Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Africa Unbound

[Christianity Today] 21 Nov 2007--Seldom noted in the depressingly predictable reports and images, however, is Africa's burgeoning and dynamic Christian counterculture—churches and denominations that serve as oases of integrity and harbingers of hope. At its best, this counterculture is the antithesis of all that is wrong with Africa.

Philip Jenkins's The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South suggests that the growing rift between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in Africa is both inevitable and unbridgeable. While American and African churches appear to be using the same book, they are in fact reading quite different Bibles. African Anglicans—with their strong evangelistic impulse, surging memberships, and overwhelming social challenges such as AIDS, poverty, and corruption—tend to read the Bible evangelically. They understand its teachings to be authoritative in all matters of faith and life, and its words to be the verbal plenary revelation of God. Theirs, then, cannot be a comfortable post-Enlightenment "Yea hath God said?" reading of the Bible, letting believers be swept along by the shifting winds of current cultural predisposition. To most African believers, gender roles and sexual orientation are elemental pillars of the created order. To tinker with such verities is to invite not only the derision of Muslim neighbors but the judgment of God. That American and Nigerian bishops should have achieved only impasse is little wonder.

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