The past few years there has been a growing division, bordering on fragmentation, of what used to be called the worldwide Anglican communion. The focal point of this division became the consecration in November 2003 of the Right Rev. Vicky Imogene "Gene" Robinson as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire within the Anglican communion's American branch, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA).
Back in 1986 Robinson had divorced his wife and since 1989 has been living in a sodomitic relationship with New Hampshire state employee, Mark Andrews. His sexuality is not private, but very much a point of pride, and he seeks to lead others into the same shame he and Mr. Andrews bear--all this in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church.
A firestorm ensued and has continued to this day. For the most part, the breakdown has fallen along the lines of the northern and southern hemispheres, with the southern hemisphere--primarily Africa and the Diocese of Sydney in Australia--calling her northern sisters to repentance. Predictably, the vast majority of Anglicans today are members of southern hemisphere Anglican churches, so the Brits and Americans can't brush off the prophetic calls of Africa as they might otherwise be inclined.
As the ECUSA has hardened its position the past couple of years, steps have been taken by some churches and larger Anglican communions in the U.S. to sever fellowship with the ECUSA, transferring to various African communions where they would be in submission to church fathers of the African Anglican church.
This past week, a document surfaced that had been kept under wraps for the past couple of years...
It's a transcipt of a meeting between several biblical leaders of the Anglican church in Kenya, most notably Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, and several ECUSA leaders who had come to Kenya to dialogue with their African peers.
And what a glorious dialog it was! I've praised God many times for the faithfulness of our African brothers in Christ in these conflicts, and this transcipt of the dialog is one more reason for acknowledging the promise our Lord left us with, that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Bride, the Church.
Virtueonline is the best place to keep abreast of all things Anglican, and here's their introduction to the transcript. The interview is priceless, particularly as it nears the end and the Africans press down hard on God's call to repentance. But of course, the Americans don't get it and one is reminded of Cool Hand Luke's last words, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
SECRET TAPES REVEAL TRUTH ABOUT ECUSA BISHOPS VISIT TO KENYA
By David W. Virtue
In 2004 a group of liberal Episcopal bishops and seminary theologians visited the Province of Kenya and sat down to talk with Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, The Rev. Canon Rosemary Mbogo, Provincial Mission Coordinator and a group of African Anglican leaders about the situation in the American Episcopal Church.
Because Archbishop Nzimbi knew that their visit would be spun back in the U.S to make it look as though they were all working from the same script, or that the Africans would be made to appear homophobic and out of touch with what was really happening in the Episcopal Church, Archbishop Nzimbi recorded their time together and this week (August 2006) released the tapes for the first time to VirtueOnline. Here is the list of those present:Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK)
Rev. Canon Rosemary Mbogo, Provincial Mission Coordinator for ACK
Dean Titus Pressler: Recently dean and president of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, USA
The Rt. Rev. Ted Daniels, Assistant Bishop of Texas
The Rt. Rev. Bishop Julius of Mombassa
The Rt. Rev. John B. Lipscomb is the Bishop of Southwest Florida
The Rt. Rev. William Waqo is Provincial Secretary of the ACK
The Rt. Rev. Gideon Githega, Bishop of Thika
Rev. Peter Karanja, provost of All Saints Anglican Cathedral, Nairobi
The Rt. Rev Peter Njenga, Bishop of Mount Kenya South
The Tape opens as Nzimbi responds to polygamy.
NZIMBI: One man, one woman. Listen to the voice of Jesus. The line of argument...we do not accept. We may be pushed by what we have learned...But the works should go together in faith obeying the word of God. Robinson says, "The Holy Spirit has led me" (to put away his wife and take a man). We ask, what Holy Spirit is that.
PRESSLER: Our position is to demand the same standard of fidelity from same-sex relationships as we do from marriage... fidelity and commitment. But, it is not a significant issue for us at the seminary because we do not have many homosexuals at the seminary.
NZIMBI: In Theological Colleges...you can read between the lines what I am saying... At the source where behavior is molded, the work is not being done. That is in your college. I am calling on all the churches here [not to] go to colleges like yours. We have to go back to the drawing table and look at what we believe. You are the wrong person at the right time. You say in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but where does it end. If I depart from the Scripture, where does it end. This point of departure from Scripture needs repentance, not apology. We cannot afford to play about, or to argue. It is very central to our living. We want the church in America to be very clear about our position from 13th May 1844. When Dr. Crouch came to Mombassa. His child died. His wife died. They continued and did not labor in vain. We are going to stand firm in the Word of God.
