A Wedding in Burundi

 

If you ever get invited to a wedding in Burundi, accept the invitation! It is an amazing affair.

After traveling to more than ninety countries, I have the considered opinion that the vocal music in Burundi is the finest in the world. It has the breadth of the best of African harmonies, but there is a crystalline, bell-like quality to it that I have not heard anywhere else. It is utterly angelic and seems to emanate from the very throne room of heaven.

Burundi dancers

The real treat comes when the drums break out. Burundian drum teams balance on their heads drums that are up to six feet long. The rhythms are amazing, but then it gets even better. They begin to leap, dance, and twirl around with the drums still balanced on their heads. Intricate drumming continues while they dance and sing. They have long curved sticks in each hand and click them on the sides of the drum and pound them on the drum heads on the front and back of the big long tube. Extending their arms, they pass the drum sticks under their feet while they are jumped up high and are still in the air. The size and shape of the drums alter the sound so that a symphony of different sounds comes out. It is absolutely stunning.

The reason that they are able to do this remarkable feat is that they all play by the same rules. They are committed to working together. They have agreed not only to the same principles, but even to the way in which those principles will be expressed.

In Anglicanism, there is a great need for similar cooperation, and there have been many attempts to build collaboration for mission. A generation ago, such collaboration was possible because everyone was in agreement about the tenets of the Christian faith. Now, the "glue" that holds Anglicans together has shifted. No longer is there agreement about the faith. Attempts to organize around institutional norms have left the Anglican Communion in chaos.

Imagine what it would be like to introduce someone with different steps, rhythms, or songs to a Burundian wedding drummer's dance. The chaos would be terrible. People would be crashing into each other ,with one spinning to the left and another to the right. Another way of saying it is to imagine a fleet of ships attempting to sail together with compasses that swing randomly rather than all pointing to magnetic north. The chaotic results are multiplied the closer the ships get to each other.

That is precisely what has happened in Anglicanism.

Even the attempts to pursue "mission" together are disastrous because "mission" means different things to different people. For Western liberals, "mission" is a photo opportunity used to demonstrate that "all is well." It is very effective PR, but the results are disastrous. The problem is that "mission" based on the "lowest common denominator" does not result in people coming to Christ or the expansion of the Kingdom of God. For redemption to take place, the declarations must be in accord with Scripture.

Anglican Communion structures gathered around the old "instruments of unity" rather than around the faith cannot have lasting positive effect for the Gospel.. In the past, Scripture reigned as the "ultimate standard" for Anglicans. Although that is still the majority position, many of those who are adopting new teachings and practices dismiss the authority of the Bible. That approach may appear to work for a time on a superficial level, but ultimately it will result in a crash.

Yet, in the midst of that chaos, there is hope – and a solution. What began as GAFCON is growing and emerging as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. This Global Anglican Fellowship is pursuing mission in a meaningful way. New people are coming to Christ. The Gospel is being preached, and the Kingdom of God is being advanced. Changes throughout the alliance are happening to strengthen it and to encourage all of us.

Archbishop NtagaliIndeed, even as I write this, news has just come in from Uganda that The Right Rev. Stanley Ntagali has just been elected to succeed Archbishop Henry Orombi. Archbishop-elect Stanley is an old friend. I have known him since the days when he was a priest. I worked with him when he was at the provincial office and have even led a clergy conference in his diocese. Archbishop-elect Stanley, like his predecessor Archbishop Henry Orombi, will have no time for unscriptural teaching or practice. I don't know if he can balance a Burundian drum on his head, but I'm sure he knows the song of orthodoxy well. He will not have missteps with the Gospel or the other Biblically faithful Anglican leaders. What a lovely day. Even better than a Burundian wedding. 

Photo credit: Church of Uganda