Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Anglican schismatics should pay attention to Ukraine

I have been doing a bit of reading up about Ukraine. What an awful history the present region enscribed by internationally agreed boundaries as Ukraine has had. The western region particularly has known various imperial masters through the centuries, most recently under Polish control before WW2. Stalin drove the Crimean Tatars out of Crimea but reports say they have been returning to Crimea more recently, with fervent loyalty to Ukraine (especially anti-Russia Ukraine) and hatred for Russia. Yet clearly many Russians in Crimea are the pretext for Putin's takeover of Crimea (which is some kind of 'South Florida' for freezing Russians from more northerly latitudes). So the region is full of antagonisms from the past and present shifting tribal or nationalist loyalties. As an outsider watching a country overthrow a democratically elected but corrupt leader and being set upon by a despot from a traditional imperial overlord, it is difficult to work out where the best interests of Ukraine in respect of governance lie if it is to be a united rather than a divided country.

Not dissimilar thoughts attend the Anglican Communion these days. To ask, "Where do its best interests in respect of governance lie if it is to be united rather than divided?" seems only to have a complicated answer. The complications lie with the tribal (and sometimes nationalist) loyalties of differing groups within the Communion.

Yet any Anglicans thinking schismatic thoughts might be advised to pay attention to Ukraine. It seems that some protesters in the Maidan in Kiev now realise they were naive. What they thought was an open and shut case of protest against legitimate-now-gone-bad rulers, with optimistic thoughts about replacing the government, has now become a murky situation in which the power of Russia over the dislodged government has become more dangerous rather than less. Is it possible that any Anglican schism in today's Communion looks an open-and-shut case to those contemplating it, but the reality will prove more difficult?

There are several scenarios to consider. What happens, for instance, if a parish or diocese attempts to breakaway from the body above them but then finds that within that parish or diocese are Anglicans loyal to the body above them and not to the breaking away entity?

But the particular concern I want to highlight in this post is that on the GAFCON if not Global South side of the Communion there are some 'interesting' ideas (to put it mildly) which beg questions about whether all conservative Anglicans wish to be in the same conservative boat. Recently we have seen the Nigerian and Ugandan Anglican churches taking stances on respective legislation in their countries concerning homosexuality which I assess as being - at best - ambiguous about the draconian nature of the laws. (At worst, it would appear that some Anglicans in public statements have been enthusiastic supporters). Now we find the Nigerian Anglican church may be making moves towards requiring office-holders swearing an oath that they are either not homosexuals or are former homosexuals. (I say 'may be' because it is not clear from this story whether this is a move confined to one parish or not).

Conservative as I am, I do not want to be in the same boat as Nigeria and Uganda Anglicans as they sail in the particular direction they are taking re homosexuality. Respectful understanding of their dilemmas re their local situation and how they are handling it is one thing, pledging undying tribal loyalty to this particular form of Anglican conservatism is another thing.

These are not the only issues for conservative Anglicans to ponder. Some of us support the possibility of women being bishops, some do not. Some of us are crazy about using prayer books and some are prayer book averse. In these very columns we have had commitment to one or other form of creationism while others are recognising of evolution as a fact of life. (Lest anyone think such theological division is a small thing, I once lived in a parish with a creationist vicar - it is not the easiest of theologies to live with when one is trying to be in unity and harmony with other Anglicans).

It is possible to then warn against schism by prognosticating about further schism then taking place as the schismatic group finds it is only united on the reason for the first schism. Such warning should not be discounted. But my greater concern is that Anglicans focus attention on what makes preaching the gospel possible in our local contexts (cf. my post on Monday this week).

I do not see, for instance, that public aligning of Kiwi Anglican conservatives with Ugandan and Nigerian Anglicans at this time is a better alignment for the sake of the gospel in NZ than remaining aligned with our church, messy as it is in the complexities of our current dilemmas.

Surely Ukraine would have been better off finding a way to live with its many tensions than ending up in the place it is now in?

PS Speaking about Ukraine, it appears NZ is punching above its weight with Putin ... !

PPS A serious and sober article about varying 'Orthodox' responses to Putinesque Russian nationalism is here.

12 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I am not sure your analogy works. To be a great power, Russia must maintain control of Ukraine. This is the very definition of a Russian vital interest. Russia would go to war over it. And therein lies the problem. There isn't any chance of Ukraine being pulled into Europe so long as Russia has the power to prevent it. Quite frankly, there isn't any foreign power willing to fight over Ukraine. And NATO membership is a fantasy. The idea of pushing NATOs border that far east is (shall we say) provocative. The Ukrainians may want it, but they aren't going to get it.

So what you have in Ukraine is a separation that can't happen. Not like the AC at all.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

All analogies are limited, Carl :)

underground pewster said...

I wonder if the Diocese of South Carolina's idea of separation without immediate realignment might be the safest route in times like these.

Caleb said...

It's interesting how a lot of 'traditionalists' on gender/sexuality play up the need to be counter-cultural in resisting the movements towards recognising LGBTI interests in the West ... and many of them also extol the virtues of Majority World Christians who agree with them on this matter. But Nigeria and Uganda show that in the Majority World, these 'traditionalist' stances are anything but counter-cultural, instead often reinforcing the dominant oppressive scapegoating tendencies of their societies!

