30 July 2008

Why I am not a Marxist: Class war and the Anglican schism

You've got to wonder what they've been smoking to dream up stuff like this!

Class war and the Anglican schism | Links:
Dramatic events within the worldwide Anglican Communion (the international association of national Anglican churches) have revealed a “cold split” with the potential for a complete collapse of the Episcopal formation. Superficially, the debates have centred on the right of women and homosexuals to be priests and bishops, and on gay marriage. However, while theological arguments dating back centuries are being mouthed, behind them are class-war elements of more recent vintage, including some connected with the era of US President Ronald Reagan’s backing of Central American death squads in the 1980s.

African bishops have led the charge against modernity, but they are funded and organised by right-wing US think tanks and the Sydney Anglicans’ arch-reactionary Archbishop Peter Jensen. Another player is the Vatican, which has been reported as throwing its resources behind Anglican Primate Owen Williams.

They are so keen to interpret everything in terms of class war that they end up being thoroughly racist. The assumption behind this is that Africans are too thick to make up their own minds, and they need white Australians to tell them what to think.

That is very little different from the National Party regime in South Africa, which was firmly convinced that any opposition to its policies among black people must have been stirred up by white agitators (communist, of course).

I have no doubt that there are elements of class struggle in the current turmoil in the Anglican Communion, but this kind of simplistic and racist analysis does nothing to help people understand them.

24 comments:

glparramatta said...

It is no more racist than pointing out that Washington and the CIA funded and promoted the racist wars of UNITA and Renamo. Unless you think that Africans are genetically reactionary -- which is fundamentally racist. Imperialism can always find Uncle Toms who are prepared to put their own interests ahead of their people's. That's what this article is pointing out.

The Scylding said...

Unita / Renamo wars racist? They were many other things, but racist? I see them as a subplot in the cold war, involving the SA of the time, which was a "rogue state" of its own. But in essence it was a power struggle between post-colonial groups utilising cold war power bases to draw on.

Anonymous said...

Your reading of the article is superficial. I refer to American Anglican sources to justify the claim about non-African interference in the dispute. I’m afraid that you’ve wasted some good umbrage there. The case for the role of the IRD is pretty clear, so is Peter Jensen’s. The article makes passing reference to the theological issues raised by the African Archbishops, but it’s not reporting on theology, it’s reporting on the machinations of the US “charitable foundations”. Are you denying their role? There is a whole industry of dividing churches in the US paid for by these people to the tune of millions of dollars. Now it has spilt over to the Anglican Communion internationally. Previously they earned their daily bread by providing cover for the slaughter of Nicaraguan Christians. Do you have an opinion of these behaviours? Why should it be improper for others to express their opinion of it?

Barry Healy

Steve Hayes said...

I don't know enough about the history of Unita and Renamo to comment on them. I do know a little more about the history of the Anglican Communion, and enough to know that the article in question implied that Africans were incapable of thinking execept what whites told them to think,. and in my view that is, and remains, racist.

Anonymous said...

The article’s clear accusation is that US and Australian theological reactionaries have intervened in the Communion to advance an agenda that goes back as far as the Reagan era. The “money and organisational clout” comes from them.

You say that you understand the division in the Communion. So you must be aware of the role of Ahmanson and the IRD and the Sydney Anglicans. What do you say about them?

Your reading that the article implies “that Africans were incapable of thinking except what whites told them to think,” is a forced interpretation that is unsupported by the text. Your accusation of racism is contrived.

I think that the only references to African Archbishops are these, scattered through the article:

“African bishops have led the charge against modernity, but they are funded and organised by right-wing US think tanks and the Sydney Anglicans’ arch-reactionary Archbishop Peter Jensen.”

You say you are familiar with the issue: do you say that statement is accurate or inaccurate? What is your more nuanced representation of the IRD and Jensen?

“The international face of this reactionary wave, the GAFCON grouping, has set up its own leadership structures, including a primate's council, which is made up entirely of Africans (at this stage), rivalling that centred in England.”

“In fact, while African bishops have been the spokespeople for the homophobic wing, the money and organisational clout has come from US and Australian right-wingers.”

