Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nigerian Cat Among Liberal Anglican Pigeons? Conservative birds with ruffled feathers?

Archbishop Welby is possibly going to be written up by future historians as the smartest streetwise ABC ever. [OK, I'll walk that back slightly: first equal with Cranmer -:) ].


Because he will not give up on holding the Anglican Communion together on his watch and is showing signs of adroit, nuanced, brainy decision making in order to achieve his aim.


Because the newly appointed General Secretary of the Anglican Communion is the best placed person in the whole wide Communion to keep the conservatives on board.

Note to readers: there are more conservative Anglicans than progressive Anglicans in the Communion so if we have pretensions to globality then the Communion needs more rather than less conservatives in key positions.


Where is Anglicanism centred these days? Africa. CHECK.

Which is the most populous Anglican province? Nigeria. CHECK

A Nigerian bishop if we can secure one would have some needed mana. CHECK.

Someone with familiarity with the Anglophile Anglican world. CHECK.

Bonus: educated in Durham like your friendly correspondent here. CHECK. CHECK. -:)

Bona fides in the great issue of our age. (Sorry folks, it's not homosexuality. Starts with I and ends with m). CHECK.

Keen on reconciliation like the ABC. CHECK.

Already has a relationship with the ABC, e.g. having preached at his consecration as a bishop. CHECK.

Name: Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon.

You can read news and reaction (e.g. in comments) at Thinking Anglicans, MidWest Conservative, Episcopal Cafe, Kiwianglo, and Stand Firm.

Now any appointment of this nature that has commenters at BOTH Episcopal Cafe/Thinking Anglicans AND Stand Firm deeply, deeply concerned at how bad this appointment is must be ... a particularly cunning one!

Go ++Justin.

PS I do wonder about the blather in the official announcement that the ABC only gets to veto the appointment at the end of the process. Ever heard of coffee? Cups thereof? The ABC dropping into the ACC offices? Quiet conversations sotto voce? With questions like 'So, just hypothetically speaking, Your Nibs, but supposing it were your choice, then who, just as an exercise in abstract thinking, who would you consider to be a suitable candidate for the post?' This is the Anglican church we are talking about :). I would be quite surprised if there was neither informal consultation with the ABC nor second-guessing by the appointment committee as to who would fit well with the ABC's goals for the Communion as well as who would relate well to the ABC.

PPS One of the most interesting things I note about +Josiah's past is that he was once an 'Archbishop' and got demoted by one ++Peter Akinola to 'Bishop.'


Father Ron Smith said...

I do think you are correect, Peter, about the ABC astuteness, in the appointment of Nigerian Bishop Josiah as thre new Secretary General of the world-wide anglican Communion.

Seemingly counter to the Church of England's decisive, but unexpected, rejection of the Anglican Covenant; Archbishop Justin Welby is still determined to keep the GAFCON Provinces on board in the Communion - despite their rejection of the 'Instruments of Communion', such as Lambeth and the Communion Primates' Meeting.

No doubt, he is hoping that this new posting - of A Nigerian (GAFCON) Bishop as S.G. of the Communion - will bring GAFCON back into the fold. However, that would still leave some Western Provinces (TEC and the A.C. of Canada - and maybe the C. of E., now that AMiE is a challenge in their local backyard as 'persona non grata' with GAFCON.

Your emphasis on numerical strength of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Peter, does not make them any more 'Christian' than the rest of the Church of the A.C. In fact, if their inherent homophobia is at all indicative of their brand of Anglicanism, it is something I don't wish to be associated with, and would want to retain my membership of ACANZP, as being a more Inclusive Church - not necessarily connected umbilically with the AC of Nigeria - or any other GAFCON Church. your ot quoted 'Live and Let Live' prescription for Anglican Unity would then be better pursued through a federation relationship rather than a papal-style world Church - led from the GAFCON Provinces, with FOCA focus.

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, it's not homosexuality. Starts with I and ends with m


Jean said...

Yes, although the accusations reign - most christian of everyone; from inferences to paying lip service to conservatives to appease them and co-opt them back in; to accusations for appointing someone whose strong on reconciliation to appease liberals and not loose the money of the TEC and Canada -

Me thinks they protest to much.

Thank goodness his commission is to please God and not man. Even Jesus never attempted that for He knew what was in the heart of man,

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

I had the pleasure of hearing Bishop Josiah speak at a CMS conference a number of years ago. My previous vicar in Melbourne spoke at the Kaduna diocesan clergy conference twice.
I would suggest that this is not just a canny appointment, but an excellent appointment.
Bishop Josiah loves the Lord Jesus, knows how to live and teach the Gospel amidst persectution, and is committed to growing the church rather than managing its decline.
He has had differences of opinions with other Nigerian bishops, especially about Communion matters, which I believe led to his demotion from Archbishop to Bishop. Differences of opinion on matters of strategy do not make somebody a revisionist, which some conservative blogs would do well to note. Everyone in the Communion can rejoice at this appointment and I look forward to his ministry among us.

