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IDENTIFYING OUR POTENTIALFOR EFFECTIVE WOMEN MINISTRY

IDENTIFYING OUR POTENTIALFOR EFFECTIVE WOMEN MINISTRY

A PAPER READ AT THE CLERGYWOMEN’S CONFERENCE HELD AT UGANDA CHRISTIAN FROM JAN. 2 – 5, 2011

Prof. Christopher Byaruhanga

Uganda Christian University

cbyaruhanga@ucu.ac.ug

Abstract

Clergy women continue to have difficulties, even when they are within institutional structures that ought to offer them opportunities for effective ministry and advancement. Clergywomen in the Church of the Province of Uganda do not see the ordained ministry as “just another job.” Rather they seek ordination because they have a sense of call and a conviction that God has a plan for their lives. They accept their ministry as a gift from God, believing that God and the Church of the Province of Uganda have called them to serve. For clergywomen this divine dimension to their profession is extremely important. It sustains them in the face of difficulties and discrimination. 

Introduction

This clergywomen’s conference is very important for several reasons but the most important one is that it is being attended by women who sensed a call to ministry and pursued that call in the usual ways. Secondly, each one of you has lived your own versions of this call. The Church of the Provinceof Ugandahas given equal access for men and women to ministry. The last 40 years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of women entering the ministry in the Church of the Provinceof Uganda. A new dawning for the church is heralded by the appreciation in the numbers of women entering the ordained ministry.[1] As more clergywomen arrived on the scene, the fervor of women and the fever of the situation dissipated. However, some people began to raise questions about women’s place in church, home and society. As traditionally accepted modes of ministering are being expanded and reshaped out of women’s experiences and history, what may initially appear to be radically threatening changes, can be seen as signs of the resurrection. Changes are being made and the atmosphere is different. The new twist of clergywomen occupying spaces, places, and roles traditionally gendered male exposes new ways of thinking about clergywomen’s potential for effective ministry.                                                                              

Situating the Clergywoman in the Church of the Province of Uganda

One of the biggest challenges facing the Church of theProvinceofUgandais the changing role of the clergy. Over the years the role of a clergy has been viewed in terms of power rather than servant-hood. Consequently, there has been a tendency for the clergy to glory in their image as authority figures who have a prestigious job. Clergywomen in the Church of theProvinceofUgandado not see the ordained ministry as “just another job.” Rather they seek ordination because they have a sense of call and a conviction that God has a plan for their lives. They accept church ministry as a gift from God, believing that God and the Church of theProvinceofUgandahave called them to serve. For clergywomen this divine dimension to their profession is extremely important because it sustains them in the face of difficulties and discrimination. It informs their understanding of ministry and the world.

Clergywomen’s leadership style

The most publicly visible changes that clergywomen bring to the ministry in the Church of theProvinceofUgandaare in the area of leadership style. But even then clergywomen have not been paralleled with increasing numbers of researches on their potential for effective ministry in the church.  Kevin Lowe and William Gardner say:

Though research on females as leaders has been increasing, the topic remains understudied. Whether this results from uneven interest in male and female leadership or subtle pressure to take the politically correct view that gender does not matter is unclear… We believe the topic has both theoretical and practical utility.[2]

Even at the international level, a very small number of researches address women’s potential for effective leadership ministry in the church. But what is leadership? According to Joseph C, Rost, leadership is “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect mutual purposes.”[3] What Rost is saying is that “both leaders and followers form one relationship that is leadership.”[4] Rost’s view of leadership forms a current popular understanding that leadership is a relationship that transforms individuals and organizations.

In the light of this conference’s theme: Realizing our potentials as women: what is that in your hands? the pertinent questions are: “how do clergywomen in the Church of theProvince ofUganda perceive the meaning of leadership? What leadership behaviors do clergywomen most frequently demonstrate in their ministry in the Church of theProvince ofUganda? How has their history as clergywomen contributed to their leadership development? Do clergywomen in the Church of theProvince ofUganda demonstrate behaviors that are any different from those of their male counterparts? An important aspect of the clergywomen’s ministry involves the ways in which they define leadership in terms of effectiveness and how, based on that definition, they evaluate themselves as clergywomen. In general the clergywomen’s definition of effectiveness seems to cluster around three major ideas: effectiveness as the ability to enable those they minister to pursue a vision, effectiveness as empowering others, and the clergywoman minister as an individual female who gets things done.

