Anglicanism and Global Affairs: The Windsor Report and Beyond
Noon – 2 p.m.
Westminster, London, England
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Nigeria
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church USA
Dr. David Martin, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics (Emeritus)
Dr. Timothy Samuel Shah, Senior Fellow in Religion & International Affairs, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
DR. TIMOTHY SHAH: Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Timothy Samuel Shah, and I am the Senior Fellow in Religion and International Affairs with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Pew Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Please let me welcome you to our discussion of Anglicanism and Global Affairs: The Windsor Report and Beyond.
This is the London debut of the Pew Forum, so I should say a word about the organization. We are the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, not the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life. In other words, we do not advocate for a greater public role for religion in general or any religion in particular. We are a strictly non-partisan and non-sectarian organization.
But of course anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear cannot deny the fact that religion plays an important — and perhaps even increasing — role in shaping public life in today’s world. Things religious are frequently of public importance and of public interest. Were that not the case, this discussion would not be taking place. At the same time, anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear cannot deny that the issues and controversies of public life are playing an important — and perhaps even increasing — role in shaping the internal dynamics and debates of religion.
Indeed, the mutual influence of religion and public life is a theme of the Windsor Report itself, and it is also a point raised by Bishop Griswold, one of our speakers today, in his letter released yesterday, October 18, reflecting on the report. Global public life, it seems, cannot be shielded from the spiritualizing influences of religion. Nor, it seems, can religion be shielded from the secularizing influences of global public life.
Though the Pew Forum firmly avoids taking sides in the many controversies surrounding the intersection between religion and public life in today’s world, the Forum’s very reason for being is to promote greater clarity about the major issues at the intersection of religion and public life. One of the ways we do this is through civil, and we hope, thoughtful, public discussion between diverse viewpoints – indeed, viewpoints that are sometimes in conflict with each other, viewpoints that are at the root of the most important controversies concerning religion and public life. Which brings us, of course, to today’s discussion.
One of the most interesting and important controversies at the intersection of religion and public life today is the current controversy within the Anglican Communion, a controversy at the center of which, undeniably, is the issue of homosexuality, but which also touches on the difficulty of how to represent the increasing strength of Southern churches – churches from the global south – in a communion traditionally dominated by Western churches.
But it also touches on many other issues of public import, issues of great public and indeed international significance. For example, the often conflicted relationship between Christianity and Islam in places like Nigeria, where Archbishop Fearon is from. And the relationship between parts of the Christian world, particularly the relationship between Anglicanism on the one hand and Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism on the other.
Also, interestingly, this conflict touches on the issue of American unilateralism. One of the most interesting ways in which religion and public life intersect on this issue is that the language that has often been applied to American foreign policy, this language of unilateralism, is being applied by Africans and others to describe American religious policy. The current Anglican crisis has implications for all these global issues and other issues as well.
To lead us in discussion, we are exceedingly grateful to have with us three distinguished speakers, none of whom needs any introduction, who represent very diverse viewpoints on the Anglican controversy. The ground rules are very simple. I’m going to have us proceed in alphabetical order, which I think is a nice diplomatic compromise. I will introduce each speaker in turn, and each speaker will speak for no more than 10 to 12 minutes. And after the speakers make their presentations, I’ll then give them an opportunity to respond to each other, ask each other questions or make any comments on what the others have said. And I will then give you the opportunity to ask questions or make comments, though I reserve the right to ask a question or two here and there as well. I only ask that you identify yourself before asking your question, and please keep your question or comment extremely brief since there are many people who would like to make comments and ask questions.
As I said, all of these distinguished thinkers and church leaders need no introduction, so I’ll just say a few things about each. First we have Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who is the Archbishop of Kaduna in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. He is a distinguished theologian and a scholar of Islam, and has been a leader in the church of Nigeria for many, many years. And he has been a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion or so-called Eames Commission, which produced the Windsor Report. We’re very grateful that he has joined us. Archbishop.
JOSIAH IDOWU-FEARON: My part of the Anglican world is a very, very significant part, because our church has over 17 million Anglicans. Something that is not obvious to most of our fellow Anglicans is that the Anglican Church in Nigeria is very evangelical. We have no bells and smells as Frank saw when he came, and over 70 percent of us have had what you call a personal conversion experience. And therefore, for us, Christianity means a complete change of life.
What is not in the Scriptures we find very difficult to continue, or to practice or to retain. There is a lot of discipline in our church, and I remember warning the presiding bishop when he was going to visit us, “Look, Frank, if you come to the church of Nigeria, we are a disciplined people – if the house of bishops agree everybody must wear his cassock, everybody will wear his cassock.” So that’s the way our church is, and our constitution gives a lot of authority to the bishop. So when the bishop speaks, the members can question, they can reason with him, but he was veto power. And that’s why we say to the lay members, “Please pray for us.”
Secondly, because of the nature of the Nigerian – the Nigerian is very religious – if he doesn’t worship God the traditional way, he or she worships God the Muslim way or the Christian way, as we say. So it’s difficult to find a Nigerian who would tell you, “I’m an atheist,” or “I don’t believe in anything.” Nigerians are, as I always say, very, very religious – we are a religious people and we take our faith very seriously. Therefore, when you find a Christian, he or she will want you to know, “I was a Muslim,” or “I was a traditional worshiper and today I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.” The difference is clear, as we say. That’s our world.
The other aspect of that is that we are still in the biblical times. Spiritism is all over, and therefore, for us, when you move from one religion to Christ, there has to be a marked difference. And so we say, “The things I used to do, I do them no more.” So that’s our world.