DANIELS:-I do not equate polygamy with homosexuality. Once Christianity spoke there was a period of accommodation, but moving toward Christian teaching. So I do not equate it at all. I'm not leaving my church over the issue of homosexuality. Even though we disagree with the decision, we stay together in dialogue and hope that God will speak to us in conversation. BISHOP JULIUS OF MOMBASSA: Unintelligible on the tape.
LIPSCOMB: The issue of racism is a blot on the soul of America. As a white American I have need to apologize for what we did. I am a Virginian by birth. As a Virginian I had my own boyhood heros Robert E. Lee
April 1865 the month that saved America. Unfortunately it took another hundred years for the promises to even make it into the law books. When Robert E. Lee went to church (Anglican) it was a Sunday of communion. Rector turned to give communion. The first person at the rail was a recently freed slave, who only four weeks before had been a slave. Everyone froze, except Lee who walked down and knelt by him. And said by his actions that when we kneel together before the throne of God rather than facing one another that is where the real evaluation of our common humanity can take place. We need to be praying together facing the throne of God.
If we kneel together then I hope we can find our way forward. I pray you will be missionaries to us rather than cutting us off.
CANON ROSEMARY: My prayer is that we will be honest about what the Holy Spirit of God is saying to our hearts. What God is saying at a time like this? That we be careful not to turn to ourselves, but to turn to God. We must minister to homosexuals. Homosexuality is a denial of God's created order. It is a product of sin. It is a crime against God, even before we talk about the plan of God. It is against God's created design for the order of marriage. Natural law...Animals do not do this same-sex. It is a form of self-worship. Idol of self.
To bless it is carrying back total rebellion to God. If we bless them, we will have failed God and failed them. Ours is to minister to them and not accommodate them. We preach that the Lord who has set you dear people here for the purposes of ministering to your hearts. It is my prayer that the conviction of God will work and fall upon each one so that the Lord will be honored. We plead for forgiveness and for the blood of Jesus with a burning urgency that it is not tomorrow today. When it is taught by ministers of God...
A personal example. A minister of God told a woman that it was OK to have a sexual relationship... She became pregnant and then he told her to have an abortion. Ministers have great influence on people's lives. What apology is this? I don't believe we are called to apologize on behalf of institutions. Ministers who have hearts for the Lord should repent where they have compromised and break their hearts before God so that the homosexuals can receive ministry of the truth.
BISHOP WAQO: This is the message we want you to take back...
DANIELS: The way our polity works; only diocesan bishops vote. A majority vote may just be a way forward as we seek God's direction. God may give us another direction. As a person who voted against Gene Robinson. I have a strong feeling that God will show us the way forward.
DANIELS cont.: To pull out of ECUSA .... but staying in and being a voice of the Anglican Communion. How can you stay in ECUSA? Because I believe that there is a road that God calls me in this.
GIDEON GITHEGA (Bishop of Thika): I visited the seminary in Austin and did an ordination. At the end of last month and beginning of this month I visited the US. I was invited by two missions - All Saints Anglican Church and St. Peter's Anglican Church that decided to leave ECUSA. I did not inform Bishop Don Johnson, the Bishop of West Tennessee. Bishop Johnson accused me of interfering.
THE PROVOST: (All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi) said: Repentance means turning back to God, away from sin. What happened in the Episcopal Church has happened in the Communion. The catholicity of the church has been hurt. When you hurt one part of the body you hurt the rest of the body. We have been praying for you that God would show you the light. We point a finger to the bishops and the theologians for moving away. As I was preaching the people began to cry. I never saw a crying congregation before.
One observation when I was there, I was met by a group of clergy. I became afraid. I have to go back home and report that I have received two clergy. When Bishop Johnson (West Tennessee) came home he was confronted by the clergy of the large congregations. He changed his position because of pressure. One church had 1500 and is left with 30 people.
We are not going to take your money. The lives of our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church are more important. We are talking about money that was given by our forefathers who built the buildings.
Those of you who are like-minded and want to stay inside the Episcopal Church need to have courage. You are likely to lose people one after another.
We have talked about our faith and belief and what repentance means. This is what you are likely to hear throughout East Africa.
The souls of the people are more important than the money.
You have to pay a price and speak out.
CANON ROSEMARY: The three of you have apologized on behalf of the pain that has come to us from the Episcopal Church. This is a sin issue that needs to be dealt with. Has it been addressed by our brothers and sisters who feel the same way we do? When we make a commitment to God on confession, we name the sin. We don't try to rationalize it. We are able to announce that we have turned. This was a deliberate act of self-will. It was a move to gratify self. Now for repentance, the self-will must break... and we have to honor Christ. [We] must acknowledge sin before God and sin before man.