Women who have responded to God’s call to the ordained ministry in the Church of theProvinceofUgandabring a wealth of experience in their Christian understanding of people’s relationship to God and neighbor from the margins. This experience of understanding God and neighbor from the margins has informed their leadership style for effective ministry in the church which is a departure from tradition. Clergywomen separate leadership from positional authority in the church. They are not leaders simply because they hold a position identified as a leadership position. Rather their view of leadership focuses heavily on interacting with people. Two phrases that characterize this particular departure from tradition are ‘‘shared involvement’’ and “mutual pilgrimage.” Because clergywomen themselves have had to struggle to arrive at the ordained ministry, they often bring a heightened awareness of the dehumanizing experience of being “shut out.”

In their leadership style, clergywomen usually draw from their own pilgrimage lessons of wisdom that invite and enable other women to affirm and value their own uniqueness, gifts and resources for effective ministry. In the process they model a style of leadership that acknowledges the pain of ignored talents. In their search for effective ministry clergywomen are constantly reminded to be more open to exploring leadership styles that are less hierarchical and more fluid than those of the majority of their male colleagues, who are usually admitted to the system as a matter of fact, expectation and privilege. In their leadership style, clergywomen unapologetically challenge the traditional disparity between leader and follower, powerful and powerless. In the process, the concept of a shared ministry between clergy and laity is tested and embraced as women enter positions of clergy leadership in the Church of the Provinceof Uganda.

Barriers and challenges to effective clergywomen ministry

Clergywomen’s ministry is not only a big responsibility with major challenges but is also a unique subset of all ministries in the Church of theProvinceofUganda. Their role in society and in the church is clearly distinguished from that of other women leaders in society. Clergywomen have something extra that touches even their intimate relationship with God. People expect more from clergywomen as if “they are not human.” For instance they are usually under scrutiny all the time. They wrestle with the balance between the greater expectations and people’s need for them to be real and vulnerable. Clergywomen’s role is challenging and to some degree overwhelming.

When a female candidate chooses to enter church ministry, she usually experiences the enthusiastic backing of her local parish. But she soon realizes that such encouragement is not to be taken for granted. At a diocesan level there is usually no excitement about her commitment to the ministry such as there is when a young man makes that decision. In their placement process some of the clergywomen have never encountered any problems which could be ascribed to the fact that they are women. To some clergywomen gender has actually been an advantage because the offices they hold can only be occupied by a clergywoman. However, for the majority of clergywomen, as soon as one leaves a theological college, she faces many challenges as she begins her professional career. If she is lucky to enter the pastorate, she may encounter initial problems in finding a parish that she feels is suited to her leadership potential. Even after appointment to a pastorate, a clergywoman must be prepared to face some problems which are directly related to the fact that she is a woman filling what has been for many centuries a male role.

Clergywomen have experienced problems in the area of placement simply because of the deployment system itself in the dioceses and secondly the dioceses are largely administered by male personnel, many of whom are not sympathetic to the needs of clergywomen. The clergywoman begins to think that for one to find acceptance it is necessary to repress the feminine side of her.  In practical matters, this is the first entry point into a life of “quiet resistance to women ministry” in the Church of theProvinceofUganda. This first entry point has led to professional jealousy and to a competitive spirit between clergymen and clergywomen which does nothing to enhance the gospel that the Church of theProvinceofUgandaproclaims. In August 1996 clergywomen in the Church of the Province of Uganda attending the first national convention for Uganda’s Anglican women clergy, held at Makerere University, Kampala, under the theme “Celebrating and realizing our Call” vowed to fight the oppression of women in the church. Aili Mari Tripp says:

In the Anglican Church of Uganda women are pressing for larger leadership roles. At a meeting of the first national convention for Uganda’s Anglican women clergy, 30 clergywomen from dioceses throughout the country accused the church of discriminating against them, vowing to resist the oppression of women in the church.[5]

Clergywomen have experienced discrimination as an opportunity to clarify their role and status for effective ministry in the Church of the Provinceof Uganda.