What is your understanding of the organisational aspect of the schism? Have the theological disagreements of the African Archbishops been backed up by the money and organisation of the IRD or not?

“Naughton noted that prominent African GAFCON spokespeople archbishops Akinola of Nigeria and Orombi of Uganda have serious theological differences with other churches in the Anglican Communion. “But the fact is that much of the money comes from the West, the statements are written almost exclusively in the West or by Westerners”, he said. “What just happened in Jerusalem is that bishops from some of the poorest countries on the planet got together for a meeting to make a great contribution to the church and what emerged was a document that did nothing to improve the life of the average African, but did much to advance the interests of wealthy Americans, Australians and people in the United Kingdom.”

Is Naughton wrong? Perhaps have a look at his special report written for the Washington DC Episcopal Church linked in a footnote to my article.

It’s nice that you are not a Marxist. But how about actually stating what you say is correct about the schism, which you say is not represented properly in the article.

Barry Healy

Yvonne said...

What I want to know is why the author of the article thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury is called "Owen" Williams?

The Scylding said...

Steve - I was commenting on the previous comment. But here is another, dovetailing (is that a word) view - by an Angilcan priest:

http://petermatthews.blogspot.com/2008/07/anglican-communion-and-end-of.html

Steve Hayes said...

Barry,

You accuse me of not reading the article carefully, to which I plead guilty. I was do put off by the patronising, condescending and racist tone of the first few paragraphs that I did not pay enough attention to the rest.

On the other hand, you don't appear to have read my comments properly either. I didn't say I was familiar with "the issues", I said I knew something about the history of the Anglican Communion, especially before the Reagan era.

I know, for example that in the era of the New Imperialism (c1974-c1914) white clergy from Britain came to Africa with an attitude of racist superiority, and propagated the idea that the consecration of an African bishop in Nigeria (Samuel Adjai Crowther) several decadea earlier had been a mistake. Similar imperialist attitudes have manifested themselves in the current controversies in the Anglican Communion, and appeared in the first few paragraphs of your article as well.

Fr David MacGregor said...

"African bishops have led the charge against modernity, but they are funded and organised by right-wing US think tanks and the Sydney Anglicans’ arch-reactionary Archbishop Peter Jensen. Another player is the Vatican, which has been reported as throwing its resources behind Anglican Primate Owen Williams."

This stuff is appalling ! Quite apart from being throughly untrue
David

Anonymous said...

“What I want to know is why the author of the article thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury is called "Owen" Williams?”

The author doesn’t think that. It’s a typo that slipped through. Links and the Green Left Weekly are run entirely by volunteers. We plead guilty to failures of professionalism regarding typos. I'm glad that was the only factual detail that you found incorrect in the article!

Steve, thanks for the clarification of what you said. The point of my article is contained in the sentence “Protestant schisms are not historically unusual but internationally organised, politically motivated and externally funded splits are unprecedented.”

I think that there have been many permutations of imperialist intervention in Africa since the period that you speak of. This latest Anglican schism is very interesting permutation indeed.

I am genuinely interested in any points that you or your fellow thinkers say that I have missed, but I am still waiting. Sorry that you find my writing “condescending and racist”, I could say the same of yours, but I don’t think anything is served by that kind of internet flaming. Can you please assemble a few facts and contribute to this discussion; this is a serious business. I’m not interested in waiting forever; I want to hear all points of view on the Anglican schism.

If people are in the business of saying that what I have written is “appalling” and “untrue” can they please address themselves to what I have written about the operations of the IRD. Failing to respond to my text is simply a waste of time to everyone involved. Either the IRD and Ahmanson are significant players in the organisation of this situation or not. What is “true” or “untrue” in that? The theology of it is another issue, which I haven’t commented on at all.

Barry Healy

Steve Hayes said...

Barry,

I'm not an Anglican, and have not followed the details of these disputes. I had never heard of the IRD, and such organisations may well have a finger in the pie. We have had similar attempts in South Africa by secular organisations to mobilise a "religious right" in the past, one of the most notorious being a certain Ed Cain, whose publication Encounter was bankrolled by the discredited and now defunct Department of Information, but who also influenced the African Christian Democratic Party, which may well have other similar secular right-wing backers, even American ones.

