A History of Global Anglicanism.
Ward's book is a welcome and significant contribution as Anglican Studies programs continue to be revised and renewed, developed and implemented. The unapologetic introductory chapter, "Not English, but Anglican," boldly sets the book apart from its peers. W. explicitly focuses on the evolution and subsequent contribution to global Anglicanism by those more commonly perceived and institutionally positioned as "underside" or "minority" Anglicans. His is a well-intended, redemptive endeavor to right history, especially as it has been lived in a wide variety of those postcolonial societies directly impacted by the "mother" Church of England.
W. endeavors to avoid either polemicist or patronizing approaches by identifying what he sees as the major points of contemporary ideological contestation, even while he deals with some of these points in a too dismissive and impatient way. While clearly he has developed a sympathetic analysis of the legacy of colonial imperialism, his brevity and impatience offers little help for understanding just how insidious the integral tentacles of colonial racism, classism, and sexism have been, let alone how they continue, well into the 21st century, to warp Anglican self-understanding.
Similarly W. harshly deconstructs the very name "Anglican": "Anglicanism is commonly seen as incorrigibly English, a hangover of the British Empire, an anachronism" (2). Still, he does not clarify exactly who "commonly" sees in this way. Again, his summary on page 16 is far more exacting, in my view (an indigenous Anglican), than is warranted; W. writes as though certain past hegemonies currently endure or are more pervasive than is actually the case. Once more losing precision, he speaks of "those parts of the world often characterized as 'the global south,'" with no hint of who has "often characterized" them. In seeking thus to give voice or focus to the ecclesial experiences and theological insights of indigenous or minority Anglicans, W. instead imposes his own undoubtedly well-intended, but at times unhelpfully unnuanced, opinions. In so doing he risks irritating and even alienating those for whom he clearly seeks to advocate.
W. is not alone in such blanket characterizations. Even before the latest crises began to affect the global Communion, both ecumenical and Anglican attempts to geographically contain indigenous South Pacific peoples have sparked resistance. From the late 1970s through that century's end, the New Zealand and Australian churches were often "conveniently" grouped as belonging with the Asia Pacific region. Maori Anglicans, however, found greater spiritual commonality with other indigenous Anglicans, in political and spiritual solidarity and mutually enriching relationship with Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiians), First Nations peoples in Canada, Native Americans in the United States, and the Aboriginal people of Australia. Inside these dynamic and ever shifting alliances we are finding rich historical narratives still to be uncovered and recovered. While W. certainly points the way forward, his study also indirectly but helpfully suggests that it is up to emergent indigenous and minority scholars to assume responsibility for writing and retelling our shared histories of being church.
Unfortunately some contemporary church leaders are making extraordinarily naive claims revolving around an entirely different form of "global positioning." A more populist "global south" descriptor has emerged with arrogant certainty (and only very recently) from within the bloc that is most vociferously opposed to the Episcopal ordination of Gene Robinson. In response, a number of us Maori Anglican leaders quickly distanced ourselves from the implied assumption of relational and attitudinal solidarity. Similar rejoinders to the bloc have emerged from Provinces also coincidentally located in the southernmost parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
None of my qualifications should detract from appreciation for W.'s extraordinarily comprehensive sweep through global Anglican history. He provides a veritable trove of historical, critically processed information for those who seek to understand and appreciate the glorious and unending diversity that is, at a profoundly mysterious theological level, simply and beautifully the undifferentiated whole people of God. Yet, both his lack of reference to those who shaped his own extensive and sympathetic understandings and to the mission of indigenous Anglican scholars to advance our mutual understanding suggest that future, more collaborative histories need development. We are all charged with the responsibility of equipping the next generation of scholars and ministers to become servant workers for God's mission throughout the world. Central to achieving our teaching responsibilities is having the ability and the will to speak and think comprehensively of the myriad complexities and ambiguities inherent in the lived experiences of all God's people.
W. is to be warmly and generously applauded for this taonga, or cultural treasure. This highly valued book will remain near the very top of the short pile I have designated as "very special," and "not to be taken or even loaned without express permission."
JENNY PLANE TE PAA
St. Johns College, Auckland, N.Z.
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|Author:||Paa, Jenny Plane Te|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2008|
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