I live in the middle part of the country, where Christians and Muslims are almost of equal number – Christians have a slight edge. And we know what it means to be persecuted, we know what it means to be a minority, we know what it means to be deprived. But we find solace in the family, which is the Christian family, so whatever we do as Anglicans in my country, or as Christians generally, we know we are surrounded by other Christians and we are forced by God Almighty to live together with our Muslim neighbors and the traditional worshipers.
Now, coming quickly, therefore, to the crisis we’re facing in our communion today, the Anglican in Nigeria finds it extremely painful. Painful because our culture, the African culture – that would be too general a statement – the Nigerian culture – it’s still very general, but in my own culture – I am a Nupe man – we have no word for homosexuality. The reason is this: if you had homosexual tendencies, you go to the native medicine man because it is seen as a disease. So you go for healing.
That’s before Christianity. And now that we have become Christian, to now say, “You can be a homosexual and practice and be active,” you are taking us back to the pre-Christian era, which does not even accept – I’m saying this so that you understand where the Nigerian is coming from – you are telling us that what even the non-Christian hates, you are accepting. So that’s the root of the problem we are having with the parts of the world. And I don’t like this distinction, Northern and Southern hemisphere, because Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere, and Brazil is almost the same as some parts of the West. So let’s get rid of this North and South. It’s just parts of the world where this is an accepted practice and where it is not.
In my culture, therefore, most Anglicans see this as a waste of time. Look, we have things to talk about, we have things to do – why are you spending so much time, so much money, discussing this thing that the Bible, for us, makes very clear? So that’s where we are coming from. But let me make two more points. Please tell me when I’m almost there, okay.
Number one, the Nigerian Anglican, or Muslim or Roman Catholic or whatever, does not hate the homosexual – and I want that to be clearly understood. We do not hate homosexuals because we see homosexuality as a sin, just as there are other sins – we have armed robbers, we have fornicators, we have adulterers, we have all sorts of things – there is no hatred at all. It is our passion for the individual to be saved that makes us look to those who see us differently as people who hate homosexuals – we do not hate homosexuals. However, we do not condone their lifestyle; I want us to get that very clear.
Number two, there are homosexuals in Nigeria and we have a ministry to homosexuals, mainly amongst the Muslims, the Hausa tribe. I mean, something they don’t talk about, it’s there. There is a whole street where you have, you know, male prostitutes. And amongst the rich, they practice this sin, but they know the society does not condone it, the society does not accept it, and they know that the Christian church does not accept it – so we have a ministry to them.
Number three, because this is something we hear from the West, some feel because the 1988 Lambeth Conference accepted polygamy as a way of life, why would the Africans not accept homosexuality as a way of life? As I said earlier on, we do not hate homosexuals who remain – who have the tendency to be homosexual – we love them, but we hate the sin. But you cannot equate homosexuality with polygamy. In our church – I’m now talking specifically of the Anglican Church in Nigeria – polygamists are not hated. Polygamists are members of the church, but no polygamist is given any leadership role in the church, not even a Bible study leader in a given church. He knows he’s broken the rules, he comes to church, he worships, but he cannot be a leader. Talk more of offering himself to be an evangelist or a priest or a bishop, it is – they don’t even think about it.
And in my part of the church, the Anglican Church – which is the northern part – polygamists are denied Holy Communion. Once you take a second wife, you no longer have access to the sacraments; that’s what is happening in our church. So to equate polygamy with homosexuality, we find it really offensive, because it means our brothers and sisters in the other parts of the Anglican world do not understand the position of the church. I think I’ll stop here and save my time.
DR. SHAH: Thank you. Thank you, Archbishop. Let me now introduce the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold. Frank Griswold was educated at Harvard and studied theology at Oriel College in Oxford, has published widely in theology and Christian ethics and is, of course, again, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. We’re very grateful that he’s been willing to be a part of this discussion.
FRANK GRISWOLD: Thank you. I’m very grateful to the Pew Forum for its invitation. I do see on the back wall above us, “God is love,” and I think that’s probably something that is good for us all to be aware of, particularly in a season in which there is contention and disagreement. And I think it’s all to the credit of the Pew Forum that they have invited us to explore a many-layered and very complex subject, to say the least. I’m delighted also to share this platform with my brother Josiah, with whom for three years I served on the international commission considering the whole question of sexuality, and was also was delighted to have him be the preacher at our last general convention at our principal liturgy.
I think what Archbishop Josiah has done so ably is, first of all, give us a sense of the context in which he as a bishop lives and ministers and something of the flavor of the church in Nigeria. And I think context is very, very important. I think the gospel is always understood and articulated in a particular context. And as much as we might want to say that our interpretations are free of the culture around us, and the historical reality that may press upon us still, to some degree all our interpretations are affected by where we find ourselves. And as Archbishop Josiah described the church in Nigeria as being essentially one tradition – I think that is what you meant when you said “no smells and bells” – certainly, the tradition of Anglicanism in the United States is quite diverse and has been so since the church was formed after the American Revolution at a point when there was a serious question about whether or not even to have bishops because bishops were so identified with the crown.
In any event, we did have bishops – or we do have bishops – otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. But there is a tradition in the church in the United States of a kind of pluralism. There has never been one interpretation of Scripture. Different interpretations have vied with one another, usually in the context in which a large degree of mutual respect and appreciation of one another has been the order of the day. And so too in our patterns of worship there is quite a bit of variety. And while I think we would all say as our ordination liturgy has us say – those of us who are ordained – that we believe that the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary to salvation, there is a broad interpretation of what precisely that means in actual terms as one looks at various issues and concerns in the life of the church.