My point, however, is that African bishops have opinions that are their own, and that they don't need Americans to tell them what to think. Within the Anglican Communion there are wide ranges of opinion, and they are not all manipulated by external organisations.

I say this as a member of the "Religious left", which I am told on good authority that I belong to, though I think labels such as "religious right" and "religious left" are virtually meaningless.

Miss Eagle said...

I was at a large union rally last week here in Melbourne and, as is my usual habit at the sort of social justice events I am at, got my copy of Green Left from Sue Bolton and noted that - wonder of wonders - a religion article had found its way in.

I am an Anglican - and a former Sydney Anglican to boot. I have actually had conversations with Peter Jensen - but I haven't been there since all the GAFCON stuff. I am a little bit of everything Anglican - a tad evangelical, a tad-Anglo-Catholic, and largely traditional all mixed together with the Quaker part of me.

I just want to cut through some of this with a couple of comments about Jensen and Jensism in Sydney. Firstly, Sydney Evangelicals are not really Evangelicals in the broadest sense of the word. I have a friend who is a bishop and is an Evangelical who plainly says "I am an Evangelical. They are Puritans." This is it. They ARE Puritans and, if you recall your history, the Cromwell lot didn't steer clear of destruction. They were iconoclasts just as the Jensens and Jensenists of to-day are.

Power has been built up by "Evangelicals" in the Diocese of Sydney over many generations but, under the Jensen Push (think Push in this context might be an Aussie word - but it describes a group of people. Clive James and Germaine Greer in their youth were part of a trendy intellectual bohemian group in Sydney known as The Push. But the word goes back deeper into Aussie language than that) power, influence, and dominance has spread and they have spread it in quite nefarious ways beyond diocesan boundaries - after all, theirs is the pure and undiluted gospel isn't it.

Aside from their classification as modern day iconoclasts and Puritans, one has to recall that the Diocese of Sydney is as rich or richer than Croesus. It is one of Sydney's largest and wealthiest land developers owning large tracts of land within inner Sydney and the Sydney CBD. This, of course, dates back to the very foundation of Australia. As time progressed, new dioceses were established - but while the geography was broken up the Sydney wealth never was. So, for instance, when the new next door Diocese of Newcastle sprang up it had to find its own money.

So here we have the Jensen brothers - indeed the Jensen family because there has been quite a lot of nepotism within the diocese since Peter Jensen became archbishop - ascending to power and they are using it to the hilt. But please note one thing when all the talk of a split is going on. The Jensens will NEVER split from the Anglican church of Australia - and they have said as much. And why won't they? Because if they did, they would have to walk away from the very source of their power. They would have to walk away from all those riches, all that money, and they would have to walk away from their intellectual resource, Moore College. So you see, their Christianity is not so pure and undiluted after all. They have still reserved a place for Mammon in their hearts and in their methods of operation. And as for all their talk about support for the "Global South". Horsefeathers! Social Justice as the rest of us understand it has never been of great importance to the Sydney Evangelicals.

In fact, if there is a push (sorry to use the word in different ways) to splinter from the Anglican Church of Australia another source of power could be lost to the Jensens. That is the upper crust Evangelical Anglicans of the Diocese of Sydney (and in my mind I picture some on the Upper North Shore of Sydney) who, in my judgment, would be most reluctant to follow him into the wilderness. After all, many Anglicans have never lost their feeling for the Anglican Church as a de facto established church in Australia. So moving away from an edifice that is rich, powerful, and socially 'u' will not be everyone's cup of tea.

It has been suggested that not all the Sydney bishops were enamoured of the Jerusalem conference but were forced into support for it. So would all those bishops split? And then there are places like the Diocese of Melbourne where there has always been a place for everyone - although at times relationships are a bit strained and current times have some indication of that. But would evangelicals and their bishops (and don't forget evangelical women priests) in Melbourne follow? Doubt it. So that's the Australian end.

I, for one, am not prepared to be too hoity-toity about the Africans - except to have my usual feminist reservations about male clerical power. The reason I hold back is because African Anglicans are ministering in a different cultural milieu. Not so modernist in many parts, true. But Islam, its culture, its teaching is a greater reality in Africa - north, west and east of the Sahara - than it is in countries dominated by western culture. So I believe that some allowances have to be made for the situation Christians find themselves in. Beyond that, my knowledge is not so intimate.