Father Ron Smith said...

Jesus said: "By their fruits you will know them"

A Blessed Easter everyone!
Christ has risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith said...

Sadly, the inflammatory statement made by Bishop Josiah in 2004, that was widely reported - and especially in the U.K. Roman Catholic Newspaper, the Tablet, has never been recanted by Bishop Josiah. His then Archbishop, Akinola, was also quoted in the same article, comparing homosexuals with 'animals', in language that is hardly conducive to a rational understanding of the phenomenon of homosexuality.

I'm afraid that, until the new Secretary-General of the A.C. is cleared of prejudice against homosexuals, he will have scant respect in the eyes of a significant minority of homosexual Christians who love their Lord, but question the charity of His Church hierarchy.

In his own statement of reply to critics of his anti-gay stance, Bishop Josiah blames the early missionaries (CMS?) for the instillation of homophobia in the local people. He then questions how Nigerian Christians can be expected to cope with a 'change of direction' in attitudes towards gay people.

What the good Bishop fails to understand is that the Western Church has had to repent of its former sin of homophobia; while some the former colonial Churches have not been open to any reform of its out-dated attitudes.
A notable exception on the African Continent has been the Anglican Province of South Africa, missionized by a more catholic entity - SPG - the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (now, together with UMCA, renamed USPG', the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel).

The Holy Spirit continues to open up Christ's Church to the reality of the human condition - sexuality included!

Christ is risen, Alleluia.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith said...

One fairly key question about Bishop Josiah: will he, as the new Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, be present at the upcoming GAFCON Primates meeting in London in a few days time?

His presence there, together with the Primates, who have now expressed their solidarity with the so-called 'Anglican Mission in England (AMiE - a GAFCON plant in the U.K.) would certainly send some strange signals to the non-GAFCON Provinces of the Communion.

Would it, perhaps, imply that - with the encouragement of the C. of E. 's Archbishops Welby and Sentamu - the return of GAFCON to the Instruments of Communion; Lambeth and the AC Primates' Conference?

This, again, could be tricky, simply because GAFCON has its own 'Primates' Conference', exclusive to themselves!

What interesting time we are living in!

Kurt said...

I'm willing to give the Most Rev. Dr. Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon the benefit of the doubt--for now.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, the good Bishop Josiah was once demoted - from Archbishop to Bishop - by former Provincial Archbishop Akinola, so there must be some good in him. P.T.L!

There is hope for all of us - in the loving provenance of our Eternal God.
Christos anesti! Alethos anesti! Alleluia

MichaelA said...

Hi Kurt, I don't think you have to worry. Bishop Idowa-Fearon will do what he has been doing for many years - tell the western Anglicans what they want to hear in the west, and tell the Nigerian Anglicans what they want to hear in Africa. So everyone will be happy. :)

MichaelA said...

A recording and transcription of the good bishop's remarks at the Toronto conference in 2013 is now available. See

It seems to me that those who label him either "conservative" or "liberal" may be missing the main point. His primary motivation is as a centralist, i.e. one who wants to see a greater concentration of super-provincial power under the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference. For example:

"What are my proposals? I believe we have to ask ourselves: should the Lambeth Conference continue to be for talk and consultation and not for decision, or exercise authority on behalf of the whole Communion?"

Read in context, it is clear that he is advocating the latter proposition, i.e. that the Lambeth Conference should "exercise authority on behalf of the whole Communion".

He has some suggestions for change to the make-up of the ACC and the Primates Meeting, but the thread running through all of these things is greater power to the ABC:

"The ACC needs to come directly under the oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He already chairs the meetings. The General Secretary should be responsible to the ABC, and not to present himself or herself as the executive running the entire Communion, that’s how we see it now."

[Actually, I am not sure that anyone does see the GS as "the executive running the entire Communion" now, but let's leave that issue to one side for the moment.]

He also advocates some changes to the Primates meeting, but the main point is that anything they say must go to the ACC which is to act as a "clearing house", i.e. vetting everything, and since the ACC in turn is to be directly controlled by the ABC, it shouldn't make much difference anyway.

If his proposals had been in place in 1998, then Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality would have become law throughout the Anglican Communion. Some would see that as an excellent development, others would view it with horror, and probably many others be ambivalent. But my impression is, in a sense, that he doesn't care. He just wants control to be centralised so that the Lambeth Conference "exercises authority on behalf of the whole Communion", under the guidance of the ABC. I note that some people on Thinking Anglicans have drawn a comparison something like this:

ABC ~ Pope
ACO ~ Curia
Lambeth Conference ~ General Council of Bishops of the Catholic Church

That's probably not too far off what he envisages. Some will see this as a good thing, some won't.