I also think – and this is from my experience in various provinces in Africa, and I’ll be interested in Josiah’s comment on this – I think our sense of the church – though we obviously give the viable a privileged place – our sense of the church is largely derived from our baptismal and eucharistic practice. I think we see the sacramental life as sort of the – I mean, not that this is the only view, but I think this is a largely held view within the Episcopal Church – we experience church in relationship to baptism and the weekly Eucharist. And for us, as is true for Christians everywhere, baptism is the incorporation of various members, all with their differences, into one body. And without that diversity, the full body could not be formed. So the whole notion of different perspectives finding their grounding and unity in the person of Christ rather than in, let’s say, one overarching point of view, is very much the reality of the life of the Episcopal Church. And that is confirmed and reaffirmed week by week when again this diversity of opinion and experience comes together and shares the one bread and the one cup.
So when we think about church, I think many of us think first of all about that sacramental experience rather than the Book as the absolute determinant of our ecclesial life. And I think part of the tension in the Anglican Communion at this point is a tension of differing ecclesiologies – not that they don’t in some way complement and actually reinforce one another. But there are nuances, I think, that lead us in somewhat different directions.
I would also have to say that since context is not incidental to how we interpret Scripture and understand what it means to live our life in Christ, it’s important to note that sexuality is very much a part of the public discourse in a country such as the United States, and that certainly includes the phenomenon of homosexuality. And it needs to be noted, too, that homosexual persons are very visible in all areas of public life. And therefore, it is only natural that what is true around us would invite those within the church who perceive themselves to be homosexual to be self-disclosing, because the culture is a self-disclosing culture. And here I think it’s probably important to note that for at least the last 30 years in the Episcopal Church, homosexuality has been a subject of discussion and debate. And many, many people in our congregations have, as it were, come to terms with fellow congregants, friends, colleagues, and in some instances, members of their own family who are homosexual by orientation and many of whom live in partnerships with people of the same sex.
One thing the church has been very clear about is condemning in no uncertain terms abusive, predatory and compulsive – obviously sinful – patterns of behavior. But the church has looked, is continuing to look – the question isn’t resolved by any means – at the integrity of people whose affections are ordered to members of the same sex and who live lives that seem to bear the fruit of the Spirit. And if one is looking for some kind of Scriptural warrant, I think Jesus saying “You know a tree by the fruit it bears” has something to say about the integrity we perceive in the lives of many of our gay and lesbian members.
I think we would also acknowledge that secrecy is the devil’s playground, and untoward things seem to happen in secret. Therefore, to bring something out into the light and discuss it openly is the best way possible for whatever it is to be purified, to be revelatory of that which is of grace and truth.
I mentioned earlier the international conversations on sexuality that Archbishop Josiah and I participated in. And in our final report, one of the points on which we agreed is the following: “Recognizing our Anglican Communion as a gift, we do not want to see it fragmented. For it to be further divided by the issue of homosexual behavior would be the ultimate sexualization of the Church, making sexuality more powerful, or more claiming of our attention, than God.” And I think that is an important statement, and I do hope – because the Windsor Report does make reference to that international conversation – I do hope that at last, the fruit of those three years, which was duly distributed to all the primates, will in fact be brought forward. I think some very important principles were established there that would serve the communion well as the communion, in response to the Windsor Report, tries to listen more deeply to the experience of homosexual persons who claim Christian identity.
But at the same time, I think it’s important to underscore the fact that the Episcopal Church is not obsessed with sexuality, and our primary focus quite frankly is more broad. And certainly one of the concerns of the Pew Forum is the global and international perspective of Anglicanism, and one thing the Episcopal Church takes quite seriously is its role of being an advocate for the global community and living in partnership with brothers and sisters in other parts of the communion and sharing our resources as best we can with other members of the communion.
And here I think – and Archbishop Josiah alluded to this – I think there has been an unfortunate and not altogether accurate identification of the Episcopal Church of the United States with the stances of the United States government, when in fact many within the church take marked exception to some U.S. policies, particularly the war in Iraq and our standoffishness with respect to the Middle East.
I know we have been accused of unilateralism, but I think unilateralism isn’t simply something that could be flung at the Episcopal Church. I think it could be flung at those within our church who have taken this internal concern and made sure internationally that it is at the top of the Anglican agenda, when many primates have said to me, “Yes, sexuality is an important issue, and we disagree with where you stand. However, our primary concern is with disease, poverty, civil war, the rise in malaria, HIV/AIDS, and you have usurped our concerns by this fixation on this one particular topic.”
So advocacy is very important. Our office of government relations in Washington spends a great deal of time bringing mostly bishops from other parts of the communion to testify before congressional committees so that their voices can be heard and so American policy can in fact be shaped more sensitively in response to the world’s needs as incarnate in brother Anglicans who come from other parts of the world. Certainly, too, the Episcopal Church has taken a leading role in efforts to formulate legislation around debt relief, and so too the Episcopal Church is committed very seriously to the whole pandemic of HIV/AIDS and malaria in other parts of the world, largely through our Episcopal Relief and Development Organization, which is our development agency working in partnership with those in other provinces and other parts of the communion.
And here, I might just share a story that illustrates some of our capacity to be helpful and in partnership with brothers and sisters in other parts of the communion. We were involved in development work in Uganda. And I remember in a visit to Uganda, visiting a widow with three children, who through a grant from Episcopal Relief and Development had a cow. And she had been taught how to care for the cow, how to recycle – if you don’t mind a slight indelicacy – the urine and the manure, and how to use the manure to fertilize the coffee trees, and how her trees were much more productive than her neighbors’ trees. And so people scratched their heads and said, “Well, you know, what is your secret?” So she was able to pass on to others some of the skills she had learned. She was also able to sell the milk. And so she had a sort of microenterprise overseas, and it also completely changed the life of the community. And I was delighted that for a very small investment, we were able in that positive way to change that woman’s life, and not only change her life, but change the whole economy of the village.