But you know, in general, we have to be suspicious of the Pharisees in the Christian Church, when they place such a huge and destructive emphasis on gender and sexuality. The Jesus I follow didn't do this. I am rather partial to something the Franciscan Richard Rohr said some years ago. He pointed out that Jesus did not have much to say about sex. Rohr said he thinks that Jesus reckoned that if we got everything else right our attitudes about sex would be right too. And I think his point is well made.

You see, most of us in the human race have more economic transactions in a day than sexual transactions. Large tracts of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures are taken up with the subject of economic injustice in various forms - from usury to labour exploitation. And how often is the church critiquing - even in our current version of hard times - the world of Mammon? Not often. We haven't come close to a split in anyone's - not just Anglican - ranks in exercising a choice between God and Mammon. I find that interesting and I hope you do too.

Steve Hayes said...

Miss Eagle,

Thanks very much for the Australian Anglican perspective on this and for explaining some of the background against which the Green Left article needs to be interpreted.

Most of what I know of Sydney Anglicans has been hearsay -- that they supported the Church of England in South Africa in the apartheid era, when it was on the far right politically. Also, they supported a missionary of the Africa Evangelical Fellowship in Zululand, within the canonical territory of the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, but who had no communion with the diocese or its bishop at that time. But I suspect that the clergy of that diocese would have attitudes fairly similar to those of most of the African bishops that GL Weekly alleged that Sydney were manipulating.

So I still believe that things are far more complex than the GL article made out.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I actually was hoping that a “not-a-Marxist” who took such strong exception to what I’d written would cough up a few pointers to deficiencies in the article, that’s why I’ve taken the time to visit your site. I was hoping that by engaging with this blog I’d have pointed out to me facts I’d missed or gotten wrong or, where facts are agreed, a more appropriate nuance than what I’d produced.

The only error spotted so far is a typo. What are the complexities that I’ve missed? This is a very interesting development in the history of cultural imperialism, isn’t it? I think that it’s really worth dissecting.

I don’t have the article in front of me but I think I say in it that the African bishops have been leading the charge on the dispute. However, it has been pretty well established that the GAFCON statements were written by an English conservative, as Naughton says (I didn’t bother going into that at length, to save space, I quoted Naughton saying it).

The article has been reprinted in a few US Christian sites where it has been very well received. That’s because they’ve been putting up with Ahmanson and the IRD for some time.

Would this argument have come to a split if the IRD wasn’t involved? Probably not. The Anglicans probably would have muddled through in their time-honoured fashion. Is this the future of churches around the world – cashed up interventions from the IRD? Why shouldn’t it be? What’s to stop them?

On what Miss Eagles says: will Jensen split the Australian Anglicans? He doesn’t need to. He’s carving out his space, organising his forces and getting on with making merry. Merry Hell, that is.

I have a higher regard for the Puritans than I do for Jensen. See my review of Muriel Porter’s book “The New Puritans”: http://www.greenleft.org.au/2006/681/7921. In Porter’s take on it both sides are looking back fondly to different nostalgic eras for their authority. Neither are looking forward.

Miss Eagle said...

I have now sat down and read Barry Healy's article on line in full. I have no problems with it and find it quite balanced and the references are supportive.

In fact, I am reminded of the time when, after the CoE allowed ordination of women, the Anglo-Catholics went en bloc to Cardinal Basil Hume seeking to become a separate unit within the Catholic Church. They got short shift - because Rome prefers you to seek admittance because of what you are in favour of not because of what you are against.

As well, as Healy points out, Anglo-Catholics - while they think they are the same as Roman Catholics - are not. The Anglo-Catholics have never had a Vatican II. And, in the eyes of so many Roman Catholic clerics, Anglo-Catholics have too strong an interest in "bells, smells, and pretty frocks"!

Admittedly, I hadn't come across the IRD before but I am familiar with the conservative Christians of the USA and how they mobilise - going back to abortion issues back in the 80s when they overcame their attitudes to who was Christian and brought Catholics and Mormons into their moral universe for political purposes. The Prayer Breakfast lot have been suborning politicians for a long time and have stepped up their activity in recent years in Australia and even involved our current PM, Kevin Rudd.

