Saturday, November 17, 2007

REDNECKS IN PURPLE

This article was written in March 2005. However, I thought of it when I read the testimony this past week in Fairfax, Virginia, by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, saying that she would allow the Diocese of Virginia to cut a deal for church property with Methodists or Baptists (or presumably Muslims) but never, no never, with those pesky Nigerians.

I tend not to see racism behind every bogey-word that comes out from illiberal liberals. But there is a pattern of condescension toward Africa and Africans that strikes me every bit as offensive as old-fashioned redneckism. No, more so.

We met it one week before the Lambeth Conference in 1998 when Bp. Jack Spong had this to say about African Christians:

They’ve moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They’ve yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we’ve had to face in the developing world: that is just not on their radar screen.

The slur was repeated by liberal bishops at Lambeth 1998 who claimed that Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality had been bought by American conservatives for the price of “chicken dinners” offered to the African bishops.

Now here it comes again. Just before the Primates’ Meeting in Ireland, the BBC put out the following “Have your own say” question - “Will Africa Split the Anglican Communion?” – followed by the question: “Shouldn’t the Anglican Church modernize and accept that society is changing?”

So I decided to have my own say and wrote this:

I am an American Episcopal priest serving in East Africa. Frankly, I find your questions racist, suggesting that Africans aren’t “modern,” according to your standards. Indeed, the imperial snootiness of these questions reflects the very attitude that led the American church to force its will on the Anglican Communion and then blame the Africans for causing division.

The African bishops, along with the vast majority of Christians throughout history and the world today, believe that the Bible commends the marriage of one man and one woman and condemns all other permutations and combinations. That may not be “with it” for you, but for millions of us it’s the Gospel truth!

Now we get Bishop William Swing swinging in from his San Francisco penthouse with this comment on the Primates’ Communique [2005]:

What do I make of it? ... In the short term it doesn’t appear to mean much. Our three USA delegates will not be going to the next Anglican Consultative Council meeting. Not necessarily a big deal.

In the long term it appears to be most serious because of two reasons: (1) the question of the unity of the Anglican Communion seems up in the air; (2) obviously the forces within the Communion who oppose what we have done are far more powerful than the Episcopal Church, and they are intent on pushing this issue until the Anglican Communion is broken and the Episcopal Church is cannibalized by foreign bishops. This is the worst-case scenario in my opinion, but a dream-come-true scenario for some other people.

“Cannibalized by foreign bishops?” Now Bishop Swing is no dummy. Is it possible the promoter of the Parliament of World Religions is so dense that he is unaware of the stereotype that primitive peoples have a habit of eating their innocent neighbors. So why would he use a word like “cannibalize”? It ain’t real smart politically, but then a lot of liberals seem immune today to the canons of civility. Ask George Bushhitler.

One cannot live here without noting the awful incidents of violence of African against African: whether in Rwanda a decade ago or in Northern Uganda today. But one who lives here cannot but stand in awe of the resilience that so many people exhibit under hardship and the kindness they show to their neighbors and foreigners, however little they have to give. One cannot live here also without coming to despise many of the Western do-gooders who stand by in their blue helmets, or hurl condoms at kids, on the vile assumption that “this is just the way they are.”

Let me speak about the Church of Uganda. Fifteen months [November 2003] ago the House of Bishops voted to break relations with the Episcopal Church. They have done so thoroughly if not totally. To my knowledge, all missionaries here have left the national Episcopal Church. The Province has turned down what was a sizeable subsidy from the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. And in several cases dioceses and other entities have returned money that was sent after the House of Bishops’ decision.

Now I wonder, what sacrifice has Bishop Swing made because of his foolish support for an action that has snapped the “bonds of affection” of the Anglican Communion? Exactly what price have he and his kind paid for hounding out priests and parishes out of the churches they built and worshiped in? (By the way, is “hounding” more civilized than cannibalizing?). No doubt he and the Presiding Bishop [Frank Griswold] and all their colleagues will make it to the exit doors of a comfortable retirement and let the next generation turn the lights out on the Episcopal Church.

Rednecks in undershirts have little to commend them, but when you put them in purple with pectorals, it really is too much to stomach.

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