Different perspectives about the future of clergy women 

There are four different perspectives to explain and predict the future of clergy women’s ministry in the Church of the Province of Uganda: First, there are those who think that the increasing numbers of clergy women will force the Church of the Province of Uganda and the powers that have historically controlled the church in Uganda, to change and become more egalitarian. They argue that the numbers alone will overwhelm the situation and bring about true leadership equality in contemporaryUganda. They quote Galatians 3: 28 and insist that in Christ Jesus there is no longer male nor female and they await for a new day. Unfortunately, there is no evidence from studies of occupational change that sheer numbers correct inequities and overwhelm past assumptions, or that the promise of the scriptures is any nearer to fulfillment than it was so many years ago.

Second, there are those who look at the growing numbers of clergy women and predict a reactionary backlash. They associate clergy women with the liberal modern agenda. Conservative Christian bodies are growing in the Anglican Communion and in many of those bodies clergy women are not welcome. 

Third, there are those who recognize that although clergy women seem to be “taking over” the ordained ministry within the Church of theProvinceofUganda, it will be a hollow victory. By the time substantial numbers of women gain access to ordained ministry, the occupation will have lost its prestige due to secularism and women will find themselves in a devalued vocation and their role will be to keep the dying denomination afloat. This is what has happened in other recently feminized secular occupations in the West and it will happen to clergy women inUgandatoo.

Fourth, there are those minorities who applaud the ways in which clergy women have made great “advances” in church leadership, but sound extreme caution. They warn that change is exceedingly complex. Without a major rethinking of the assumptions and symbols surrounding the ordained ministry, ecclesiastical cultures will continue to track clergy women into second class leadership options. Grace Ndyabahika, Chair of the National Clergywomen’s Fellowship, in August 1996 while addressing the first national convention for Uganda’s Anglican women clergy said that “most women clergy are school chaplains and assistant tutors, but none are bishops. They have been left out of the mainstream leadership.”[6] Ndyabahika therefore called for an end to the inferior status given to women clergy, stating that “more than half of the church and society are women, and therefore [this is] an issue that cannot be ignored.” [7] Clergy women in the Church of theProvince ofUganda therefore dare not be naive and overly optimistic about what it takes to redeem entrenched habits and perspectives from the past.

 Looking closely at the wonderful ministries of clergywomen during the past twelve years I have been atUgandaChristianUniversity, I submit that women are expanding expectations and definitions of clergy women leadership for the whole church. Although parish ministry will continue to be an important leadership pattern at the center of Christian understanding of church and society, in the future fewer Ugandan clergy will be full-time and life-time paid parish priests. The careers of clergywomen already point to a day when more clergy will work in church-related ministries outside the parish, or for several congregations–when clergy will move in and out of secular employment, blurring historical distinctions between clergy and laity–when clergy will be authorized by and accountable to several ecclesiastical bodies–when clergy may be paid for work done in secular institutions, yet be empowered to do that work as an agent of the Church of the Province of Uganda. Clergy will live between their commitment to the Church of theProvinceofUgandaand to the Ugandan society, insisting that both commitments be called and recognized as “ministry.”

 The experience and sense of calling among clergywomen in the Church of theProvinceofUgandashows that clergywomen are not merely survivors, nor are they breaking down old barriers simply to get into a vocation shaped and still dominated by male perspectives. Rather, clergy women are reinventing ministry for the future, refusing the old definitions and expectations. Clergywomen are expanding the very essence of Christian ministry and guiding the whole church to rethink and renew its leadership and membership.

 Qualities of an effective clergywoman

For effective ministry, a clergywoman needs to have certain kind of qualities. For instance she will require patience. There is no doubt that there has been real progress in this area but it is going to take many years to overcome the bias and prejudice that have been in existence for centuries.

The clergy woman will also need persistence. Perhaps tenacity is a better word: to keep holding on in the face of all kinds of odds. She will need considerable inner strength. Can she handle the extra stress of having to prove herself over and over again? Resilience is also needed. A clergywoman must be able to bend and spring back in stormy situations. The touchstone of her life must be an obvious faith and devotion to Jesus Christ. It is only her devotion to Jesus Christ that will give meaning to the struggle. The clergywoman must be level-headed in a group situation. In discussions she must be able to think clearly, express herself well, and not use inappropriate emotional responses. She must somehow achieve a balance between servant-hood and assertiveness. Do not let others intimidate you, but do not bulldoze over people in proving your rights. It will help if she has the ability to listen and understand what the confusion or fear is behind the argument. At the same time she must cultivate the ability to say, “I can see what you are saying, but I want you to know that things like that do hurt me.”