Father Ron said...

Thank you, Peter, for this observation you have made here:

"I do not see, for instance, that public aligning of Kiwi Anglican conservatives with Ugandan and Nigerian Anglicans at this time is a better alignment for the sake of the gospel in NZ than remaining aligned with our church, messy as it is in the complexities of our current dilemmas."
- Peter Carrell.

I would endorse that statement.

I think Caleb is right when he says that the Church being 'counter-cultural' does not seem to apply to the Gafcon Provinces, where the Church has backed the local culture. There are inevitable reasons why the 'local culture' differs in different parts of the world. We, in ACANZP, do not live in the Gafcon world.

In times past, the Church's mission has called for a 'counter-Church-cultural' stance - on outdated policies that simply do not fit with the modern world understanding of social justice. We are all aware of the need to overcome rooted Church allegiance to slavery, misogyny and, more recently, anti-contraception rules - all of which have been seen to diminish the humanity of those involved. Cultural needs do change. The Church must always re-assess its relevance to the world it is meant to help redeem.

Kurt said...

Well said, Caleb!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Andrew W said...

For the sake of argument, let's grant two premises:

- Nigerian and Ugandan elites believe that homosexual activity is harmful to both society and individuals. (this position is certainly not without evidence)

- Nigerian and Ugandan elites believe this has become a pressing issue primarily because of increased lobbying and pressure from Western elites. (I've seen this claim made in several places - I don't know whether it is true or not)

Given this, Is it appropriate for them to legislate to defend their people and culture? By what standards should we call them to account? Is the ability to stick one's penis in someone else's anus (or, lesser, to pash another man) a universal human right, such that the forcible denial of such is a fundamental abuse? Can one function as a healthy human being without the ability to do this, or to at least suggest that you want to? What is a reasonable level of discipline for breaching social norms in this manner?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters
This one time I am going to let Andrew's graphic language about sexual acts stand but do not take this as a precedent to reuse such language.

Andrew
The issue I think most Anglicans outside of Uganda and Nigeria are concerned with is not the fact of legislation about homosexual sexual activities per se (after all many of us are in countries where in living memory we had legislation that criminalised such actions), rather it is the draconian nature of the punishments envisaged and also the way in which the legislation seems to make even being a celibate (but open) homosexual a dangerous state to be in.

Kurt said...

I hate to be the one to tell you this at your age, Andrew W., but more than a few heterosexual couples also engage in those sex acts that you find objectionable. And many gay people do not.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Your comment below is fair comment for the first two thirds and then descends in a morass of speculative ad hominem. Do not speculate on people's motives, inner journeys, hidden attitudes: our Lord said something about that, Judge not, lest ye be judged!

"Well, Kurt, I guess some of those who criticise Gay people simply have no idea of how they live their lives All the critics seem to think of is Sex, Sex, Sex; with no regard for love and affection outside of that activity. (David and Jonathan come to mind here).

And all the time, many Straight people are acting no differently from the people they vilify. It just does not make sense. I guess the macho mindset won't change.

[omitted speculative ad hominem comment]
"

MichaelA said...

"Conservative as I am, I do not want to be in the same boat as Nigeria and Uganda Anglicans as they sail in the particular direction they are taking re homosexuality."

That won't be a problem. If by "the same boat" you mean the official Anglican Communion, then you are in it and so are Uganda and Nigeria. There is nothing you can do about that. ... ;)

And if by "the same boat" you mean Gafcon and the Global South, then you aren't in either organisation, whereas Uganda and Nigeria are. You don't have a choice about the GS - membership is not open to you. As for Gafcon/FCA, you can become a member if you wish but nobody is forcing you to do so.

MichaelA said...

"Yet any Anglicans thinking schismatic thoughts might be advised to pay attention to Ukraine. It seems that some protesters in the Maidan in Kiev now realise they were naive. What they thought was an open and shut case of protest against legitimate-now-gone-bad rulers, with optimistic thoughts about replacing the government, has now become a murky situation in which the power of Russia over the dislodged government has become more dangerous rather than less."

Peter, I suggest you are misreading the linked article.

The protester does not say that she now realizes that she was naive about whether the results of the protest would be clear or murky. Rather, she says that she was naive to believe that the Russian-backed government would be reasonable and act in the Ukraine's own interest - but there is no indication that she thinks that they were wrong to protest, or that she is giving up the fight:

"The day the Ukrainian government decided to stop the agreement with the EU, I almost cried in disbelief. The government had finally shown its true face. We were so naive and optimistic that we actually believed they wouldn’t. Then the situation suddenly changed. It was not about Europe anymore, but about stopping the violence against peaceful protesters, ensuring justice and demanding the resignation of the criminal government and its president.

Yesterday I took part in a mass demonstration in Kiev to support the unity of Ukraine, the people in Crimea, and to protest against Russian military intervention on the territory of sovereign Ukraine. ..."

Now, if you want to use this as an analogy for the Anglican Communion situation, sure, go ahead. But what it then tells you is that protesters aren't going to give up just because things get difficult.