Well, at this point, because of the sharp disagreements about sexuality, the church in Nigeria will no longer accept funds that come from the Episcopal Church, and so I’m concerned about the widow and her cow and others as well, and this is one of my great concerns about the strains of the present moment in the life of the Anglican communion. It’s not just bishops posturing vis-à-vis one another; it’s people at the most desperate levels of poverty and dealing with disease who are affected, and I think if there is a sin, this is a sin. And I very much hope that the divisions among us can in some way – I doubt – the positions are going to remain as they do in the Episcopal Church. We live with a diversity of points of view. The edges on both sides, of course, can’t make common cause with one another, but the overwhelming reality of the Episcopal Church is people who can disagree and yet, for the sake of mission, for the sake of being a sign to a broken and fragile world, they can make common cause together.
So I certainly hope out of the Windsor Report, which is very nuanced and carefully put together, we can contain some of the tension of the present moment, but in such a way that we can, in fact, work together – not simply to heal a church, but to be a sign of reconciliation for people like the widow in Uganda. And if we do that, I think we will be fulfilling the mission that Christ has given us in the Gospel. So let me stop there.
DR. SHAH: Thank you, Bishop Griswold. And now finally we are very privileged to have Professor David Martin, perhaps the world’s premier sociologist of religion, who has written numerous celebrated classic works, including A General Theory of Secularization, Does Christianity Cause War?, Tongues of Fire, and Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish. And we really are extremely fortunate that we can have David Martin — who has written so much about secularization in Western countries, and who has written about the resurgence of religion, particularly Christianity and Pentecostalism in the so-called global South — to reflect a bit more broadly on these questions and issues for us and the wider implications of the Anglican controversy. Professor Martin.
DR. DAVID MARTIN: Thank you for that more than kind introduction. It is a privilege for me, in fact, to take part in this in such distinguished company — and in an early Christian basilica with “God as love” at the end.
Third speakers have a problem, which is that they do repeat some of what the other people have said, but that may show that those particular points are rather worth making.
Almost everything I have to say was put together before seeing the careful leaks of the Windsor Report. Happily, I’m not here to comment on the report, but to set the context as a sociologist. I shall not express a personal view because that would undermine the job I have been asked to do, as well as being unfair to the two previous speakers. What perhaps I can do is to say things responsible church leaders cannot openly talk about because, as in ordinary politics, so in church politics – to lead is to be gagged.
Some people think that the Anglican controversy is a case of the empire striking back by relaying back to the West the messages originally taken to Africa by Victorian missionaries. Yet the truth is that the effective carriers of Christianity in Africa were African catechists, who thoroughly indigenized it. Basically, we need to understand, as is very clear from what has been said already, that what we have before us is a clash of cultures and of contexts – between a permissive, liberal North and West, Christian or otherwise, and a Christian South and to some extent East. Western liberals are trying to respect other cultures, but when it comes to religion and above all sexuality, they are firmly judgmental – if perhaps harder on Christianity than on other faiths. This is where the use of the shorthand term, the pejorative “fundamentalism,” is very unhelpful. And the equation of traditionalists with fundamentalists is even worse. Anglican tradition has been liberal and Catholic and evangelical for several centuries.
Here I will repeat some of the things that Archbishop Fearon has said. In much of Africa, homosexuality might not even be recognized – there’s not even a word for it – let alone tolerated or affirmed. It is not that Africans have a doctrine of what is natural and what is not, given God’s purposes in creation and in procreation; it’s just the way things are, perhaps, in societies where religion is built into strategies of reproductive survival. That’s how things were in the social world of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. Genesis tells you all you need to know about the promise of numerous progeny. Presumably, that was compatible with – even assisted by – polygamy, and not by homosexuality. Christian missionaries in Africa rejected Old Testament polygamy, while maintaining the overall biblical view of homosexuality. So some African Christians are now surprised that some Western Christians still want to reject polygamy as Archbishop Fearon has just said they themselves do, while affirming homosexuality.
Celibacy also ought to be brought into the frame here, because in much of the South, including in Latin America, it is as alien as it would be in Judaism and Islam. Yet, the New Testament commends celibacy as a condition – above all, as a spiritual choice – because it withdraws unqualified acceptance of the family and of the ethnic group in order to redirect affection to the universal brotherhood and sisterhood. When it comes to celibacy, liberal Protestants are leery because in part they’re influenced by the older Protestant and Judaic validation of heterosexual procreation, or because of a modern validation of sexual expression as such.
It goes without saying that a Jew like St. Paul was opposed to homosexuality. He saw it as part of the sinful sex, or pornea, of a classical world where pedophilia, in the form of the love of a wise mentor for a youth, was idealized. What the classical world condemned was passive homosexual activity in grown men.
What I’m saying is that the cross-cultural situation is hugely complicated. The politics, too – and often this is about power – are equally complicated.
With Islam as an immediate neighbor and competitor, African mainstream Christians could not embrace Western liberal views even if they wanted to. They are also in direct competition with Pentecostalism, which is the world’s most rapidly growing faith bar none, though we hear little about it because Pentecostal Christians own no oil and cut off no heads. Pentecostalism suits the African evaluation of goods, and it emphasizes the family as the protection for the woman against male irresponsibility and the double standard.
We are not only talking about the politics of competitive pluralism, but about the politics of a shift in the demographic, and hence democratic, weight of Christianity. The Christianity of North America, where it thrives, and of Western Europe, where it does not, is giving place in terms of sheer numbers to the Christian South – over 300 million in Africa alone – and Northwestern churches want to retain links with the ebullient South and East, and also, if they are minded that way, to promote their liberal understanding of Christianity. However, the global South cherishes its independent dignity vis-à-vis the rich and influential but relatively small Episcopal Church of the USA. There are complicated issues here of independence from colonialism.
