An Open Letter to Archbishop Akinola

Let’s take a break from covering all things Cordillera to get, ehem, religious. I’m not a particularly religious man but I’m not an apostate either he he. For those of you who don’t already know, I am a member of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) which, in turn, is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

My church, the ECP, is doing alright but the Anglican Communion has been in turmoil for some time now. Mostly, the crisis in the Communion centers on the conflict between the liberal side (represented by the Anglican/Episcopal Churches in North America) and the conservative side (represented by Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church in Nigeria).

The conflict, not surprisingly, involves theological differences (Can women become priests or prime bishops? Can gays become bishops? Can good people who were not baptized Christians go to heaven? Etc, etc. and endless etceteras.) Well, church people being church people, both sides of the divide often cite a biblical basis for their respective stand which, mainly because I’m not a biblical scholar and also because I think there are more critical problems that the church should confront, I’m not at all conversant about.

Now, because of its history, the ECP has tended to be liberal rather than conservative. It ordains women to the priesthood and there’s certainly no barrier to them becoming Prime Bishops. It is also very ecumenical so I don’t think it is an issue for us Philippine Episcopalians whether non-Christians can go to heaven. (“Huh! Are you telling me that my grandfather who was labeled a non-Christian by American Episcopal missionaries but who nonetheless believed in a Supreme Being called Kabunian is burning in hell?”) I’m not too sure if the ECP has a stand on whether gays can become bishops but I don’t think we have a written rule (well, except the Bible if it does say anything specific about the matter) that prohibits it. At any rate, I think the ECP will cross the bridge if and when it gets there.

But let’s go back to the Anglican Communion because that is where the turmoil is. For the greater part of its history, the Anglican Communion has sort of overlooked (transcended?) the differences between its member-churches, it agreed to disagree over issues that it cannot resolve, and prided itself in its capacity to accommodate different voices. This however, might become a thing of the past as the conservatives appear to be hellbent on imposing its version of God’s will to the whole communion.

Proof of this is the upcoming visit by Archbishop Akinola to the U.S. to install a bishop separate from The Episcopal Church (in the USA). To me, this is an act that openly challenges the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Prime Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (yup, she’s a woman) in her own realm. The political equivalent of what Archbishop Akinola plans to do would be like President Gloria Arroyo appointing a Cabinet member in Singapore (despite the objections of the Singaporean Prime Minister) whose sole purpose is to supplant the Singaporean government. It is simply unbelievable. And it simply does not happen.

To me, this impending action by Archbishop Akinola crosses the line. It also affirms suspicions that the crisis in the Anglican Communion is not only a matter of simple theological differences but an attempt by the conservatives to grab power in national churches which tend to be liberal. And if Archbishop Akinola can do it in the U.S., what will stop him from ordaining his own bishop in the Philippines? I don’t think he will ever do it, but what if he will?

So what is a poor blogger concerned about the future of his church to do? Well, after receiving several dubious letters from Nigerian princesses, deposed officials, and former diplomats asking me to deposit some amount to some bank account which will supposedly make me somewhat richer, I said, “Hmmm. Why don’t I send a letter to the head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, the Archbishop Peter Akinola himself, Doctor of Divinity, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, and Head of the Global South Anglicans?”

Ooops, what is that thing about Global South Anglicans? I don’t really know anything about this group but since I am from the global south and since the good Archbishop claims to be the head of this group (does that mean he is higher than my Prime Bishop) maybe I do have the right to write him. Also, I was encouraged to go ahead with my letter-writing plan because we seem to have been successful the last time we wrote a letter to a person in authority (although we never got any reply).

Now, I doubt if this letter will have any effect on the good Archbishop’s plans but I’m really doing this for my own conscience (like, you know, that thing about not speaking up when the Nazis came for the others and so no one was left to speak out for you). This letter is entirely my own and it carries neither the seal of approval nor disapproval of authorities in my church, the ECP.

Archbishop Peter Akinola
Doctor of Divinity
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria
National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria
Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa

Dear Archbishop Akinola,

Warm greetings from the Philippines.

I am writing this open letter to express my concern about your reported plan to go to the United States to install a bishop separate from The Episcopal Church in the U.S. As your fellow Anglican from the Global South, I hope you would not proceed with this plan for the following reasons:

a) it would be an act of open disrespect to the duly constituted ecclesial authorities of The Episcopal Church in the United States;

b) it only serves to worsen the crisis in the Anglican Communion at a time when we should be seriously trying to resolve the issues that threaten to divide us;

c) and it sets a dangerous precedent to other primates who might take it upon themselves to go about ordaining bishops in other national churches with whom they have theological disagreements.

I am writing this letter entirely on my own and it carries neither the approval nor disapproval of the church I am a member of, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.

Bill Bilig
Your Fellow Anglican from the Global South
An Igorot from the Boondocks

Do you think I will be excommunicated for writing this letter? I hope not, ECP folks are a fairly reasonable bunch.

By the way, maybe this is post is not really outside of the usual topic of this blog, after all many (most?) members of the ECP come from the Cordilleras so I think this matter will be of interest to some fellow Igorots/iCordilleras.

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Archbishop Akinola”

  1. I’m so excited what da good Archbishop Akinola has to say in response to your good letter..hehe.
    It’s terrifying to even imagine da ECP becoming politicized here in the Philippines! Sometime near da future, we might see Lakas ECP, Bayan Muna ECP, KAMPI ECP, etc….
    Scary thought..peace.

  2. I guess he will say, “You, you, Kabunyan worshipping non-Christian.” Hehe.

    Hope that won’t happen to ECP. It is now happening to the United Church here, medyo they are getting disunited because of the political stance of some of the leadership. Ang maganda sa ECP it has managed to stay in the center so far.

  3. “So what is a poor blogger concerned about the future of his church to do?”

    (Ha-ha!) One doesn’t have to be a priest to be priestly…. (He-he-he!)

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