 Self-image is very important. It needs to be strong (yet not inflated) because there will be much in your future that will tear away at it. Clergywomen should take advantage of the abilities which have been developed as a result of their cultural conditioning. They have been taught to be nurturers, and that is a helpful role to develop. However, clergywomen should have the confidence to step aside from society’s expectations if they feel their task demands such action. For instance, Ugandans find it incomprehensible for a woman to put her calling above “getting married.” Above all, clergywomen should develop their potential as women. Please don’t be molded into a little man-minister.

 What is the way forward?

The Church of theProvinceofUgandaneeds to give greater attention to the need for systemic change. If the church administration is insensitive to finding the right ministry settings for clergywomen, women will get discouraged. When this happens, it is not because clergywomen are a failure rather it is because the system is failing them. Without broader information and supportive networks some clergywomen identify their problems as personal failures, rather than the limitations of the institutional system in which they are located. If clergywomen can overcome the isolation created by the personalization of their “failures,” and gain an understanding that their problems are systemic rather than individual or situational, they may be able to mobilize and make significant new contributions to the Church of the Province of Uganda because they will have expanded the definitions of the ordained ministry in the Church of the Province of Uganda.

 Clergywomen should be enthusiastic in recommending that other women pursue church-related vocations. Clergywomen should share in the excitement of a lady who is about to enter a theological college to train for church ministry by encouraging her competency, by warning her of the possible unfairness, and by standing ready along the way to help her become an effective church minister. You need to reassure the prospective female candidate for church ministry that working with and among people brings some of the greatest joy in life and the greatest pain. However, the joy outweighs the pain.

 Conclusion

Although the intellectual and theological distance between the laity and the clergy has grown, the tension still remains a gendered construction in the Church of theProvinceofUgandawith males filling the clergy roles and females dominating the laity roles.


[1] In spite of this development, clergywomen remain a minority in almost every area of church life inUganda.

[2] Kevin B. Lowe and William L. Gardner, “Ten Years of the Leadership Quarterly: Contributions and Challenges for the Future” in Leadership Quarterly, 1I (2000): 498.

[3] J. C. Rost, Leadership /or the Twenty-first Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 102.

[4] Rost,  Leadership /or the Twenty-first Century, 109.

[5]Aili Mari Tripp, Women and Politics in Uganda (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2000), 74.    

[6]Tripp, Women and Politics in Uganda , 74.

[7] “Uganda: Women Priests Speak of Discrimination” in Anglican Communion News Service, September 2, 1996.

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ANGLICAN?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ANGLICAN?

A PAPER PRESENTED TO THE CHURCH OF THE RESURECTION IN WASHINGTON, DC REZ DISTINCTIVES SEMINAR SERIES

ON FEBRUARY 14, 2010

Prof. Christopher Byaruhanga (Rev Dr)*

Introduction

Today the Anglican Communion which is the world’s third largest Christian communion, after the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches is experiencing both tremendous stress and tremendous renewal. The stress comes as some provinces depart from historic Anglican faith and practices and from the orthodox understanding of the Holy Scriptures. On the other hand, the tremendous renewal comes from the explosive growth of the gospel through national Anglican churches in many countries, particularly the majority world. For instance, there are more than 9 million Anglicans in Ugandaand more than 15 million Anglicans in Nigeria. For many Christians this is indeed an unusual and exciting time to be Anglican. However, the question is, what does it mean to be Anglican?

What does it mean to be Anglican is one of the most interesting questions in the communion. The reason is that Anglicanism is one of the least self-conscious of Christian professions. Paul Avis says:

This is true of both its spirituality and its ecclesiology. It neither wears its heart on its sleeves nor flaunts its theological position. This does not mean, however, that Anglicanism does not possess either a genuine spirituality or rich theological resources – though it may mean that both spirituality and theology remain at the present time in a state of potentiality, largely un-mobilized, in fact unidentified. Beneath the surface Anglicanism has a developing identity problem.1

Anglicanism from the early church to the 15th century

The word Anglican means “English” and the term “Ecclesia Anglicana” simply means the EnglishChurch. The roots of Anglicanism go deep into the life of the early church. For instance, the British Bishops took part in the councils of the wider church as early as the 4th century when Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Arles in 313 AD.

