authority of Scripture, and with clarity about the importance of doctrine, and with evangelistic seriousness, and with some chastened sense of the importance of piety and holiness of life. More of ten than not this will come in the form of a movement of renewal.  And then it must add to all this the constraint of the Church.   One gift of African Anglicanism in recent times is  that it has helped to remind us of ourselves, as if out of a dream.

     I want to draw two brief implications as I conclude.  For the first I thank my friend Ephraim Radner, who enabled me to see it.  This dimension of ecclesial constraint has everything to do with our moment in the life of the Communion, in the wake of the Windsor Report, with it emphasis on the bonds of affection that maintain koinonia.  African Anglicans can exhort their neighbors to maintain these bonds for they have a legacy of maintaining them themselves, sometimes in spite of their inclinations.  I would go on to add that only now, thanks to the constrained evangelicalism of the African Anglicans, is the nature of the communion coming into proper view.  You will recall that a generation, there was an Anglican Congress outside the fair city of Toronto, and at that conclave the watchword was “mutual responsibility and interdependence,” according to which the communion, its needs and possibilities, should be thought through globally and missiologically!  It was high-sounding and widely applauded in the West, and there continued to be partnerships, but it failed to transform the way we really did business.  Only in the light of the crisis of that same global communion, 40 years later, do we see that the “bonds of affection” in all their forms cannot be separated one from another.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in Christ, in mutual subjection, in doctrine and ethics, as well as in mission and stewardship, and rending these dimensions asunder, or pretending that some do not matter, has done vast damage. 

     My second general implication loops back to where we began, to the agendum of contextualization that is so popular in our time. We are now in a position to see that contextualization can only be adequately thought through where the ecclesial mark of catholicity is not far from view, for the latter is the condition for assuring that the former does not merely become the occasion for the atomization and deracination of the Church.  It is in this regard that the last word should be afforded to that evangelical and long-term servant in the Third World who came to be a bishop in communion with the Anglican Church, Lesslie Newbigin.  Wasn’t the main thrust of his witness the opening of Western eyes to the kinds of neo-paganism which they, for all their contextualization-talk, had shielded from their own eyes?  The most obvious examples to an Indian Christian might be abortion (an example Newbigin uses), or to an African Christian the glorification of sex.  But I would add the commodified individualism which can so easily infect our own brand of all-too-unconstrained evangelicalism     Or one could point at the new kind of identity tribalism our culture encourages.   Such mutual admonition has everything to do with what contextualism really ought to be, and everything to do with what the constrained evangelicalism of African Anglicanism could teach us, if only we would hear.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 02/09/2006 5:14:30 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 02/09/2006 5:15:21 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006 | Is it March yet?)
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