West has much to learn from Third World believers

Published April 1, 1999

IAM DEEPLY GRIEVED to learn that there are post-Lambeth rumours and accusations of bribes to Third World bishops. I wonder why the voices and opinions of Third World bishops have upset us so much in the West. Have they not listened and obediently followed our decisions and interpretations for many centuries? Do we want them to be subservient forever? Will we not have the grace to respect the dignity and the voice of those who are not as affluent as we are in the West? It looks as if we measure integrity with dollars. In many Third World countries Christians have been offered much higher bribes by Islamic missionary organizations to convert to Islam. Christians are offered physical safety, food and shelter if they become Muslims. Our brothers and sisters in these lands have constantly refused bribes and allurements for better opportunities, in exchange for betraying their faith in Christ. We need to remember that these people come from lands where civilization has existed for thousands of years and they carry great human wisdom as the elders of their communities. These young churches are coming of age and want to express their voice and faith to us who live in the affluent West. Would we not have the grace now to listen to the voices of those whom we brought to Christ and ponder what they are telling us? Human sexuality is not on their priority list. In some regions of Africa and Asia there is a movement of the Spirit and the church is seeing dynamic and powerful conversions from other faiths to the living faith of the Gospel. The church in Nigeria has grown two-fold in the last decade. The church of Sudan is the fastest growing church in the Anglican Communion.The issues of the churches in Africa, Asia and the Southern Cone are not who sleeps with whom but the pressing issues of poverty, persecution and economic justice. I pray that we hear the cry of the suffering church. I wish my brothers and sisters in the West learn to celebrate the dynamic faith of the church in Third World countries in the Anglican Communion. We should be rejoicing that the churches where missionaries took the Gospel are now proclaiming it to the world. The living faith of the persecuted and poor church has grown from the cross of Christ. In the sign of the cross they conquer the forces of darkness, oppression, hatred and evil. What a witness! Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Waynesboro, Virginia, and chair of Companions for World Mission, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.


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