Lots of breathless chatter and furrowed-brow tsk-tsk-ing by revisionists of the revelation that the original digital file containing the statement from the Anglican Church of Nigeria titled “A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008” appears to have been edited heavily by Bishop Martyn Minns.
At Episcopal Cafe, Jim Naughton writes:
The significance of this development lies less in the fact that Akinola has a ghostwriter—The leaders of many organizations, ecclesial and secular have staff members who handle writing assignments for them.—than that what has long been portrayed as the authentic voice of African Anglicanism is, manifestly, not African, and perhaps never has been.
What is the significance of this? A document that is purported to be an expression of the “personal anguish” of an African Primate was actually penned by this Primate’s North Atlantic allies. Any claim that it is an expression of the mind of the Global South can no longer be considered valid.
If I were a Global South clergy person, I would be quite concerned, if not deeply offended, by North Americans and Europeans having the audacity to think they can speak for the Global South.
In lieu of paper bags into which these two gentlemen may breathe, may I offer the following:
- Any accusation that Minns’ helping to author the statement is evidence that “what has long been portrayed as the authentic voice of African Anglicanism is, manifestly, not African, and perhaps never has been,” is just childish and silly. Martyn Minns is a bishop in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. He is the Assistant Secretary for the Global South Steering Committee, for crying out loud. Helping write statements such as “Agonizing Journey” is part of his job. He has been close to the leaders in that province for years. He is in fact quite familiar with the prevailing thought of the province, and is quite well-suited to speak for it. Saying Minns isn’t a knowledgeable spokesman for Nigeria is like saying Naughton isn’t a knowledgeable spokesman for the Diocese of Washington, or Susan Russell isn’t a knowledgeable spokeswoman for the Diocese of Los Angeles.
- Archbishop Akinola was in Virginia last week, when the statement was released. He and Minns spent much time together. It is entirely possible that +Akinola was using Minns’ computer to compose his statement. It is more likely that +Akinola was dictating the statement to Minns. It is far more likely that +Akinola was giving shape and form to the statement, while relying on Minns for the exact wording… in other words, exactly what a trusted confidant and Assistant Secretary of the Global South Steering Committee is for. Surely Jim Naughton, as a diocesan communications director who has no doubt ghost-written more than a few of John Chane’s statements, understands how that works.
- Any notion - asserted both by Jake and Naughton - that Martyn Minns “pulled one over” on Archbishop Akinola is absurd. There is simply no way the Anglican Church of Nigeria released a statement that was not approved by +Akinola.
- The idea - also asserted both by Jake and Naughton - that Peter Akinola doesn’t possess the intellectual acumen or the command of the English language to compose “Agonizing Journey,” is equally absurd, and tinged with more than a touch of racism. The archbishop is a highly educated man (master’s degree from Virginia Theological Seminary) and is quite articulate.
The Church Times story obviously springs from someone’s having obtained the original word-processing file containing the statement. Both Microsoft Word and WordPerfect have change-tracking features; I believe both are set to “on” by default during installation.So while it might be interesting to learn exactly how this file got into the hands of the Church Times reporter, that will almost certainly prove to be by far the most interesting part of this “story.”