At the same time, the leaders of the Western churches are more liberal than much of their active laity, including an expansive evangelical Anglicanism. Anglican leaders inhabit a climate of left liberal opinion, though they have strong reservations about a propaganda of individual rights without communal duties and about a purely competitive individualism. If the British comedy team Bremner, Bird & Fortune (Americans will not know this reference) were on the ball recently, Anglican leaders can be as passionate about their liberalism as about their Christianity. They recognize the vitality of evangelicals and their role in providing reference points in the fluid, fast-moving secular society. What puzzles them is the salience of the homosexuality issue when so many varied implications of the Bible are ignored in the way that Bishop Griswold has just indicated.
In relation to the Bible itself, for example, the Sodom city is condemned to destruction, but Lot also manages to offer his daughters to the importunate rapists of Sodom in preference to his male guests – without comment. And those enterprising daughters also drug their father and sleep with him in turn in the good cause of keeping the family going – also without comment. These are the kind of hermeneutical problems that really underlie some of this. Probably most Anglicans in England, and I imagine elsewhere, prefer not to think about such things. Both testaments recommend love of God and neighbor, as well as honesty, respect for others, truthfulness, good faith. Anglican Christianity is about the grace and peace of God in the gift of Christ. All this is at the heart of what is meant by Anglican tradition, along with rightly and duly administering the holy sacraments, rather than a biblical literalism espoused by one end of the evangelical spectrum, and particularly in the United States.
At the other end of evangelicalism is a spirituality which often includes an insistence on mutual love and joy in the Spirit without a focus on the literal authority of the Bible. It is, however, the question of authority and an anxiety about reference points and a clear moral profile, which finds its focus and comes to a head in the homosexuality issue. That leads strong evangelical congregations to use the power of the purse, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has discovered.
A broad church like Anglicanism has many constituencies and can’t be treated on a Catholic model of a central authority proclaiming what the church says, whatever Roman Catholics themselves actually think and do. Sometimes the anxieties of these constituencies overlap, but those people anxious about homosexuality are not the same as those anxious about female ordination, who, after all, include a disproportionate number of homosexual priests.
We should not forget that Anglo-Catholicism remains an attractive option for gays. Gay clergy and bachelor bishops are part of the scene. Anglican leaders here in England take all these constituencies into account, including core members who may be older, may be culturally conservative, may be worried about the changed political profile of the church. It’s no wonder those leaders fall back on occasional equivocation, talking about being sorry for hurt caused, and the kind of holding operation that I suspect lies behind the Windsor Report, attempting to inhibit the North American churches while strongly condemning homophobia. Those leaders recognize that the recent attempt to distinguish what laypeople may do from what clergy may do is unstable, yet are unwilling to proceed to the point where the reference points in Scripture and tradition are abandoned in favor of infinitely flexible notions like inclusion, mutuality, compassion and being non-judgmental. That would spell the end of institutional coherence and continuity.
Here I come to my last point. Ecumenical relations may not be at the forefront of the argument, but they do lie in the background because this issue brings into question the whole role of Canterbury and the bonds of affection holding the Anglican Communion together. I have to say, I doubt somewhat whether the covenants suggested in the Windsor Report will work. After all, Americans have cherished their independence for a long time, and so today do Africans and Indians. A traditional Anglicanism based on reasonableness, tact, and forbearance runs into the atmosphere of culture wars throughout the Anglo-Saxon world, where everything is disagreeably explicit. That is especially true in the United States, where, I think, sincere principles tend on occasion to trump tact. Africans, too, have their culture wars, which can become real ones about access to power or submission to it or persecution. That means leaders in North America and Africa alike feel obliged to take positions which strain the bonds of affection and lead to the kind of ill feeling that fraternities of love divided against themselves always experience. And as I said at the beginning, though the two leaders we have today have been franker than I thought, to lead is to be gagged.
DR. SHAH: Thank you very much, Professor Martin, for that fascinating and provocative presentation. First now, before we proceed to questions and answers, I want to give our other two speakers a chance to respond, both to each other and to Professor Martin. Actually, first, Archbishop Fearon, I wanted to know whether you had anything to say about Professor Martin’s point that mainstream African churches could not accept homosexuality even if they wanted to because of proximity to Islam and a competitive relationship with Islam, but I want to give you the chance to say anything else that you would like to in response to Professor Martin or Bishop Griswold, and then I’ll ask Bishop Griswold whether he would like to say anything in response.
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: First, just one or two points I want to make from Professor Martin’s presentation. I quite agree that Islam forbids us from embracing liberal Protestantism and also there is the confrontation between us and the Pentecostals. There is a third dimension which I mentioned, and I want to say that again, and that is the African traditional religion. African traditional religion does not accept same-sex relations. And therefore, if you now ask us as Christians to accept same-sex relations as a lifestyle, we have no gospel to proclaim. I think that is very important, so I accept the point you made, but I thought I should add that also.
Now to Frank – I want to react to some of the points he made. When we look at ecclesiology, I totally accept most of the points you made. However, the whole question of affirming homosexuals, I find a little bit difficult as a Christian from my African context. Do you affirm my lifestyle as a homosexual in the face of the gospel? I think it’s very clear. If I’m an active homosexual, what I hear usually is, “Well, this is our culture, it is okay.” My question, therefore, as an African would be, where is the difference? What difference has the gospel made?