I do think we have to be careful what adjectives we use: fundamentalism/liberal; conservative/liberal. If we leave the money aside (Sydney's and the IRD's), much can be made - and I don't think Barry Healy has moved into this area sufficiently - about the cultural milieu in which all this has occurred. Surely there is a distinct contrast between 21st century Canada and the USA and 21st century Nigeria and Uganda. For me, the cultural argument is rather important. There are a lot of Christians who appear to me to hold the view that their religious point of view is one of absolute and completely objective truth untainted by any outside force or motivation. For me, religion and culture go hand in hand and one informs the other. I believe that I can see this in the way things have moved in this area: why Canada and USA have moved toward homosexual marriage and why Africans express horror. Of course, this thesis does not hold true for the Sydney Anglicans who operate within a 21st century liberal democracy - except that it brings into the open in stark reality the sheer opportunism with which they pursue their agenda even when homosexuality is not an issue.

I don't think it is fair to accuse Healy of racism and inferring that Africans aren't capable of forming opinions for themselves. I think he is making a point of stark reality about IRD. In accepting the infiltration of IRD, it is not necessary to think that Africans are incapable of forming their own opinions. However, it would not be the first time that Christians - African or anyone else - have been naive in the face of smart, sophisticated and experienced political operators. The other alternative - and the most likely - is that the leaders of the African push such as the Archbishops in Nigeria and Uganda - are knowing, complicit, and sophisticated themselves and have opened the doors and the coffers wide. Hunger for power and primacy is not only to be found among Monarchs, Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Blessings and bliss

Steve Hayes said...

Just one question: do you really believe this organised and funded by the IRD?

The Scylding said...

Ed Cain funded by the old apartheid government? More info please - since he was also aligned with, among others, CFT, which came out of Kwasizabantu. there has been allegations against KSB regarding their contact with and role in apartheid south africa, notable here: http://www.ksb-alert.com/english-testimonies.html

Miss Eagle said...

Steve, I can't prove IRD backgrounding in a court of law but I believe that suggestions of their participation are highly credible and I find them credible for the following reasons:
1. I have been around people who think like this for a good portion of my life.
2. I have watched ambitious clerics from various denominations build their US alliances.
3. There is a huge and destructive split in the Uniting Church in Australia on homosexuality faultlines and what occurs has similar effects to those described. Now I am not saying that IRD is involved with that split but when I read of IRD's aims and objectives and see what's happened in my sister-in-law's UCA parish, one has to have a question mark.
4. I am from a strong political background - from which I have earned a living. Just like an opera singer can carry a tune I have a nose for politics and I am a political watcher. Healy's comments tally with what I know of other US forays into politics by conservative Christians throwing their money and their Christian credentials around - and they are countless. Australia now has a Christian political lobbying group of its own known as The Christian Lobby. The Prayer Breakfasts here are building their numbers - and I wonder to myself if they will be on the Government's new register of lobbyists.
5. While our discussion has focussed on the Africans and the Australians, we have not discussed the North Americans and it is North America where IRD is headquartered. And, funny thing, I can't think of the big name or names there. We talk about Akinola, we talk about Jensen but who are their American and Canadian counterparts in all this? My political nose had better play catch up, don't you think? (smile)
6. Stephen Crittenden of the ABC's The Religion Report has given airplay to the backing of Christian conservatives in this. You can access the transcripts by going to www.abc.net.au then click on Radio, then Radio National or RN, and select The Religion Report from the program list. The Religion Report is excellent and it is sharp. Crittenden is an excellent interviewer and reporter. I have been listening to him for years and have never had a moment's doubt about his credibility and intelligence.
7. You will recall that I took off in this discussion reminding you that the Jensens would never officially split from the Anglican Church. Can't speak about the rest but I think it possible that they won't. To focus too much attention and energy on whether a split will happen or whether it won't is to move away from some of the main factors in this whole event. The two factors in my view on which the spotlight should shine are power and culture. Will Jensen ever get to be primate in Australia? He is an energetic man and a thinker - so if he never reaches the primacy, where will his energies and thoughts be directed? In recent years, his energies have been directed not only to his own diocese but to setting up church plants outside his own. His people don't even introduce themselves to the local bishop. How Christian! And then there is the whole cultural thing which should provide rich pickings one day for a PhD student.

