The Nigeria Guardian has an extensive interview with the Most Rev Josiah Idowu-Fearon about his appointment as Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council.
Idowu-Fearon describes the structure of the Anglican Communion and the relationship of its churches to one another and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and defines his position as Secretary General to the ACC. He acknowledges the honor brought to Nigeria by his appointment as the first African Anglican to hold this position.
Then, the interview broaches the subject of cultural and theological differences within the Communion.
The culture in Africa is very different from that of Europe and America.
As an African and a Nigerian, God has given us that opportunity to at least make our voice heard. That is a very important opportunity we now have. The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t mince his words. He said he wants the voice of the southern part of the globe, Africa in particular because we have the largest number of Anglicans.
He wants our present felt and our voice heard. God help me, we will do that. It is not to be waving our fingers but to rationally present our position. My ministry is to help Africa understand Europe and Europe to understand Africa. Because of my education, I am opportuned to understand both Europe and America.
It appears that the interviewer asks a question about understanding and defining marriage within the Communion, leading into a discussion of marriage equality, polygamy, secrecy, and psychology.
Firstly, I want you to understand that the Anglican Church has a position, which has not changed. The fact that there is part of the Communion, who because of their culture and where they are operating from, tend not to adhere to our position does not mean that the Anglican Communion does not have a position.
Our position is that we cannot accept any marriage that is not Biblical, that is a man and a woman coming together. That is the standard position of the Anglican Church. We call it resolution 110 and it has not changed.
However, there is part of the Communion, not just Europe, but also even South Africa, where the culture is trying to say look, for us it doesn’t matter.
There, the Anglican Church is very much aware of it and our position is that we don’t hate anybody. All we are saying is it is not acceptable to us now. Let me give you an illustration. In the Anglican Church here, we do not allow a polygamist to take communion.
That is in our constitution. But go to some parts of Nigeria, people with multiple wives would sit in front of the church and go for communion and are also given positions in the church. But here, in the north and I am speaking as the oldest bishop in the Anglican Church in the north, we don’t tolerate such. If anyone does it, he is going to do so secretly.
The Church of Nigeria doesn’t allow polygamy, but we know it is done. We don’t give them positions in the church, but we know there are polygamists, who are treasurer, chairmen of various organisations in churches.
That is why I said earlier on that it is a question of understanding. Nobody would get up and say the Church of Nigeria promotes polygamy, we don’t but it is there. I am not trying to escape.
All I am saying is that the communion has a position and Church of Nigeria is with that position. In South Africa, there are sections that accept resolution 110 and there are sections that said well, we cannot live with it, but you can’t drive them out of the church. They are members of the church. Even in my diocese, we have had a couple of such cases. We have a psychologist that is working on that person now. That is the attitude of the church.
Our tradition in Kaduna diocese is not to wag fingers at anybody.
The Archbishop concludes with his hopes for elevating the understanding of the situation of Nigeria among aid agencies, including the UN and church agencies, so that the problems of the region are more readily addressed.
The entire interview is available here.
On another blog-site about the new Secretary General, Bishop Idowu-Fearon’s further reflections on his new status within the Anglican Communion states his mention of the ‘Lambert (Lambeth) Conference’, as being one of the ‘Instruments of Unity’ – together with mention of the Archbishop of Canterbury as yet another. Both of these ‘Instruments’ have lately been recently ignored by the new Secretary-General’s own Provincial Archbishop of Nigeria (who is not so disinclined to ‘wag finger’ at TEC & A.C. of Canada)
This signifies the importance, surely, of the location of the new ACC official being in London, England, at the administrative centre of the world-wide Anglican Communion. From that particular situation, it may be somewhat easier to talk about the Communion as a working relationship – than it would have been back on the Archbishop’s own Province which, as part of the Gafcon Primates’ Council, has already withdrawn from the very ‘Instruments of Unity’ that are at issue in the current set-up.
It is increasingly obvious that Archbishop Idowu-Fearon is intent on maintaining the status quo of marriage that is currently held by the majority of the Communion Provinces. However, while he continues to insist on that situation, as being irrevocable, this will more obviously mark him out as an opponent of any movement away from a requirement to adhere to the status quo by any Provincial Church belonging to the ACC.
However, as the GAFCON Primates now have their own Primates Council – with no apparent respect for the Instruments of Unity of the ACC – the new Secretary-General of the ACC might well have to accede to the established fact that there are Provinces loyal to the ACC – whom the Gafcon Primates will not associate with – that are already moving beyond the traditional understanding of marriage, in order to care pastorally for the number of Same-Sex couples joined in Civil Marriage in their own territories. This will create a conflict of interest between Gafcon and the ACC – opponents and advocates of Same-Sex Marriage in the diverse world of the world-wide Anglicanism.
As has been seen, however, in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury has already approved of the episcopal ordination of an acknowledged protester against the Ordination of women Bishops, to become a bishop in the Church. Furthermore, this new appointment has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Gafcon-planted ‘Anglican Mission in England’ – of which organisation the new bishop is an active Board Member!!
So, already in the heartland Church of England, there has been a local accommodation made to include both anti and pro Women Bishops advocates. This may now have provided a timely precedent for a similar accommodation for both anti and pro Same-Sex Marriage Blessings advocates. Although, how that might work out is yet to be seen!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand