While the decision whether to confirm the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as the new bishop in New Hampshire may have sharply divided the Episcopal Church in the United States, it is far from a central issue for many of the more than 70 million members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion not living in America, says Duke University divinity professor Stanley Hauerwas.
Leaders of those non-U.S. churches, especially bishops in Africa and other parts of the globe where the church is growing fastest, have not been shy about criticizing American church leaders.
"I think it is really quite wonderful that you now have the Nigerian church telling the American church not to do something," says Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke and author of "A Community of Character." "I think those developments are very interesting."
Whether the vote over confirming Robinson -- or an upcoming decision on the blessing of same-sex unions -- will lead to a schism within the Anglican Church is unclear at this point, Hauerwas says. Many churches have been facing similar debates in recent years, including the Methodist Church, of which Hauerwas is a member.
But the controversy surrounding the annual General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis this week, punctuated by today's vote over whether to consecrate a gay bishop, reveals a myopic vision, says Hauerwas.
"This issue is driven by the church's wealth in this country," says Hauerwas, who was named "America's Best Theologian" by Time magazine in 2001. "This is an issue for people who don't have to earn a living." The church, he says, could do more good by focusing on world wide issues like poverty and hunger.
Hauerwas can be reached for additional comment at (919) 660-3420 (office) or (919) 493-3401 (home).