Monday, August 27, 2007

Fried Chicken Tonight?

Last week a rather lame accusation was bouncing around one side of the Current Conflict, involving a letter from Akinola about which the Church Times says that Software suggests Minns rewrote Akinola’s letter. (BTW, that's an impressively unflattering photo heading the article. I have to wonder whether they went with it only because they couldn't find one that made him look more doofy/addled.) So what does the revelation that Minns may have ghost-written the missive mean? Let's go to Fr. Jake:
What this reveals is what many have suspected for some time; that it is Western conservatives who are behind the extreme positions that are being presented as the position of the Global South.

So let me ask this question: how many of you remember the chicken dinners? For those who don't: after the Lambeth conference of 1998, when the homosexuality vote went against the liberals, there were apparently claims from two bishops present that the Africans were essentially bribed into voting for the resolution through chicken dinners. At this late date, it is hard to say how accurate those claims are; one can be traced to Ruth Gledhill's summary of remarks by David Holloway, and the other (claimed of Barbara Harris) appears to have only been reported by David Virtue-- not my idea of an ironclad solitary source. Those remarks, and the large context in which they arose, have had little effect other than to reinforce a lot of ill will. And that basically what's going to happen here.

It doesn't shock me to learn that Minns had, at some point, served as Akinola's speechwriter, and never mind that the evidence isn't conclusive. Internet communications, even in Africa, facilitates this kind of shared work. The revelation hardly proves what is being claimed for it, however. It is perhaps true that the Africans wouldn't have made such an issue of the matter in 1998 without conservative American facilitation, if only because those Americans supplied organization which helped the "global south" to put up a united front. (That this was effective was illustrated by a late vote in which confusion about what was being voted on helped bring about a liberal success.) It seems more questionable to me that the Africans wouldn't have cared about the issue without American prodding. It seems absolutely certain that, when asked, the Africans would express condemnation of ECUSA positions without further prompting.

As to whether it is improper for the American conservatives to raise the level of African anxiety about this issue, I'm inclined to say that it isn't (ignoring my personal feelings about sexuality). Surely the relationships between African and American clerics are more complex than the nearly one dimensional pictures that both sides paint, but it's hard to miss the consequences of the fact that American institutional power does not extend across the Atlantic, and especially in light of a few conspicuous cases in which American parishes resorted to outright blackmail in pressuring Africans to back down from their opposition.

Beyond that, I have gotten reports from several directions indicating a lot of liberal willingness to drive conservatives from ECUSA as a consequence of their tactics. And if the American church has to choose between staying in the communion and continuing their present course (and I suspect that this time they will not be able to count on the British resolution writers to relieve them of this choice), I'm betting on schism. I am uncharitably (but I suspect accurately) inclined to suspect a great deal of liberal resentment that their power only extends as far as their diocesan borders; but it is quite clear that they aren't going to give up any of their power within those borders.

At any rate, the incident is only going to confirm liberals in their prejudices, and confirm conservatives in their (self-)righteousnesses. Naive moderates will continue not to notice, and informed moderates are likely not to be swayed. In other words, other than maintaining the current polarization, it's all going to amount to nothing.

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