My sole personal experience of African Anglicanism came in the person of one of my preaching students. He was already a priest in the Nigerian church, in the US to improve his theological training. Passionate, intelligent, he was an amazing preacher; my class learned a great deal from hearing and responding to his sermons. His best sermon–I forget the text–was on the connection between the call of the Gospel and the rule of law. This took most of the class by surprise. Whenever Gospel and law are connected in American preaching it tends to be about legalism or attempts of one political part or the other to make a selective reading of a text. Not in this case. He wasn’t pushing a party agenda–he was pleading for law. He explained a bit about the African context at the conclusion of the sermon. We in the US take the rule of law for granted. He couldn’t. Not where he was from. Pleading for the rule of law was essential for him because it was so often denied in the political culture he was from.
(And yes, for the record, he also shocked them when one student asked him his views on homosexuality and he expressed his utter disgust…)
It’s this reality of life on the ground in Africa that so often we miss in our electronic debates–and it has truly profound implications on what we do. For instance, As the center of gravity in the Anglican Communion shifts southward, how aware are we making ourselves of what is going on in Africa? How many of the self-styled “orthodox” know what the major political and social issues are in Africa–and how their ecclesial allies are coming down on them?
This has now come to a head.
The crisis in Zimbabwe is reaching a breaking point with President Mugabe attempting to extend his corrupt rule yet again. There’s a story here about the brutal suppression of non-violent protests. I kept reading about “bishops” speaking out against Mugabe and his regime–and I kept hoping they were Anglican. I was wrong. No, as CNN reports here, it was an Easter message from Roman Catholic bishops across the country.
What is the response of the Anglican bishops? Dr. Chilton writes about it here at the Episcopal Cafe. This is what conservative Anglicans are pinning their hopes to. Does this look like the Gospel?
(n.b.: Don’t mistake this for a whole-hearted embrace of Mugabe’s opposition either–I don’t know their politics nearly as well as I’d like. I’m equally guilty of not knowing African current events as well as I should. It should be obvious, though, that Mugabe’s oppression which has been censured by not only Western human rights groups but also other African groups and governments is beyond the pale.)
UPDATE: I am more than happy to report that Stand Firm has called attention to this matter. I applaud Greg Griffiths for calling this to the general attention and condemning the Mugabe regime. There are some who dispute the level of the letter’s support for that government but the important thing is that the issue is being aired.