Achieving it is another matter entirely!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
I will accept your comment above because it contains an arguable proposition within it.
But it verges on the inappropriate as an ad hominem against the bishop.
I warn other commenters here to think before they follow up Michael's comment because anything going beyond his comment re negativity towards the bishop will not be published.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Peter, but I don't see the 'verging on the inappropriate as an ad hominem' AT ALL. Perhaps we read it differently.

Rosemary Behan

Peter Carrell said...

(For clarity, my 11.02 am comment refers to Michael's 10.31 am comment and not to his 10.53 am comment).

Hi Rosemary,
If we are talking about my 11.02 reply to Michael's 10.31 then my concern is that alleging that someone says one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience is, without evidence, a potential slur on that person's reputation as a person of integrity and consistency.
My wider reading around the internet suggests that there is evidence from which one could argue Michael's point, though it would be a complex argument because one would need to take account of chronology, whether a change of mind has occurred and so forth.

I have no problem with Michael's 10.53 am comment. Indeed it conveys a very interesting vision for the Communion, the more so now that +Josiah is in the GS position.

Anonymous said...

Culpa Mea .. sorry Peter.

Rosemary Behan

Anonymous said...

oops .. it should be mea culpa shouldn't it? Sigh, shouldn't try and sound so highbrow!!!!

Peter Carrell said...

No prob, Rosemary!
Keep the Latin tags flowing ... they are becoming extinct as a new generation grows up 'knowing not Latin'!

MichaelA said...

"Culpa mea" is acceptable.

I have only small latin, but I understand it conveys a different emphasis, e.g. "It is the FAULT that is mine".

So the classic illustration of Latin emphasis:

Brutus Luciam amat - Brutus loves Lucia.

Luciam Brutus amat - It is *Lucia* that Brutus loves.


Bryden Black said...

Back to the main theme of the thread and especially now this address in Toronto 2013.

Yes; MichaelA is correct: we have a centralist - in many senses of that word. My only real concern with his vision and his means of trying to implement it is this. I have to ask a basic question: what are the premises, the theological and moral premises that produce either Conservatives or Liberals (of the 70% variety as outlined by Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon)?

Now; it seems to me one way of answering this question is to invoke the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Scripture + Tradition + Reason + Experience. And then, the next move is to point out that Hooker’s use of Reason is more akin to that of Aquinas than any Liberal’s today; and any Conservative’s use of Scripture is more akin to the Magisterial Reformers, and Liberals’ use essentially still derived more from the 19th C’s vision of the search for the historical Jesus. And lastly, to note that for many a Liberal “experience” is the primary lense through which they approach the other three - and moreover, a form of experience’s whose understanding is decidedly post Kantian (given there is never any such a thing as naked-human-experience; we are all followers of Wittgenstein at this point).

If there is any cogency in this all too brief analysis, then the AC is frankly doomed. Strong words? Well; how will any “debate” (of the kind this Bishop seeks via the Primates’ Meetings and then the ACC) ever get resolved, if the premises of the two main protagonists express philosophical and methodological views which are so very far apart ...?! Just asking ...

Peter Carrell said...

But, Bryden, in what way is the chasm between X and Y, according to your analysis, greater than the chasm between opposing theologies throughout church history? And with special reference to those 'opposing theologies' that the church has nevertheless held together in one body?

Bryden Black said...

What a great and most important question, Peter. But it’s in the way you yourself frame the issue that lies the key.

Are X & Y “opposing” or “divergent”? That’s the first question. Then essentially thereafter, can the Christian Faith truly accommodate opposing views or only those that are divergent, and then to what degree?

E.g. Anglican theology and practice seems to accommodate a number of divergent Eucharistic views with reasonable equanimity. You yourself have set up a table of seemingly contrasting things: Just War vs. pacifism; Remarriage of divorcees vs. indissolubility; et al.

My real concern is that we have reached a juncture in western culture where divergent parties’ root paradigms are incommensurate, being truly opposed. For at root they have to do with anthropology: who do you say you are? Are we human creatures made in the image and likeness of God? Or are we autonomous self-positing personal subjects? And the difficulty of course is that the latter, historically, culturally, is utterly dependent upon the former; but is better viewed from the perspective of hindsight as a bastard step-child ...

Of course, many a western Christian tries to have a bob each way - but mostly they are unaware of the (potential) chasm within their very being, as they try to do so. A crux example: what do we make of the resurrection? How do we view it or render it? Do we ‘reinterpret’ it to render the resurrection of Jesus, not in space-time terms as the transformation of the physical body of Jesus, with the empty tomb as “the sign” (Karl Barth) precisely of that transformative resurrection, but, throwing it back upon ourselves, as humans who now “socially construct” their ‘world’, as the ‘resurrection’ of the disciples’ ‘faith’, some time after Jesus’ death ...

