“We cannot break bread with bishops who betray the Bible”
THE struggle in the Anglican Communion is not about sexuality. It is a symptom of something deeper: it is biblical authority, the Archbishop of South Sudan, Bishop Justin Badi, told me on Friday.
“You can’t have different minds and be one church,” he said. “You must have the mind of Christ as a policy. You are teaching a message and you are helping people to expound, to simplify what the scriptures say. That’s it.
“You can’t say you don’t like it ‘but we are one now’. This is only possible in secular organisations. stay, we do what we want.’ »
Our conversation perfectly illustrates the impasse in which the Anglican Communion finds itself. I tell him that I have just returned from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s press conference, where the language, the passion, the hope and the drive revolved around reconciliation and the pressing needs of the world. Now I only hear the language of confrontation and division. How does he reconcile this?
Reconciliation is based on the Bible, says Bishop Badi, “on the Lord Jesus who came and shed his blood to gather us together. This unity cannot be a reality without repentance and a return to the authority of Scripture. This is what we seek and this is what we struggle with — to bring the authority of Scripture back to the Communion.
“So when we leave this there will be no reconciliation, no unity. I am saying this because Nigeria left, and soon after Uganda withdrew [out] then Rwanda fired [out], and Kenya. And we will all fall one by one if we don’t deal with the wound, which is the absence of and respect for biblical authority.
I tell him that for at least a quarter of a century, in reporting on primate meetings, Anglican advisory council meetings, Lambeth conferences, and the like, I have heard the hope that this time, this time, something will work out that settles the differences of the Communion. Does he see this as such a moment?
“My hope is that all the Provinces come back from where they went astray, that they follow the biblical teaching. It is then that we will come out of it, ”he repeats. “Otherwise the Communion will continue to be sick and suffer, and many will follow [it].”
What about an Anglican Communion that has kept these differences in tension, I suggest: recognize that, as Archbishop Welby had repeated that morning, “we are a messy family. But families live in disorder”?
There are “some things that we cannot live with that are central, or paramount, that unite us all, and that is biblical truth,” Bishop Badi says. “I am an African in Africa: we have our own culture, but it should be[side] from the church. You are European or American and have your own culture which is yours. But what brings us together is biblical truth.
“So our struggle here is [around] bring culture into the Church, trying to say that since we are autonomous, it can be there. But that shouldn’t happen. It can’t happen.
How would he advise Archbishop Welby, I ask, who is trying to balance a communion that includes the American Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria?
“He is a man of God, whom I respect very much, and the first thing is just to pray for him – that God encourages him and strengthens him to continue to stand on the truth, one day, once, [that] all who have strayed will find it on the road.
Sexuality seems to be the line in the sand, the litmus test for conservatives, I suggest, but to what extent is sexuality really central to his own ministry and the concerns of his flock? Aren’t there other more important issues for them?
Sin is not sexuality, he retorts. “There are many other sins that are committed. But the authority of the Bible is what we are trying to correct. The Bible says from the beginning that God created them, male and female, and gave them the mandate to go out and produce.
“So if we now say ‘God was wrong. We have found out the truth’, then where is it written in the Bible? As a Christian, you follow what the Bible teaches.
But on a daily basis, what does he do at home? What are his main concerns, I persist?
It’s about “helping people understand the word of God,” he says, “and living their lives according to the teachings of the scriptures — that’s the main thing I do as a pastor and bishop. And try to persuade those who go against the word of God to repent and come back to Bible truth. This is the main. I’m not saying, ‘No, it’s your right, go ahead and do anything.’ »
How the Tory faction proposes to put the reaffirmation of Lambeth 1.10 back on the agenda will only emerge after the weekend, he says. “Bishops from the Global South will discuss the details. What we are looking for is that it be brought back from where it is hidden and and [be made] Public. It is a measurement line. Some of my brothers and sisters said, “No, it’s already dead. But it’s not dead. Nope.”
Can’t he really break bread with other members of the Body of Christ, I ask? “The sacrament, according to our liturgy, is an outward sign of something deeper. So how can I do this, when I know my brothers have been wrong. . .? I criticized them and they have not yet repented. . . Coming to spiritual things, there is no union there. [The eucharist] is not just food.
“The priest stands up and says a few words, and then you measure yourself with these words: ‘If you repent of your sins and intend to live a new life, then come.’ Later, the priest said, “Although we are many, we are one body. Good. But you make your own culture. This is why Global South has decided to rectify the situation. You can’t have different minds and be a Church. It can’t happen.
“We can’t just go wrong saying, ‘Okay, we’re together.’ We’re not really together. It’s hypocrisy.”