Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Front Page Haiku
Northern: Bible a-la-carte
Southern: Table d’hôte
It looks like we may see a rupture of the Anglican Church within months rather than years. The naming of homosexual bishops in Britain and New Hampshire has drawn the ire of more conservative bishops from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Australia. Dr. John, the homosexual nominee to be Bishop of Reading, seems to be in the right place at the wrong time. He's in the right place, so as to be nominated by a gay-friendly Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. However, he's there at the wrong time, as the liberal churches in Europe and North America are clashing with more conservative churches in the developing world.
This is a microcosm of the fight going on in many mainline Protestant denominations and in the Roman Catholic Church as well. Do you take the Bible at face value or do you take out the politically incorrect parts? Liberals prefer an a-la-carte approach to scripture, throwing out stuff that seems to be a poor fit to the 21st Century. Conservatives insist that we take the Bible as a package deal; in fancy restaurant lingo, that's called table d’hôte, where the meal comes as a package with little or no substations.
This won't be the last fight of this type. When Catholics choose the next pope, they may well break down on regional lines as well; the lines aren't as neatly drawn in the Catholic Church, but the metastory will be conservative-south-versus-liberal-north. The churches of the developing world were largely put in place in the last century and haven’t had as much time to ossify as their northern brothers. Instead of having ten or fifteen generations for people to drift away from the faith of their forefathers, it may be only one or two.
Thus, in the 21st century, it's the developing world in Asia, Africa and Latin America that is bringing a conservative theology back to Europe and North America. In evangelical circles, Billy Graham's most likely successor as mass-crusade evangelist is Argentina-born Luis Palau. When I went up to Richmond last month, I saw conservative Korean Presbyterian students bringing an evangelical spirit to liberal listing Union-PSCE. In a way, this is akin to children looking after their parents after they start to grow spiritually senile, for centuries of secular plaque has built up in the northern church, cutting the flow of the Spirit to the brain.
The mission field has become the missionaries to the developed world. The fault lines laid out in last fall’s Philip Jenkins Atlantic piece seem to be starting to show some serious seismic activity.
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