My money, in the final washup, is that the AofC will concede to individual episcopal oversight - the bishops of your choice. This, should it occur, will make a nonsense of church organization, the apostolic succession, pastoral responsibility and so on.

In the end, I am glad I am not someone who puts their faith in the institutional church. I follow Jesus as closely as I can and I embed myself in the community of faith. But why oh why would one bother to disturb one's spirit with people who carry on like this!

The old doctrine of the Communion of Saints speaks of the church militant and the church triumphant. Could I also add another term - the church invisible. Sometimes those of us on the ground in the community of faith who are not religious professionals are unrecognized and unrecognizable in all of this. However, we are - like those lost at sea or blown apart in war - known to God. We also are known to one another because when like comes across like, spirits experience mutual recognition. We keep pottering along keeping church doors open and communities of faith in connection with one another and, for right or wrong, being as faithful as we can according to the Light given to us.

We are not pawns to be marshalled by think tanks or bishops and archbishops. Some of us, unfortunately, will place our trust in and follow men forgetting that it is God first. It has ever been thus. But the church invisible will always be right there - experiencing God in daily life and gossiping the gospel to its neighbours.

Blessings and bliss

Anonymous said...

Steve,
After Miss Eagle’s analysis of my article let’s draw a line under the conversation about my article being “simplistic” or “racist”, even if you are still not moved from your original reaction to it. There’s just no juice in that debate (I don’t find any entertainment in exchanging barbs, though I know that’s what many people spend their virtual lives doing).

How about you start talking about the “complexities” of the African situation that you’ve referred to. I have no doubt that I’ll be writing about similar topics in the future and I’m interested in all viewpoints. I can’t promise that we’ll agree, but so be it.

Barry Healy

Steve Hayes said...

Barry,

I think that this is an important discussion, but it's reached the point where blog comments are not the best medium for continuing it, especially when they start covering wider issues than the original article (which in this case is mine, rather than yours. And my article was critical of one aspect of your article, not the whole thing.

I would therefore like to suggest that we move the discussion to a different forum, a mailing list on "Christianity and Society". You can find more information about it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/chris_soc/. I hope you will join it, at least for the purposes of this discussion, and I would like to ask your permission to post your original article there in full.

Steve Hayes said...

Skylding,

You'll have to remind me what CFT stands for. But yes, Ed Cain's publication Encounter was certainly subsidised by Connie Mulder's old Department of Information (and was considerably to the right of the National Party).

And its purpose was obvious because it clearly supported a whole range of groups whose theologies were wildly incompatible -- the only thing they had in common was right-wing politics. Similarly, the groups it attacked, and lumped together, had theologies that differed enormously, and politcal views that ranged from left to centre-right -- the only thing most of them had in common is that they were, in Ed Cain's view, left of the Conservative Party (and that included most Nats).

When, before the 1994 and 1999 general elections, I received from the ACDP a lot of propaganda written by Ed Cain, it became clear to me that the "Christian" in their name was mere camouflage, and that they were considerably to the right of the Freedom Front, but were just less honest about it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, please post my article from Links onto that list and I’ll check out getting onto it. Thank you very much.

I can see from Skyling’s comments that you folks in SA have had a big issue with conspiracies in the past and that has created sensitivities. The worst thing about conspiracies is that it leads to paranoia and then, in defence of your own sanity, people get wary of suspecting conspiracies! And, all the same there are real right wing conspiracies and there really are unbalanced conspiracy theory nuts!

Luckily, everything that I have said about the IRD is on the public record. It’s not so much a conspiracy as a discreet malignancy.

Barry

Steve Hayes said...

Barry,

OK, I've posted your article to the list, and hope you can join us there.

Once I know you're there, I'll try to answer some of your questions there too.

The Scylding said...

CFT = Christians for Truth.

Barry - there seems to have been a plethora of conspiracies, many real, in South Africa, especially in the 70's & 80's.

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