Friday, December 16, 2011

Oz and NZ influence on the PNG Anglican church waste of time?

For years the Australian and New Zealand Anglican churches have supported the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea. We have sent priests, missionaries, theologians, Bible translators. You might think we would have taught them a thing or two. Take the Covenant. The Australian influence should have led to a deep ambivalence about the Covenant. Ditto, we might wonder also, the C of E SPG influence. The Kiwi influence should have led to an outright rejection of the Covenant. What is it about our theological presuppositions which have not translated well?

But no. Waste of time. The PNG Anglican church has agreed to the Covenant. How could they? Indeed, how dare they get to agree to the Covenant before either "big bro" church has sorted itself out and made its own decision in order to lead the churches of the South Pacific. Now our church could be in the embarrassing position of  falling out of step with a local sibling.

What should we do? Can the situation be redeemed?

Well, we could humbly learn from the theological rationale given by the Primate of the PNG Anglican church:

"“Anglican” was one of the styles of Christianity brought to this land and people near the end of the nineteenth century”, he wrote. “It never pretended to be the only form of Christianity, but it did reflect how one part of the Christian family had developed, built on the importance of scripture, creeds, sacraments and episcopal order. Today we try to combine our Anglo-Catholic theological heritage and personal discipleship to the Lord Jesus in the way we witness to the five marks of mission with our ecumenical partners in PNG and our Anglican partners overseas.

“Communion”, in our understanding, describes a particular kind of close relationship which both ensures autonomy and requires responsibility. It is an expression of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and as such is a precious gift to God’s people. It clearly requires mutual respect, open communication and patience in dealing with issues that threaten it. In recent decades we have been saddened by the apparent lack of these things in the controversies concerning the ordination of women and issues of human sexuality.”

He went on to say that the bishops felt it was important to remember the need to pray for unity beyond just the Anglican Christian tradition. “Anglicans are only part of the wider Christian “communion” that is the Church of God, which must have an important role in discerning the truth. Anglicans, we believe, have been called to live a particular style of Christian witness which, because it is less juridical and confessional than that of some others, clearly requires a high level of mutual concern and respect."
Good theology. Go PNG!

(H/T Taonga).


Father Ron Smith said...

The history of the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia is rather different from that in the Island Nations of the Pacific. Because of their isolation they have kept up a special dependent relationship with the Church of England that is not the same as with N.Z., Australia, or the other Island nations in our area.

Consequently, the English Church is much more seen to be an empowering entity for the missionary activity that is still going on in those two Provinces of the Anglican Communion

In a way, like the influence of the colonialists, the influence of the Church of England seems to be more important to both PNG and Melanesia

Therefore, in their relative isolation, and their lively connection with 'Mother Church', it should not be too surprising that
PNG has made this decision, to go along with the ABC. It would not be too surpising, either, if Melanesia made the same decision.

The point really is that it is their decision, and no-one else's. Which is how it should be.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
As Fr Ron states (watch out I'm going to agree with him for once!), Australia's influence on the PNG Anglican church is quite minimal. The Anglican Board of Missions undertakes development projects there, but in the Anglican church there are very few boots on the ground. Because it has a more Anglo-Catholic tradition, CMS and other evangelical groups have not sent many people there. There are probably more American Christian workers (MAF, WBT/SIL) in PNG working with Bible translation, aviation, radio, etc than there are Australians, despite the proximity.
I can understand and appreciate their desire to maintain strong links with the rest of the Communion, and to maintain autonomy and responsibility in our relationships. I respectfully disagree with them that we can make a covenant with member churches that are propagating a false gospel within the Communion, and have yet to repent of it. We have to excise the cancer before we begin rehabilitation.