Secondly, you also talked about secrecy being the devil’s playground. I did confess to you, remember, that I learned a lot about the various shades of homosexual practices during the three-year pilgrimage with you, and I owe a lot to you for educating me. However, as a Christian, the fact that we discuss things openly does not mean that we don’t have a gospel to proclaim. We have the good news to tell people, to say in Christ, “You can be different. The Holy Spirit can make the difference.” I think this is where our understanding of the Christian faith – you know, coming to know Jesus Christ personally – and I think I heard that from Professor Martin. You see, for us in Africa, you cannot be a cultural Christian. You must have an encounter with Jesus Christ. The difference is clear. I used to be, and now I am; therefore, I cannot go back to where I used to be.
I don’t find that with the cultural way people embrace the Christian religion here. I remember in central Florida, I went for a confirmation service. The bishop allowed me to take a confirmation service. There were just a couple, and I asked, “When did you become a Christian?” And the man said, “Well, I used to be a Baptist, and now I’m Episcopalian.” To me, that is not acceptable. That is not conversion. This is what I think Professor Martin is talking about. For the African, there is this dramatic life-changing experience that really makes it difficult for you to continue to accept this liberal Protestantism we are talking about.
My third point – I think I got confused about the fruit of the Spirit. As a Christian, I cannot but demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. I got confused about the difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of the Spirit. I do not know how I can, you know, manifest the fruit of the Spirit when I do not accept biblical principles the way I understand it.
And finally, the story you gave I think is very good – your concern about poverty in Africa. We appreciate it, and especially for some parts of my continent, the decision that has been taken is painful, it is costly. But we believe, in the African philosophy, there is a difference between bitter money and sweet money. When you talk in terms of bitter money, you question the source of that money, and if the source is not acceptable it becomes bitter money. Sweet money is the money you accept. You know the source, you are happy, there are no strings attached. I know the American church has been trying to explain to us, “We are doing this out of love,” but the African is finding it extremely difficult. It is painful, it is hurting, we are suffering, but honestly we are happy because we prefer sweet money to bitter money, and that is something probably you have not heard before.
Finally, in Africa, we have our problems. There is promiscuity, and we do not sweep it under the carpet. There is corruption – we do not sweep it under the carpet. There is ethnicity that is even killing more than AIDS. We, as a church – we preach, we speak against these things. We do not condone them, and that is what we also feel as a Christian church and as a part of a family. During the meeting of the commission, we struggled with whether we shouldn’t actually remove the term “communion” and replace it with “family” because we see ourselves as a big family. And within the family, if someone is doing something that is wrong, we feel we should be able to rescue that person before we can sit down and talk. And I hope you do understand the point I am trying to make. We have our problems, but we do not say, “It’s okay, let’s be together.” We speak, we talk and we encourage people to find solutions to promiscuity, ethnicity, corruption in business and in government and the lack of transparency. Thank you.
DR. SHAH: Bishop Griswold.
BISHOP GRISWOLD: I think, Josiah, when I mentioned culture, what I meant was simply that the culture creates a context in which discussion of such things as homosexuality is easier than it would be in a culture where that kind of topic couldn’t be brought forward. I didn’t mean to suggest that it is simply on the church’s part a capitulation to the culture. And I do think we have struggled with the problematic portions of Scripture and indeed continue to do so, and there are endless commentaries that have been written from any number of points of view.
But I think one thing that has been important to me is that the biblical authors really, I don’t think, had a sense of people whose affections might fundamentally be ordered to members of the same sex. There is the presupposition that we are all naturally heterosexual, and therefore, any manifestation of same-sex affection in any physical form is a perversion of a natural heterosexuality. The root causes of homosexuality are far from clear, and I noticed that sometimes the vocabulary indicates where people stand. Some will speak about “lifestyle,” as though it’s a sort of free choice – you know, I get up today and sort of decide that I’m going to be homosexual – as opposed to the term “orientation,” which suggests something deeper-seated. And given my own pastoral experience with homosexual persons struggling with that dimension of themselves, I have certainly come to the conclusion that in many cases, it is not simply an easy self-chosen identity, but it is a profound reality that is accepted only after excruciating experiences of prayer, spiritual direction and, sometimes, psychotherapy.
And I think the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, and the fruit of the Spirit obviously is the work of the Spirit. And I suppose, again – I mean, one has to, as a priest, look at one’s own pastoral realities. For example, shortly after I was ordained, I found myself dealing with a male couple. One of the partners had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair and was lovingly attended by his partner of many, many years, and I thought, this is a marvelous manifestation of care and concern and selflessness, and I found myself asking, what is not of the gospel in what is being manifested in these people’s lives?
And certainly, your point about transformation is absolutely crucial. I mean, when anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. There is no question about that, and I think you described – I don’t think this is exactly your term, but you described the church in Nigeria as being still in a New Testament period or – you used some term to describe it as being in a Spirit phase.
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: Biblical times.
BISHOP GRISWOLD: Biblical times, yes, okay. I suppose we are always in some sense in biblical times, but I think the reality of the Episcopal Church in the United States – not that there aren’t plenty of un-churched people to be converted to Christ – but the reality is mostly people who are baptized as infants, and so their personal realization of life in Christ often is a cumulative experience rather than a moment of dramatic decision. So that is a distinction. Obviously there are exceptions to that, but transformation can be a slow-growing awareness rather than a sudden moment of in-breaking, and I have certainly seen homosexual people manifest that process of transformation, both in sudden and in cumulative ways. So this is some of what leads me to certainly respect where you are, but also to feel that I must bear witness to the grace of God at work in the lives of homosexual people.
Before we proceed further, however, since this could so easily become a discussion between the Episcopal members of this panel, I do think it’s important that we acknowledge what Dr. Martin said. And I would like to pose a question to him.