We appreciate our brothers coming and wanting to hear from the church. To really hear what the church leadership is saying. It has been clearly articulated.
What the church in Kenya (or in Africa) is saying, is they are not agreeing, but they are not very serious. You have seen how serious we are...and the pain it has caused. We know this is not scriptural. Even the Muslims called the Archbishop and said, "Your Grace, we stand by you." Even the non-believers say the same thing.
This I not just a question of saying something on paper. It is a foundation...deep down. We are saying this very openly. From deep down in our hearts, but this is our message...repent.
PRESSLER: It is hard to hear but we appreciate how clear and strong you have been. It is a big impact.
LIPSCOMB: What does repentance look like? What are the signs? What are the effects on the ground in Kenya of the actions of ECUSA?
KARANJA: It is bad enough that the church allows [homosexuality]. It is impossible to say I have moral (not legal but moral) authority over you when I am allowing things in the church that even non-Christians are seeing "This is not moral."
NJENGA: US has had a position of leadership in economics, technology, and in power. We thought the issue was settled at Lambeth. Now it is as though you are saying, "Time has passed, let us just go on together despite what you have done." Repentance involves leaders saying what we did was wrong. (Implication: Not just the way we did it.)
KARANJA: I am not worried about the relations of ECUSA with the Anglican Church of Kenya. That is a separate matter that will take care of itself. I am worried about the relations of the Anglican Americans themselves. It is a case of leadership bullying the church and moving the church without even consensus in their own country. I hear that if a referendum was taken, that it is unlikely that the action would have been taken. There are more Anglican Americans who disagree with what was done than agree. Gross manipulation of governance structures. Possibly conscious evil.
NZIMBI: I hope you got that one...a church being a bully.
LIPSCOMB: Oh, yes sir.
KARANJA: At the height of the East African revival repentance was not complicated. If I stole your cow, I go to you and say what I did was wrong. I give a cow as a form of repentance. Now we find ourselves in a very awkward position because your church did something wrong conscientiously when the whole world was shouting and saying no. Repentance would be for Gene Robinson to step aside and say what we did was ill advised and wrong. I have not seen serious evidence that that is on the agenda.
Your Grace, I think we should refuse to answer the second question. The issue is not what can be done to address specific situations. The issue is a larger one of what can be done.
NZIMBI: You have caused us a lot of pain. Question number one is about repentance.
JULIUS: Bishop of Mombassa: You say you are coming personally with an apology but what of ECUSA. ECUSA has shown the whole world that religion is separate from faith. Practicing religiosity by glorifying sin called homosexuality. To us being attached to Christ is not religion. It is a personal relationship. And what Christ, whom I am attached to says is what I stand for whether that means dying for it. For the last two years that I have been bishop we have received nothing from ECUSA. In terms of fellowship, we value your initiative as persons, but if there is any change of ACK towards ECUSA, ECUSA addressed us at a convention. This is the doctrine that we broke consequently breaking relationship. Now have Gene Robinson step down and say to the convention, "We know the teachings of Christ. We all know that the teaching is God loves us all, even people who have not faith." That question of who will be in heaven (Gene Robinson himself) is not for us to decide. That is for God to decide. But what are we teaching.
LIPSCOMB: We cannot speak for our whole church, we can only speak for ourselves. Any apology you hear (at least from me) is a personal apology.
NZIMBI: Repentance must begin with the leadership. The church leadership must repent. Are the bishops role models? And the theological seminaries? Have you performed same-sex blessings? We would like to see Gene Robinson step down. And the presiding bishop has put the total world into confusion. ECUSA has kicked itself out of the Anglican Communion. You can act in such a way to kick yourself out. It pains us because we want to have everyone in the communion. It is the leaders that are responsible.
NZIMBI (reading letter): I know you said you are not sent, but because you are members of the ECUSA council, there are laws of those who are saying yes and those who are saying no. We have said that you have no doubt that you are familiar with meetings of primates in Africa.
We wrote: "For many years we have enjoyed partnership with the Episcopal Church in the USA for the extension of the kingdom of God." ... We have done quite a lot in Kenya with ECUSA."
Regrettably this partnership that we have enjoyed for many years has been jeopardized by the decision of the General Convention to consecrate Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. This we felt and still feel is a violation of the scriptures.
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