With the decision of Uganda’s Anglican Primate to join the Primate of Kenya in the process of ordaining women as bishops in their GAFCON-based Provinces of the Anglican Communion; there is now a fluttering in the dovecotes of fundamentalist, sexist GAFCON Provinces around the Anglican world – not least in North America, where lay-theologian Doctor David Virtue, in common with his fellow members of ACNA (a Gafcon surrogate in North America), pours scorn on this latest move by a GAFCON Primate to defy the status quo of resistance to Women’s Ordination in the mainly African Provinces of the Global South.
The is not the first, and will probably not be last issue causing heartache amongst former Anglicans around the world who – despite their origins in the Canterbury and Lambeth-based Anglican Communion – have now transferred their allegiance to a more rigorously fundamentalist sectarian brand of ‘Anglicanism’ (shared by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and various other para-churches spawned by Gafcon – including one in Aotearoa/New Zealand) which has split off from the A.C.C. – on issues of gender and sexuality.
GAFCON churches, generally, are ruled by what its leaders have been pleased to call their ‘Jerusalem Statement’, which declares itself loyal to the ’39 Articles of Religion’ of the primitive Church of England, thereby elevating a highly primitive conservative understanding of the Bible into an almost sacramental code – instead of a guidebook which requires the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit to be intelligently interpreted for a constantly renewed and renewing understanding of the relationship between God and the world we are living in today.
Thus, we have the prospect of further schism in the newly evolving Protestantism of the GAFCON-related Churches, which have – from their recent formation – been careful to maintain the patriarchal sexism and homophobia that have long been part of the Christian tradition, but which now; thanks to a better understanding of human biological origins and the sociological and spiritual outcomes that have been brought into contention in the past few decades, have brought a healthier, more pastoral vision of what it might be to minister in a world of complex human development, where sex and gender are more diversely experienced than in what was once considered to be the ‘binary norm’ – where male and female were totally different from one another, instead of being recognised as fluid, subject to change.
The now outdated understanding of male superiority which led to the ancient idea of male-only leadership roles – as the Anglican (Gafcon) Primates of Uganda and Kenya are now acknowledging in their promotion of women as bishops in their Provinces – is being acknowledged in every area of human existence. Why should the Church be the only organisation that still insists on male headship, when women are clearly at least as capable of leadership as any male leader?
It may be that this one issue – that of the perpetuation of the myth of male-only dominance in the leadership of The Body of Christ – could be the testing ground for a new schismatic severance in the complex world of Anglican spirituality. At this Season of Easter, when Christians are celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, which was revealed first to a WOMAN – Mary Magdalene – by Christ, himself; why would we not recognise the intention of Jesus to use a woman to announce this crucial Gospel message to the other Apostles – who, incidentally, had problems believing her! (WHY? Because she was a woman!)
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand