While the members of St. Timothy’s originally joined AMiA as what Hassett describe as “a lifeboat” away from an Episcopal Church they perceived to be increasingly errant in its leftward drift while still maintaining their connection to the larger Anglican Communion through the archbishop of Rwanda, she found that the new relationship had a profound impact on both parish and parishioners that went far beyond canonical formalities to forge “a transnational relationship of significant local meaning.” Describing the congregation’s efforts to “think more seriously about what their connection to Rwanda might mean”–which ranged from a display and sale of African handicrafts to assisting an African priest raising money for AIDS orphans to a trip to visit their new provincial see by several congregants–Hassett notes that the “congregation’s experience of finding an alliance with an African church first thinkable, then desirable, involved more and more members’ coming to see African Christianity as a positive model.” As a result, members of St. Timothy’s “were coming not only to think about Africa in new and positive ways but also to look more critically on their own way of life as Americans.”
If “conservative dissidents point to the orthodoxy, zeal, and other desirable traits they perceive as characterizing the churches of the global South, and seek to bring that moral force to bear in transforming the Episcopal Church,” the Anglicans Hassett encountered in Uganda–the heirs of a colonial church if ever there was one, as Danish Africanist Holger Bernt Hansen’s monumental study Mission, Church, and State in a Colonial Setting: Uganda, 1890-1925, authoritatively documented–have been excited by the discovery that “Africans have something to teach American Christians.” According to Hassett, African Christians see this as an exchange not unlike that of economic globalization whereby “each region is envisioned exporting what it has in plenty, trading those goods for what another region can readily provide”–in this case, spiritual aid in return for material assistance.
IMHO, the whole movement towards African oversight of American Anglican parishes and now dioceses is one of the greatest unfolding events in Christianity today. It overturns just about everything in the classical Western missions model: the parallel flow of money and inspiration/expertise, the assumed primacy of a Western “home front,” and the rest.
Although Evangelical churches don’t (yet) have the doctrinal and moral imperative to do what conserative North American Anglicans have done, this kind of “inversion” can and should come. Just as the shekinah bailed out of the temple, so also the centre of gravity of Christianity has departed from the West. Besides, if “big bucks running the church” is unBiblical on a local level, isn’t that true on a global scale?