Archbishop Mouneer Anis addressed the sixth conference of Global South Anglican Primates and calls for their attention to focus on urgent crises facing the non-western churches. Extracted from his opening talk on 3 October at All Saint’s Cathedral, Cairo.
One of the major challenges we face as a church are the false teachings which some churches are now adopting and propagating. These teachings undermine the authority of scripture, the majority interpretation of the texts and the tradition of the church.
An example of this is the redefining of marriage by either permitting same-sex marriage or by indirect approval of it through prayers of blessing. It is important here to say that this does not mean we are homophobic when we reject unbiblical views on human sexuality. Similarly, it does not mean that we are heterophobic when we reject polygamy. We should love, embrace and pastorally care for everyone without compromising the teaching which is accepted by the majority in the Church.
It is said that the whole truth is revealed to the whole church. Unfortunately unilateral decisions taken by a few provinces [of the Anglican Church] have torn the fabric of the [Anglican] communion over the last 13 years. We made every effort to save the communion but sadly some provinces went on their own way without any regard to warnings.
It is sad indeed that some western churches and organisations use their wealth and influence to push their own agendas in the Global South. I see this as a new form of ideological slavery. We need to be aware of this and resist all kinds of slavery, whether financial or ideological.
As Os Guiness wrote, “The church that cannot say ‘No’ to all that contradicts its Lord is a church that is well down the road to cultural defeat and captivity.”
We too in the Global South have our own weaknesses and challenges as well. Polygamy, tribalism, corruption, and harsh treatment of women denote the lack of sound Christian teaching and theological formation. This requires from us serious attention and hard work. We also need to deal with the false teaching of the prosperity gospel – Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, which are spreading especially in Africa. Unless we promote theological education, we will not be able to combat these false teachings.
Other challenges that the church faces today are persecution, religious restrictions, the use of violence in the name of religion and terrorism. In response to this we need to follow the examples of those saints who were ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ.
Poverty is also a major challenge. More than one billion people live on less than $1.9 a day. In this regard we need to encourage our people to get rid of the spirit of dependency on western foreign aid. We also need to encourage NGOs to promote micro and moderate businesses to overcome poverty. It is also important for us to deal with health issues as well as education in order to tackle the problem of poverty in a more comprehensive way.
Some alarming statistics facing us:
- 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS
- Africans account for 90 per cent of victims of malaria
- 1 billion people in the Global South do not have access to clearn water; 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation
- 8 million child deaths occur every year due to diaorrhea
- 2 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM (female genital mutilation)
- 75 per cent of the world’s illiterate people are located in South Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa
Women make up 67 per cent of illiterate people around the world.
We cannot turn a deaf ear as we hear these figures. Jesus sent us to the world in order to heal the sick, feed the hungry and bring peace and reconciliation and to proclaim the kingdom of God.
There is another major crisis in regard to refugees. The civil war in Syria has led to over 4.8 million people fleeing the country. Wars in South Sudan and Somalia are forcing similar numbers of their countries. Many other refugees are economic migrants who risk their lives in order to find a job. Of human trafficking victims, 80 per cent are women; 5o per cent are children.
We cannot just watch this human misery and do nothing. We have to be involved in peacemaking where there is conflict; provide health where there is sickness and bring hope where there is despair.
We have spent almost two decades reacting to the unilateral decisions and changes in the theology and practice made by some churches in the West. But now it is time for us to give needful attention to the challenges that are before us in the Global South. We cannot continue to focus on the faults of others while neglecting the needs of our own people. The mission in front of us is huge as we are to advance the good news and build up new generations, rooted in Christ and established in the faith.