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Archbishop Welby on white, male, straight advantage. His lament and solution

“I have white advantage, male advantage, straight advantage,” Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby recently told the Church of England’s General Synod.

Wallace Henley Portrait
Wallace Henley |

The leader of the Anglican Church spoke as the Synod readied for an important vote to apologize “for the conscious and unconscious racism experienced by countless black, Asian and minority ethnic Anglicans in 1948 and subsequent years.”[1] 

But Welby was disturbed by what he described as racism continuing in the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury told his audience that “there is no doubt when we look at our own Church that we are still institutionally racist.”

While they’re at it, the Anglican leaders should “lament and apologize” to African and Asian Anglican leaders for trying to force on them a theology of sex and marriage the nonwhites see as violating the Scriptures and ignoring their concerns.

A good way of curing the “whiteness” over which Archbishop Welby is so ashamed is to take seriously the nonwhite bishops who serve the Church globally, beyond England, with its trendy waves of politically correct faith and practice.

Kenyan Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit is an example. Sapit told Religion News Service that he would not attend the Lambeth Conference — the gathering of Anglican bishops every ten years — because, among other things, “God’s plan of marriage is between a man and woman for procreation. Homosexuality is a sin before God.”  

Hardly anything would solve the “institutional racism” of the Church of England as dramatically as enlarging the influence of the conservative bishops of Africa and Asia.

And by the way, such a move would help the American Methodist Church as well. It is now divided over same-sex marriage, homosexuality and related issues. Both the Western Anglicans and Methodists would see churches growing and thriving, as are their conservative congregations and movements.

An African theologian spoke in the United States at a 2019 Methodist summit with a prophetic voice that would be good for Archbishop Welby to hear. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, dean of the Liberian Methodist University’s Gbarnga School of Theology, as one report put it, “held the progressive American bishops’ feet to the fire over their patronizing racism.”  

Dr Kulah told the Methodist leaders:

We Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to ‘grow up.’ We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal church elite in the U.S. we stand with our Filipino friends… our sisters and brothers in Europe and Russia… with our allies in America… farmers in Zambia… tech workers in Nairobi, Sunday School teachers in Nigeria, biblical scholars in Liberia, pastors in the Congo, United Methodist Women in Cote d’Ivoire, and thousands of other United Methodists all across Africa who have no compelling reasons for changing our sexual ethics, our teachings on marriage, and our ordination standards… We are grounded in God’s Word and the gracious and clear teachings of our church. On that we will not yield! We will not take a road that leads us from the truth! We will take the road that leads to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world!

The nonwhite leaders of the Global Anglican Communion also have good reason to question why they must embrace politically correct positions of the Church of England. They are concerned for the implications for the unity of Anglicans across the world.

It comes down to the individual in the pew — like a Nigerian Christian searching for a church in New England – described in a 2019 report by Kara Pettis:

“I’m an Anglican at heart,” the Nigerian man said. “But now I’m attending a Baptist church.” After visiting an Episcopal church in Boston, “he quickly realized that the doctrine they taught veered significantly from his home (Anglican) church in Nigeria.”

The Western leaders of Anglicanism are admirable in their desire to confess and repent of their personal and institutional sins. But they would do well — along with American Methodist and other leaders — to look closely at what Paul wrote, inspired by God’s Spirit:

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28 NLT. Italics added)

While repenting of racism leaders should also offer lamentations and apologies for the presumption that the rest of the Christian world should bow to Western unbiblical progressivist wokeness.

[1] 1948 was the year when a ship, the Empire Windrush, started mass immigration of Caribbean people to Britain… The Windrush Scandal burst onto the scene in 2018 when the British Home Office ordered the deportation of immigrants that included people from the Windrush era

Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now  does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.

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