The Anglican inheritance in both doctrine and church practice is irrevocably tied to the cause of the Protestant Reformation. In the mind of the English reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries what made the Church of England an authentic church was that it faithfully proclaimed the gospel. In support of the reformers, Avis says: “where the Gospel is, Christ is; and where Christ is, there is the Church. All that is necessary to authentic ‘church-hood’ is the possession of the gospel.”[2]

For all its insistence that it is genuinely catholic, that it was not another church set up as an alternative to that existing at the time but rather the true church reformed, the English church from which the worldwide Anglicanism has grown was unambiguously Protestant. For the reformers the enterprise of re-organizing theEnglishChurchwas a holy task that involved not only changes to its ecclesiastical hierarchy but also to its theology, its understanding of morality, its practice of ministry, and its spirituality. It embraced the Reformation doctrines of Scripture, salvation and the church.

In the process of re-organizing theEnglishChurchthe authority of the Pope was replaced with an evangelical confidence in the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures as the medium by which Anglicans hear and receive the gospel. From that time the apostolic tradition in Scripture became final for both belief and behavior for Anglicans. The kind of Protestantism in Anglicanism is not therefore against an authentic “Catholicism,” rather is against those doctrines and practices that make it very difficult for an Anglican to come to know that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone.

Anglicanism in new contexts

Anglicanism accompanied the first English colonists when they established themselves in North America, and secondly it accompanied Christian missionaries when they opened churches in Africa, Asiaand Latin America. As British Anglicans, compelled by the word of God and the Holy Spirit, took their faith around the world, churches were established on every continent and in many nations. British pastoral leaders encouraged autonomy and collegiality with these daughter churches, and over time, many separate “provinces” of the Anglican Church were established around the world. Inevitably that transplanted Anglicanism took on aspects of the new contexts. In these new contexts, the earlier concept of an Anglican church as a particular church, identified with the national life, traditions and institutions of the English people, changed. English and Anglican were no longer equivalent terms. Anglican came to be equal to the national church established by missionaries fromEngland and in communion with the See of Canterbury. The idea of a national church came to belong to the essence of historical Anglicanism.

The national churches, in their constitutions, said that they were far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship as they try to address the needs of the local circumstances. It was further agreed that the national churches were free to model and organize their respective churches, and forms of worship and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity. In their growth and development the national churches were to understand themselves as ecclesial bodies in full communion with the See of Canterbury. Today national Anglican churches are part of a global communion of churches established over the centuries by the Church of England. National Anglican churches function in a voluntary communion based around common beliefs and practices. The leaders of each province, called archbishops, gather periodically to discuss the work of the church and to resolve issues that may arise.

Anglicanism in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion came into its own at the first Lambeth Conference, held in 1867. One of the principal motivations behind the formation of the Anglican Communion was the confusion around the role of theEnglishChurchwith regard to the increasing autonomy of the bishops in the national Anglican churches. The most celebrated example of confusion is the Anglican Bishop ofNatal,South AfricaJohn William Colenso’s liberal views. Colenso’s experiences in Natal informed his development as a religious thinker. In his commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1861) he countered the doctrine of eternal punishment and the contention that Holy Communion was a precondition to salvation. Colenso, as a missionary, would not preach that the ancestors of newly-Christianized Africans were condemned to eternal damnation.

After re-examining the contents of the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua Colenso questioned whether certain sections of these books should be understood as literally or historically accurate. His conclusions were published in a series of treatises on the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. The publications of these volumes created a scandal in England and were the cause of a number of attacks from the clergy and laity alike of the Church of England who refused to countenance the possibility of biblical fallibility. 

As the controversy raged in England, over Colenso’s biblical criticism the South African bishops pronounced Colenso’s deposition in December 1863 accusing him of heresy. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London decided that the Bishops of South Africa had no authority to interfere with the work of the Bishop of Natal.

