July 28, 2008
No Hope of a Solution at Lambeth, conservative bishop says
Bishop of Egypt expected today to debate over biblical authority, human sexuality.
A leading conservative, Anis released an open letter on the web. Here's one important comment:
The Lambeth Conference has been a time of great fellowship and strength; it has also been a time of disunity and conflict. Everything is going fairly well, but I do not believe that there is hope of a solution from this Lambeth conference. However I hope that we would be able to come up with a road map for a final solution of the current crisis.
Back in January, when I was in Cairo, I interviewed Bishop Anis. See below for an edited transcript of his views on outreach to gays, the crisis in Anglicanism, and how the proposed Anglican convenant might help resolve their differences.
Interview with Mouneer H. Anis, Episcopal bishop of Egypt and primate of the Anglican Province of the Jerusalem and the Middle East (including North Africa).
(Cairo, January 2008. Edited transcript.)
What's your greatest worry concerning Anglicanism?
I am very concerned about the unity among the conservatives and the evangelicals within the Communion. The Communion is in a crisis, and there are many impaired relationships.
We have made ourselves clear, our theological stand very clear many, many, many times. We announced our rejection of the new revisionists way within the Anglican Communion in many occasions and conferences. This time should not be a time for conferences only, but it should be a time when we actually take action. I personally feel that the issue of homosexuality is just a superficial symptom of a very, very deep illness in the core of the Communion.
Is this an illness in Anglicanism or the church on the whole?
The actual problem is crossing [theological] boundaries of the Communion. The Anglican way is Scripture, the authority of the Scripture, and the interpretation of the majority, or the accepted interpretations of the Scripture by the majority, not just one church within the family.
There is an element of interdependence of each church members of this Anglican Communion family. We need to affirm this. We are a communion. We are not congregationalists. We are not a federation. We are a communion. So it tears us more than any other structure.
It's hard for American evangelicals to understand what you mean by a global Communion. What does this mean to you?
The Communion is one family of several member churches, and we are tied together. There are instruments of unity within our Communion. The Primates meeting is one of the instruments of unity. There are other things that bring us together and unite us together as a body of Christ.
Although we are a communion and we are a body, we recognize other churches and see in them as part of the wider body of Christ. So we don't think of our self as the only church of Christ, but we are part of the church of Christ.
With this concept in mind that we are one body, we are one communion even if we are separated geographically, but we are one communion. There is a lot we know about each other. There is communication, direct communication all the time. Today I have communication from the East, as east as Singapore, to the west as Latin America. It's all in my desk, and that is a great experience, a wonderful thing.
Now, two families of this communion, Canada and America, by going beyond the boundaries of our Anglican way, have created severe disunity. Yes, we celebrate our diversity. But we always aware and we should be aware that this diversity is not unlimited. It is a limited diversity.
Some groups will have a different interpretation. As we interpret the Scripture we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does not work in individual way. He guides the whole church.
It's not an issue of homosexuality. It is now the issue of Christology. Is Christ divine? Is he the Son of God? Is he our Savior? Is he the only Way or just a way? Is he the Son of God or just a prophet? All these fundamentals are now at stake in several parts in North America. That is a most serious thing.
Many lefty Anglican revisionists use the language of human rights to support their interpretation of the Bible. What is your objection to this approach?
Every human is free to do what he wants as long as he would not break the law of the country where he live or where she live. If we look at these three things - others, self, and laws of the government, should we also say a human can do everything as long as he or she do not break the law of God?
Sin destroys a person because it's breaking God's natural law in creation. I am a medical doctor. I can see anatomical complementarity. Each cell makes sense to me in the human body. We cannot just ignore this beautiful, natural architecture and engineering and go a different way. That is God's law.
Human rights is something that is not imposed by a small group of people on the rest of the world. Human rights is something recognized by all humanity. You are free to dress. You are free to speak. You are free to do your work. You are free to worship. These are things recognized by the whole world.
You cannot just bring a group of people, say that's a human right, and impose it on the rest of the world. If we said practicing homosexuality is a human right see, how much this will endanger the structure of the society, the natural family, and marriage structure. I cannot call this a human right.
About homophobia, unfortunately this is something always used by revisionists against conservative. Conservatives are not homophobic. I'm not homophobic. If I have gay and lesbian coming to me now, I will welcome them. I will love them the same way I will love a heterosexual. I will pastor to them the same way I will pastor to heterosexual. I recognize that they are human like me.
I recognize that Jesus loves them as he loves me. I recognize that Jesus died for them as he died for me. So from this I will deal with them, I will talk with them. But this does not mean that if I give pastoral care to them is to agree with all what they do.
Suppose I want to do pastoral care for a heterosexual man who has an affair. Should I say to him that's okay? It's okay to have an affair outside your marriage? That is not pastoral care. Pastoral care contain encouragement, contain prayer, contain rebuke, contain admonition.
You cannot call me homophobic at all because I am not homophobic
Should non-celibate gays be in church leadership?
Loving practicing homosexuals, gay and lesbian, and caring for them and pastorally caring for them is one thing, and taking them and putting them in church leadership is another thing.
You cannot get someone who breaks the law and take him and elect him as a President of the United States. It's not injustice, actually, to say, "No, I cannot appoint gay and lesbian in the leadership." That's not injustice. That is according to the law and the regulation and the guidance we receive from the Scripture that we should be clear about who will take the position.
So you believe that this includes any position, ordained or church leadership?
Yes. Any leadership. The Bible is very clear that the church should have a say about the life of the person who is going to be ordained, even a deacon. The secular society is putting pressures that [the church] has accepted. But Paul is saying very clearly that we should not conform by the world, and the actual fact, we should transform the world.
What's happening now is in the church in North America and some parts of the West [wishes] to be relevant to the world. They are allowing the values of the world to become the values of the church, which should be the other way around.
We are not called to be relevant to the world; we are called to be distinct from the world. We are called to be light and we are called to be salt. This is helpful to the world. It hurts. When you shine the light, the light hurts the darkness. That is the church. It should be light, and the light bring love, bring peace, but sometimes it brings admonition.
Are you in favor of creating an Anglican Convenant?
I think the covenant is a very important tool to affirm our interdependence. The liberals want to reduce the covenant. Some "Why a covenant? It's enough for baptismal vows. If we are baptized that's enough."
Not any more.
What is it that's going to keep the conservatives together because there are so many divisions and factions emerging?
A well-planned conference with a well-planned outcome can bring the conservatives together. If Lambeth Conference does not come out with the idea of the covenant or if many people did not sign the covenant, we as conservatives should sign the covenant together. Then we would be a covenant group, and we can start to think positively about how we can go about the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Enough is enough. Our energy was drained in these issues of sexuality and all these things. It is a time now to move together to build our churches to bring the gospel to the unreached places, to communicate the love of Jesus to the societies where we live, and not to drain our energy, because that is what the devil want.
We really want to come together. In a way, we are the true Anglican Communion. So we need to strengthen the ties with each other by signing the covenant with each other and thinking what's our mission for the ten years to come.