You describe classical Anglicanism as possessed of a certain – I’ll just say – graciousness of spirit, and you wonder if it can continue as you reflect on the Windsor Report. I wondered if you could just say a bit more about your thoughts there. I loved your phrase, “disagreeably explicit.” I mean, given the political discourse in the United States, “disagreeably explicit” certainly describes a great deal of what is being put forward in the presidential debates. But if you could just sort of comment on whether as a sociologist you see some hope for that graciousness of spirit. Because I think in a way, it may be the overwhelming reality of Anglicanism that the voices we tend to hear most, at least in the press, are the voices of those on the extremes, while the middle is sort of silent and sometimes baffled by what is going on at the edges.
DR. MARTIN: Well, of course, “disagreeably explicit” is a rather Anglican phrase in the first place. But what I was trying to say was that for the vast majority of Anglicans, their Anglicanism is rooted in a culture which has been affected by Anglicanism rather than one where there is a stark difference, where there is a boundary to be crossed – although it’s difficult to generalize when you think about the English Civil War and certain rather vigorous things that went on then. Nevertheless, it is one that has got, for example, the emphasis of Richard Hooker, which has always been treated as normative for Anglicanism, which is on reason and tradition and Scripture, and that certain things should be held central and other things should be treated as peripheral. And it’s this holding on to the centralities that I think distinguishes Anglicanism, and the hope is that those who hold to those centralities will manage to hold the communion together.
The problem is when what some regard as peripheral is moved to the center, and that is precisely the difference between the American church and the church in other parts of the communion. And my rather somber worries are that although it is possible to say, “We’re sorry we’ve hurt you,” it is very difficult to say sorry for a particular act because that would imply that you do think it is, in fact, sinful when you don’t. And I don’t see how that can be done. Now, if the churches of Africa and Asia insist on that, and if that becomes the fulcrum around which issues turn, then my somber anticipations may be realized. I hope they are not.
DR. SHAH: Thank you, Professor Martin. We now welcome questions from the floor. Please first identify yourself and please pose your question or comment as briefly as possible. Yes, Jim Nuzzo, Harvard Law School.
JIM NUZZO: I’m also with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. This is directed to the presiding bishop. Bishop Griswold, you rightly sort of critique the American foreign policy in Iraq as being unilateral in making decisions that were not taking into consideration the needs or actions of the rest of the world. Yet the decision of one particular diocese within the United States is then approved by the House of Bishops of one small part of the Anglican Communion. Indeed, one thinks of Archbishop Laud’s whole idea that the Anglican Communion has no theology of its own but participates in that of the greater united catholic church – it takes a look at the Roman communion and the Eastern communion. Doesn’t this seem to be extraordinarily arrogant that somehow the Ruach [Spirit] seemed to have existed within New Hampshire, but the rest of the catholic world never got it?
BISHOP GRISWOLD: I certainly agree with you that it’s highly problematic and awkward in terms of relationships with other parts of the world. I think that one distinct difference between American policy vis-à-vis Iraq and the action of the Episcopal Church is that America invaded another country rather directly – we imposed our will very directly on another country. And I think our perception within the Episcopal Church was that we were doing something within our own household, recognizing the fact that it was problematic in other places. But I will say the fact that the ordination liturgy was televised around the world and dropped into people’s living rooms and other places gave it an immediacy, which clearly was not intended at the outset, but then made a domestic event, in an even more intense way, an international event. And I think it’s very clear that we deeply regret the negative effects that has had.
On the other hand, I think that those of us who participated in the process of confirmation and ordination – and indeed we spent an hour reflecting as bishops on the negative consequences – the potential negative consequences – and an hour on what would be the positives, and asking, was this really of the Spirit? – that struggle, I think, was entered into with the best will in the world. And I cannot say that what has happened is fundamentally wrong or contrary to the Spirit or I could not have participated in that event. Sometimes, awkward things happen in the life of the Christian community that are of the Spirit but difficult to discern at the moment, such as in the Acts of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit descends on the Gentiles, and then the apostolic community has to try to figure out how this could be and what does this mean because these were the people who clearly were outside the community. So, I mean, I find myself wondering – not declaring, but wondering – in some way if an act which in many parts of the world is seen as provocative has not, in fact, been a way in which the Spirit has broadened the sense of inclusion? And in this case, that inclusion has been extended to a gay man who is bishop. I put that in the form of a question, rather than a declaration.
DR. SHAH: Josiah, do you want to say something?
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: May I add to that question? I’m glad you asked that question. This has nothing to do with the presiding bishop. I had the privilege to be at the general convention of the Episcopal Church USA, and much as I have a lot of respect for the presiding bishop, the explanation you have given – I think it’s the way you look at it, and having witnessed what happened, honestly, I have been looking for an opportunity to say what I want to say now.
It’s like an invasion because some of your colleagues – the archbishop – would not take the position you have taken. You remember when I started my sermon at the general convention, I said something like, “In my part of the world, when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.” I was really shocked at the debate – the one-hour debate – when one of your bishops got up and said, “If they catch a cold, there is Advil.” I thought that was very insensitive. I have never forgotten that, and I have heard a lot of people react because they heard it. I have had a lot of people react to that. If we are a family, I expect my uncle to think about my niece before he makes a decision.
That is one of the problems I have in spite of my relationship with the presiding bishop and his wife, and it won’t affect it – I mean, that is a personal relationship. But I feel, as a family, I believe something has really gone wrong. It is because the diocese we are talking about and the bishops that actually confirmed that election did not think of the whole family, and I think that is a point the Windsor Report is trying to make, and I think it’s almost the same as invasion.
DR. SHAH: Jane Little.
JANE LITTLE: Jane Little, BBC World Service. In a conversation yesterday, Bishop Bob Duncan, moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network, said to me that he thought there’s a new reformation happening within Anglicanism, which he indicated is as important as the Reformation that went on 400 years ago. I’m interested to know what you think of that.
