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South to South Encounter opens in Singapore: The Church of England Newspaper, April 23, 2010 p 7. May 1, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Global South.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Nigeria has urged Anglicans in the developing world to declare their doctrinal and economic independence from the West.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria told the Fourth South to South Global Encounter not to compromise their faith in return for handouts from the West.

Approximately 120 church leaders from 20 provinces along with bishops and clergy leaders from the US, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have gathered at Singapore’s St. Andrew’s Cathedral for the five day gathering that seeks to foster closer ties among the Anglican churches in the developing world—while also forging a united front in the Communion’s bitter doctrinal wars.

The former Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola opened the programme with a homily on the conference’s theme “The Gospel of Jesus – a covenant for the people, and a light for the nations.” He told the congregation he hoped the Encounter would spur action from its participants, and not serve merely as a forum for the creation of protest statements.

In the opening plenary session Archbishop Okoh built upon the theme of self-sufficiency. “It is not God’s will that we remain perpetually dependent on the handouts from the sacrifice and self-denial offerings of other people,” he told the gathering, adding that this was especially true when “strong strings” were “attached to buy loyalty or compromise on critical issues of faith.”

The churches of Africa, Asia, Oceania and South and Central America should work in “equal partnership in the fellowship of the gospel with those who are sincere, and who live according to the truth of the Gospel,” he said.

“Grants, donations, gifts and any form of assistance given rather patronizingly should be rejected. We must relate and negotiate from the point of strength rather than a beggarly position,” the new Nigerian archbishop said.

He also denounced US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffert Schori’s denial of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Pluralism has been an adversary of the church from the very beginning, he said and the cross was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block for the Jews.

But the creeds, the Articles of Religion and the Scriptures “all uphold the deity and uniqueness of Jesus, the Christ. To deny these fundamentals is to abandon the way; it is apostasy; it is ‘another gospel’, which is condemned in scripture.”

The first full day of the Encounter opened with an address on the nature of Covenant as found in Isaiah, by the Archbishop of South East Asia John Chew, followed by talks on the structure and place of the Global South fellowship within the Anglican Communion by the President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr. Mouneer Anis of Egypt, and the Primate of Rwanda, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Kigali.

In the second plenary session, Archbishop Chew examined the covenant relationship between Israel and God, and its fulfillment in Christ. Dr. Anis outlined the “ecclesial deficit” facing the communion. However the Global South would not be the ones to break up the communion, he said. “We are not forming a new Communion, because we are the Communion.”

Archbishop Kolini recounted the numerous meetings, committees, papers and communiqués issued over the past decade in response to the innovations of doctrine and discipline by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada. He closed his remarks by expressing his weariness, noting “we do not need another resolution from this gathering. We need to act in accordance with what we know the Lord has said to us.”

A videotaped presentation from the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for patience and no precipitous action from the meeting closed the morning session.

Leaders from the different deputations paid a courtesy call on the President of Singapore during the afternoon, and a closed executive session was held in the evening. The 15 primates attending the gathering met with Archbishop Jeffrey Driver of Adelaide, Bishop Richard Ellena of Nelson (New Zealand), Bishop John W. Howe of Central Florida, Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, and Archbishop Robert Duncan of the ACNA and the other “Western Associates” present to discuss the situation in the Episcopal Church.

A number of primates pressed the Americans to explain why there were two delegations: one of bishops from the Anglican Church in North America, and the other from Bishops of the Episcopal Church who are part of the conservative Communion Partners coalition.

Archbishop Duncan and Bishop Howe gave a summary of recent church history in the US, and Bishop Howe noted that while it traditionalists were facing hard times in the Episcopal Church, there position had not yet become untenable.

The Communion Partners group of bishops and dioceses disputed US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s contention that only the General Convention could adopt the Anglican Covenant. Bishop Howe told the gathering that the polity of the Episcopal Church gave that authority to the dioceses.

The Communion Partner dioceses would adopt the Covenant and seek to forge closer ties with the wider Communion, and would not sacrifice their doctrinal principles in the face of pressure from the present majority in the US church, he explained.

The conference concludes on April 23.

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