Just so, our human sexuality, our gendered condition: is that something that is “socially constructed” - any which way therefore - or is it something that may indeed be socially mediated (the difference between “constructed” and “mediated” is, literally, a world of difference) but is also rooted in a non-dualist way in our very bodies? And furthermore, given that we are talking about human bodies in space-time, who also inhabit social worlds, we are necessarily dealing with procreation and things like patrimony.

It’s in the sheer selectivity of our subject matter and our viewing it/them from both divergent and opposing stances that the western church has got itself into an unholy muddle, one where there appears to be no way out so entangled have we become. What we need is a Puddleglum, who bravely stamps the fire out, to stop the swooning effect of the enchantment. But that will hurt ... Nor do I think that our dear bishop Josiah is that man, to rescue us from the Underworld to bring us into the full sunlight. [All of which presupposes readers have read CS Lewis’s The Silver Chair.]

What is required Peter is that Christians, all Christians of whatever culture, truly baptise their anthropology into the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus, God’s Messiah, who has begun the recreation of the world through his singular redemption. Just so, Rom 12:1-2 again!

Father Ron Smith said...

"My real concern is that we have reached a juncture in western culture where divergent parties’ root paradigms are incommensurate, being truly opposed" - BB

Because you, Bryden, have reached this particular point in your own view, does not mean it is the only possibility. There are plenty of professional theologians within the Anglican Communion who dispute your version of whether the 'root paradigms' are so very divergent - in ways that deny the authenticity of the phenomenon of homosexuality.

The fact that practising theological teachers in ACANZP seem to think differently from you on this issue should make you stop and think whether you have the right answers. Having been, yourself, brought up on the African Continent could possibly have made you more amenable to the GAFCON way of thinking. That would not be too surprising, surely?

I was born and brought up in England - a rather less conservative milieu than Africa, and that has influenced my own thinking. I think differently from you.

Bryden Black said...

Two things Ron:
1. I was not brought up in Africa but educated in England with one leg in each continent!
2. As a result I can examine both cultural paradigms with a certain equanimity. And find many a westerner enmeshed in ways that dilute Christian Revelation to the point of Eclipsing (Martin Buber) it completely.

Bryden Black said...

3. [back at my desktop; mobile devices spring such surprises!] If it were (as you seem to be suggesting Ron) a matter of culture only, then I doubt the Nicene Creed would have ever been written. Just so, Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth–Century Trinitarian Theology, and TF Torrance, whose entire oeuvre is increasingly being regarded as one of the finest in the 20th C English speaking world. [Sure; TFT made the sinful mistake of being born in China ...!] No Ron; all cultures need to be sifted by the Revelation of the Gospel of Jesus. And it is the singular failure of late modern/postmodern forms of western Christianity that history will judge and find wanting - as was Hellenistic culture in the 4th C.

Father Ron Smith said...

I still think differently from you, Bryden. But maybe that it the result of my more liberal upbringing, which has been formed in a less conservatively 'Sola-Scriptura' milieu than that of your good self.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Anglo-Catholic, who was greatly influenced by the Charismatic renewal in New Zealand, and now, as an octogenarian preparing for paradise; I have absorbed the Gospel-oriented need to propagate the great love of God - rather than any claim to human righteousness - I have abdicated any need to judge others more fiercely than I judge myself. I am therefore more inclined to forgiveness than condemnation on any ground of the human capacity for self-righteousness.

Bryden Black said...

An open letter to your dear self Ron.

I dare to suggest that much of your latest comment is actually beside the point. Not that what you actually say is irrelevant to the Christian Faith itself - far from it! Au contraire; what is however germane to the situation the Good Bishop Josiah seeks to address is the immense likelihood of the sheer impossibility of squaring the circle. For if one appreciates at all the essential premises and their natural implications of the respective parties, then the twain simply cannot meet. This is not just a difference of opinion; yours or mine. Rather, it is a case of sheer philosophical actuality and logic. Squares are squares and circles are circles. No matter what you or I fancy, Euclid Rules!

The parallel with fourth century Hellenistic culture is deadly serious. For it may very will still come to pass that we shall wake up and groan to find ourselves the equivalent to being Arian - to recall Jerome!

Father Ron Smith said...

To B.B; No Comment! Apart from the fact that I cannot understand your fear of progression in the Gospel tendency to propagate love rather than fear.

Bryden Black said...

Your last comment allows me too to sign off on this thread Ron.

Neither love nor fear motivates me; rather, it is the holiness of God - such that the goodness, truth and beauty that radiate from such holiness would be gloriously restored in those creatures made in the divine image. Ciao for now!