When the Synod of the Church of England inCanadaasked for a gathering of bishops, clergy and laypeople from around the world in communion with the Church of England in order to address the conflicts caused by Colenso’s liberal views, the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to their request by summoning the first Lambeth Conference in 1867. However, the invitation to the Conference went to bishops only, and not to clergy and laypeople as the Canadians had suggested; and it was made clear by its host that it would have no authority to make declarations or define doctrine, and that its only purpose would be to strengthen the sense of solidarity and communion among the bishops.   

The Conference itself was at pains to affirm the autonomy of each member church with regard to its own discipline. The vision of identity forged at the first Lambeth Conference dominated Anglican ecclesiology for the next century. It is a vision that accords priority and primacy to the Church of England as the “mother church” while giving other member churches the status of provinces. The first Lambeth Conference, while promoting the principle of national Anglican Church autonomy, it assumed that on all substantive matters uniformity would prevail. The kind of uniformity Lambeth assumed would reflect the common English speaking culture to which almost all the bishops belonged until late in the twentieth century. It is this English speaking culture that some people have called “Lambeth Anglicanism.”

The clear definition of “Lambeth Anglicanism” is contained in a document called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It is generally understood to have had its immediate origins in theUnited States, in a resolution from the American House of Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church meeting in the general Convention atChicagoin 1886. This document was stimulated by the ideas and writings of William Reed Huntington, the leading presbyter of the House of Deputies.Huntingtonwas concerned with the interpretation of the word Anglicanism. He said:

The word brings up before the eyes of some a flutter of surplices, a vision of village spires and cathedral towers, a somewhat stiff and stately company of deans, prebendaries and choristers, and that is about all. But we greatly mistake if we imagine that the Anglican principle has no substantial existence apart from these accessories.[3]

ForHuntington, true Anglicanism is to accept the Holy Scripture as the Word of God. He defined the Holy Scriptures as a record of humanity’s response to God. Second, to accept the Primitive Creeds as the Rule of Faith.Huntingtonsaid that these are records of people’s religious experience. Third, is to accept the two Sacraments ordained by Christ himself. ForHuntington, sacraments are symbols of divinely instituted instruments through which people are made children of God and incorporated into a world wide community.  The last pointHuntingtondealt with was the acceptance of the Episcopate as the key-stone of government unity. According toHuntington, these four points make the “Quadrilateral” of pure Anglicanism. When these four points went to Lambeth in 1888, they acquired an international Anglican value. The Lambeth Conference of 1888 Resolution 11 says:

In the opinion of this Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion:

(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

(b) The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself–Baptism and the Supper of the Lord–ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.[4]

In order to remain true to the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, Anglicans have historically upheld the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word. They have held to the summary of evangelical beliefs known as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith and have accepted the three great Christian creeds, the Apostles,’ the Nicene and the Athanasius, as the fundamental statements of the Christian faith. Anglicans celebrate the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as commanded by Jesus and they uphold the historic order of Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons in the administration of the church’s life and mission.

Anglicans are governed by the way of salvation in and through Christ revealed in Scripture and also by the moral law or ethical principles any reasonable person would be bound to accept in pursuit of individual and communal well-being. Anglicanism therefore has its roots in Scripture but does not despise intellect, tradition and experience. Scriptures without reference to those who have lived before and who have passed the Bible on to them seems to be useless in the new contexts. It is true Scriptures themselves contain a broad diversity of interpretations and re-interpretations. However, at the root of a definition of Anglicanism shaped by tradition and context is the fundamental truth that the church exists not for its own sake but to further the biblical understanding of missio Dei (mission of God) which is “God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Conclusion

Anglicans in many parts of the world charge the Episcopal Church and a few other English-speaking churches ofEuropeandNorth Americafirst, with making gross changes to Anglicanism that, until the revisionists took over the church, could be accurately described in terms of a “faith once delivered to the saints.” Some of what would appear to be harsh words especially from churches in the majority world are for those churches in the Anglican Communion that want or have already thrown away centuries of devout and learned hermeneutics in order to insist arrogantly on the exclusive truth of their own church’s reading of scripture. The current conflicts that have shaken the Communion have been defined in terms of colonial missionary history, scriptural interpretation, and ethics. But at the bottom of what is being discussed is the very nature of Lambeth Anglicanism with its somewhat amorphous instruments of communion namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference in a “consultative rather than legislative role,” the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting that hold together the member churches in the communion.  