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: That is for whom? It’s not for me.
BISHOP GRISWOLD: Well, I’m always interested in what Bishop Duncan says. (Laughter.) But I don’t have any clear sense that – I mean, clearly there is a tension and a struggle that I think is multi-layered as I think we have indicated here. This is not the only dimension to the issue, and some have used the word “realignment” rather than “reformation.” Something is going on, and I think the Windsor Report is an effort to – what would I say – give some boundaries to whatever is going on in the hopes that what is going on, when it finally emerges, will allow the communion to be seen as a reconciling force in the world, and not simply another instance of disintegration and division, which we see all over the place, certainly in political terms.
DR. SHAH: The gentleman in the green jacket.
MICHAEL HIRST: Michael Hirst, Tablet Newspaper. It’s a two-fold question for Presiding Bishop Griswold. Can you sign up to the vision of the Anglican Communion as suggested by the Windsor Report as it stands, that being the vision of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 which stood against the ordination of homosexuals? And secondly, do you feel that you have made sufficient expression of regret with your response to the report, and if that is not the view of the communion, what would your response be?
BISHOP GRISWOLD: I take the Windsor Report with full seriousness, as I think I have indicated in the statement I made yesterday, and I look forward to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, which meets next month, and to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, which meets in January. And in both those contexts, we corporately will reflect on what the Windsor Report calls for and begin to assimilate it and frame some kind of appropriate response.
DR. SHAH: Yes, the gentleman – no, no, just behind you. Sorry, you have been holding your hand up.
WILLIAM FITTALL: William Fittall, secretary general of Church House, Westminster, Church of England. I want to try to lure both Archbishop Idowu-Fearon and Bishop Griswold to say how optimistic they are that it will be possible to achieve consensus on the Anglican covenant proposed by the Windsor Report.
BISHOP GRISWOLD: I do believe that ours is a religion of hope, and with God, all things are possible, even when at any given moment in human history things may look completely confusing, if not impossible. And therefore, the covenant, I think, really is a journey or a pilgrimage, to use Archbishop Eames’ words in the preamble. It obviously would be a protracted journey for all provinces of the Anglican Communion to figure out what is the ground of the faith we share. And I would say, parenthetically, there is a great deal more that unites us than divides us, and I think it’s unfortunate that we only focus on points of division, when in fact there are so many things that we so deeply share. It’s possibly because we so deeply share those things that these disagreements in areas of sexuality are so difficult for us.
But I think the covenant is an idea, and I think it is a perfectly sound idea. I think within Anglicanism, historically, there has been a tension between those who want to draw clear boundaries, and those who want boundaries sort of broad and permeable, and there is probably some balance – an imperfect balance, albeit – that we are all looking for, and we’ll only find it, I think, together.
DR. SHAH: Josiah?
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: Well, I must confess that almost everybody on the Lambeth Commission bought the idea of this covenant. And I am very optimistic, and I cannot think of it taking a long time before various parts of the Anglican family will begin to take it very seriously. I am very optimistic. If we had had a covenant, I don’t think what is happening to us now would have happened.
BISHOP GRISWOLD: So then I just observed that I used the word “hope” and you used the word “optimism,” and I think that point of convergence is worth noting.
DR. SHAH: We have time for one last question. Helen Gibson?
HELEN GIBSON: Helen Gibson, Time Magazine. Do you have any idea of the timeframe of when and how the different structures of the communion will take up the recommendations of the Windsor report?
BISHOP GRISWOLD: Yesterday, the Primate Standing Committee began to shape a process, and all I can say at this point is that there will be an invitation for the various provinces to make some initial responses – and I stress initial responses – to the Windsor Report prior to the Primates’ meeting next February. It’s clearly understood that those are initial responses and that more will probably flow from the Primates’ meeting, and at some point the Anglican Consultative Council will get involved, and I believe they meet next June. So what exactly is carried from point A to point B to point C is a little bit difficult to say right now, but that much is clear as a flow, though it is not clear what moments would be determinative at this point.
DR. IDOWU-FEARON: I would just add that for the African church, there is – don’t think of the African church withdrawing from the communion – we won’t. However, we need to really pray for our communion. We must have hope. This church does not belong to the Africans. It does not belong to the Americans. It does not belong to the Europeans. This is the body of Christ, and I cannot see the Lord himself allowing his body to disintegrate. So I want to emphasize the need for prayers, for all our primates, for all our members and for all of the leaders. I think we must emphasize prayers. Thank you.
DR. SHAH: I just want to give the last word to Professor David Martin by asking him why non-Anglicans should care about this crisis. Why is it something that anybody other than those in the Anglican Church should care about? What does it say, for example, about larger issues that is interesting and important, if anything?
DR. MARTIN: Well, I think it’s one quite salient instance of a very wide range of cultural difference, and one is not actually allowed to use the phrase “clash of civilizations,” which is why I reduced it to clash of cultures. But we are, at the moment, in a global situation where there is a clash of cultures between what one has to call the South, for sake of a shorthand, and the North and West. And there is also an echoing clash within those cultures – those North and West cultures themselves. Now, those are very large political issues of which this is a particular expression.
I would also add that the Anglican Church, being both Catholic and evangelical – though as the Archbishop has said, entirely evangelical in northern Nigeria – is a church which is a kind of bellwether church in some ways. One can trace all kinds of movements occurring through it, and the fact that it’s now predominantly situated in a non-European context is highly indicative of what the future of Christianity may turn out to be.
DR. SHAH: Thank you very much. Thank you, Archbishop Fearon, thank you, Bishop Griswold, thank you, Professor Martin, and thank you, the audience, for being part of this important discussion of “Anglicanism and Global Affairs.” Thank you. (Applause.)