Categories: Uncategorized

Kenyan House of Bishop Decisions 

Kenyan House of Bishop Decisions 

 

Last week, the church in Kenya, including the Finance Meeting, the Standing Committee, and the House of Bishops, gathered for the Provincial Synod. There were a host of issues, both national and international, discussed. Kenya, like every other nation, has many divisive problems.  I’ll describe some of the findings, but they are not the only matters of importance. What was most remarkable was the godly atmosphere surrounding the conversations among the Bishops.

 

GAFCON-2

First, there was a report from the GAFCON-2 meeting that was held last October. Some of the Bishops had been skeptical that a conference could be held with that many people without plunging into debt. Their concerns were unfounded:  in fact, every single expense was covered and there was a tiny positive balance after all the bills were paid. It was an amazing tribute to both the GAFCON leadership (especially Bishop Martin Minns) and the huge, organized, and dedicated local team from All Saints Cathedral Diocese, where a small army of volunteers was involved. 

Having experienced meetings sponsored by the Anglican Communion Office, the bishops recognized that GAFCON-2 was a dramatic shift in many ways. At ACC meetings, little happens of spiritual substance, unless one includes things that are actually destructive to the Gospel. GAFCON-2, by contrast, was a revival retreat, with tracks and topics that allowed for Gospel mission and practical applications of Biblical principles to everyday ministry. Bishops also spoke about the rich offerings of resources for engaging Islam, doing development, and developing theological education (among many other things), which is exactly what GAFCON and its ongoing fellowship the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) are all about. 

“GAFCON is the future and its life. The ACC is dominated by Western liberals and doesn’t have any life to offer,” offered one of the senior bishops. There were many voices of agreement and no dissent. 


“Indaba”/GAFCON

When the “continuing Indaba” process came up, it received an energetic and vociferous rejection, being a fundamentally flawed and corrupt process. Many of the bishops agreed to stop participating in it, although some of the younger guys wanted to try “taking over” and rejecting the liberal agenda. That happened just before a break, during which considerable conversation occurred with them about the lies and corruption that have characterized ACC and Primates meetings. 

On the positive side, the enthusiasm for GAFCON was reflected with a resolution to formally partner with GAFCON/GFCA, including establishing a budget line-item toward financial support of GAFCON. That proposal was approved both by the House of Bishops and then later by the Provincial Synod without dissent


Women as Bishops  

When Archbishop Eliud introduced the topic of Women as Bishops, many bishops were expecting a contentious debate. What actually happened, though, was a reflection on the years of relationship building that ABp. Eliud has emphasized. For instance, there have been ministry times and wonderful meetings with SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) teams. Last year, ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach, who does not ordain women, was on a SOMA team with ACNA Bishop John Guernsey, who does ordain women; during that time, prayer and relational healing took place that caused the Bishops to emerge even more unified than ever. 

As the Kenyan House of Bishops met to consider the topic, the conversation was spirited but, at all times, remained collegial and respectful. As the conversation proceeded, many points were brought out, including the fact that this issue is not impacting only Kenya, but that relationships with other Provinces would be impacted as well. Different Bishops warned of taking action that would be in opposition to Nigeria’s position. Others said that a decision to include women as bishops at this time would also be damaging to relationships with the Anglican Church in North America because it is such a high priority for a significant number of leaders. I didn’t have to bring that up; others thought of it, too. 

 An interesting point is that not one Province that has women bishops has remained orthodox. Although it may not be a cause-and-effect relationship, the situation is so unsettling that it begs inquiry to try to determine what actually is occurring before proceeding with making a decision. 

 As problem solving, prayer, and conversation proceeded, a proposal was suggested to engage in a prayerful theological study and conversation with GAFCON partners to seek a theologically sound consensus. While the discussions proceed, a five-year moratorium on women candidates as bishop was proposed. 

 In the end, that is what passed: a five-year moratorium on considering women as candidates for bishop while prayerful, theological study is done in conversation with other GAFCON Provinces (and a few other Provinces who are committed to orthodoxy).


Cultural Pressures

Another matter that was mentioned was the need to address the cultural pressures that are at play. In general, voices outside the church are pushing for removing gender from any role and trying to advance acceptance of same-sex relationships. 

Given the fragile nature of orthodox alliances because of organized pressures against them, it is a tremendously important development that the Kenyan Bishops are attentive to other Provinces’ concerns as well as their own. They are not foolishly trying to reconcile matters that cannot be reconciled, as theological agreement cannot be reached with liberals on the issues concerning sexual behavior or Christology, but they were concerned to find consensus where ever they can. It is also remarkable that they were not willing to take the bait of the Western leaders, who feast on the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and jump ahead without consultation, convinced that they must be right because it is they who are doing the deciding. 

This desire for agreement does not mean that there are no issues to discuss. For instance, the question of women as bishops is not settled. A conservative process with a cooked and pre-determined outcome would be as corrupt as a liberal one. This is a true inquiry, and it is being done in the context of relationship with other leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to Biblical authority. 

Conclusion

I have never been more proud of these Bishops than I was at this meeting. They faced critically important issues full on and did not back off. They did so with maturity and collegiality, each caring for and being respectful of the position of others. In the end, the passage of a resolution without dissent did not indicate that there are no bishops who support women as Bishops. There are. They support unity with their brethren, as well, and that guided the day.