Secondly, they charge those churches with placing themselves outside the family of Christian churches that make up the Anglican Communion. By definition the Anglican Communion is a family ofChristianChurches. These churches are of equal standing, autonomous and indigenous, but are aware of themselves as part of the one Anglican Communion. In the majority world, there is strong emphasis on family to the extent that the stability and continued existence of a family is much more important consideration than the “rights” of an individual. Since the individual exists only as part of a family, his or her choices are important only if they are for the good of the entire family. Anyone who places himself or herself outside the life and normal working of the family becomes a shame and constitutes a threat to the whole family.

The emphasis on the Anglican Communion as a family is one of the major reasons why Anglicans see the churches inNorth AmericaandEuropeto have placed themselves outside the normal life of the Anglican Communion. Their argument is that as members of one family, the Anglican bishops in 1998 voted overwhelmingly against the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions. With their understanding of the Anglican Communion as a family, those Anglicans find it a grievous offence for the bishops inNorth Americato consecrate a bishop living in a homosexual relationship and to bless the same-sex unions. By their actions, some Anglicans believe that the church inNorth Americais out of communion with the Anglican Communion. For instance, a statement from the Anglican Church of Kenya said:

It is also the strong feeling of the Anglican Church of Kenya that the Anglican Communion provinces that have taken or will take official actions contrary to the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, have or will have in fact by their actions chosen a different path from that of the Anglican Communion and hence should be considered by the rest of the Anglican Communion as having broken their fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion until such a time that they will reconsider their official stand in the spirit of repentance, reconciliation and willingness to reaffirm their commitment to the Common Mission and Practice of the Anglican Communion.[5]

While there has been an appeal from national Anglican churches to strengthen the instruments of communion since the 1998 Lambeth Conference, many Anglicans have questioned whether those instruments are sufficient enough to hold the Communion together. There are churches in the Anglican Communion who express deep dissatisfaction with the See of Canterbury as the focus of Anglican identity. For instance, when asked about his perspective on the Church of England, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeriasaid “The church did not start in Canterburythe church did not start in Rome. Whether Canterburyis Anglican or not is immaterial. We are Anglicans. They are the Church of England.”[6]

Today the prospect of reaching the degree of mutual respect necessary for the Anglican Communion to continue as substantially the same association of national churches as it has been is far from certain.

I am of the opinion that if the Anglican Communion is to survive this crisis Anglicans:

  1. In one national church should be aware and mindful of the mission of the church in other contexts. 
  2. Should be drawn together, not by their ecclesial structures, not by their mode of scriptural interpretation, and much less by documents or conferences or resolutions, but rather by their recognition that just as they themselves are struggling to carry out God’s mission, so are these Christians in other places. This is the exact opposite of relativism which is seen inNorth Americaand inEurope, rather it is a style of being together in mission that draws us together. For instance,

Christians in the Church of theProvinceofUgandabelieve that adultery, sex outside marriage, polygamy, same sex unions are all sexual orientations that are contrary to God’s purpose for humanity. They seek to overcome such sins by not being involved in them and not being part of those committing them. Anglicans inUgandaare tempted by the modern culture as any other person in the present world but the church urges them not to allow God’s will to be controlled by any culture. The authority of Jesus Christ through Scripture must be sovereign over any culture in the world.

*Christopher Byaruhanga holds a Doctor of Theology (ThD) degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York City. He is a full Professor of Historical/Systematic Theology at Uganda Christian University. Since 1997, he has held many academic and administrative posts at Uganda Christian University. Some of his publications include: Bishop Alfred Robert Tucker and the Establishment of the African Anglican Church” (Nairobi: WordAlive, 2008); Theology for University Students (Kampala: Wavah Books Limited, 2005);   “Called by God but Ordained by Men: The Work and Ministry of Reverend Florence Spetume Njangali in the Church of the Province of Uganda,” Journal of Anglican Studies (2009).   


[1]Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 3-4.

[2]Avis, The Church in the Theology of the Reformers (London: Marshall Morgan and Scott, 1981), 221.

[3] William Reed Huntington, The Church Idea: An Essay Toward Unity (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1870), 155.

[4] Anglicansonline.org/basics/Chicago_Lambeth accessed onOctober 19, 2009.

[6]Douglas LeBlanc, “Out of Africa,” Christianity Today 49 (July 2005): 42.

 

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