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The theology of Ernle Gordon

By DUDLEY C McLEAN

Tuesday, February 26, 2013    

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THE theology of Ernle Gordon is the quest to distinguish, but not separate, Ernle's theological reflections from his proclamation of the gospel. There are those who read his articles published in the Jamaica Observer from narrow political ideas, thus missing his genuine theological interpretations.

Victor P Furnish believes that "the apostles' kerygmatic (preaching) affirmations and appeals, whether traditional or of his own creation, are formulated as direct address and are invitations either explicit or implicit, to receive (or remember) and commit (or re-commit) oneself to the Gospel." Ernle's kerygmatic affirmations and appeals as that which constitutes a summons to believe the gospel are grounded in Anglican Incarnational theology, and the prophetic and sacramental role of the priest.

Anglicans believe in a God "who is completely engaged in mission and whose very life is a movement outwards to give and share divine life and joy." This belief is anchored in the received tradition that the Logos became human (Jn.1:14); and secondly, that "knowledge of the virgin birth' is the sphere of God's action with humanity. "Where God became a true human being in the person of Jesus Christ, so that humanity can realise the redemptive process of God in three Persons" (see Theology, Virgin Births and Christians, Daily Observer December 21, 2001).

The Incarnation is the modus vivendi or sphere of influence for Anglicans to respond to the call to do mission in the world. In the Incarnation, "the Good News of the gospel is that in Jesus, by grace, those who are no people are called God's people, and identified as the Image of God, called to be stewards of his creation. The good news is of dignity and self-respect through God's grace and call in Jesus (Called To Live and Proclaim the Good News,3.8,, Lambeth 1998).

The challenge of the priest and by extension, Christians, is the ability to interpret the 'signs of the times' in a prophetic and meaningful way. Many of the theological and political issues that we encounter are due to the impact of globalisation and are "ruled by the ethic of post-modernity, where nothing is sacred and nothing is permanent" (Morality Or Cowboy International Ethics, Daily Observer April 21, 2003). On the spiritual domain, Augustine of Hippo's theology of "Original Sin" and Western Christianity's fall/redemption theology have also contributed to a schizophrenic culture among our people (Capitalism Gone Mad Daily Observer January 17, 2003). The Church in the Province of the West Indies (Anglican) had responded to this view by becoming the only Province in the Anglican Communion to uphold a Creation Spirituality view of God's salvivic plan for humanity. The clergy and people need to know this and 'learn, mark and inwardly digest" this view of kerygmatic affirmation. Canon Gordon is one of the few priests who dare to make this known in his writings.

As a Caribbean people, we need to be aware of these philosophical and theological views as we engage in finding solutions to the varied conflicts. Too many of our people are ignorant of the philosophical views that propel our world and have made God out to be a simpleton, formed in their image.

In "The Division of the United Nations" (January 30, 2003), and "Roast Breadfruit Theology" (December 17, 2003) we are enjoined to open our eyes to understand what is happening in our world. As a prophet, Canon Gordon wrote, "If the USA bombs a sovereign state, without any circumstantial evidence, terrorism will intensify and nuclear power race will be activated." We have now come to witness North Korea and Iran currently at odds with the international community on the issue of nuclear power, and the invasion of Iraq have intensified terrorism in

our world.

Then there is the age-old issue of theodicy, and Ernle is not afraid to point out that" war is not God's doing. It is rooted in the war which rages within human beings that they consider desirable."

One of the wars being fought is in search of identity, and "we are living with a deformed individualism that idolises foreign potted plants (Capitalism Gone Mad). According to Ernle, the function of the Jamaican (West Indian) pastor-theologian is to assist us to discover the essential characteristic of which Jamaican people are made, and give it the historical dimension as was done with the Jews, and God will utilise the basic material.

Idris Hamnid said, "The West Indian theologian is therefore an integral part of the process known as the search for identity. This process seems roughly to fall into two parts: first the discovery of the basic material stripped of over-layers imposed by other people. The second part of the process consists of a conscious creation of an intellectual tradition which is born of the way Caribbean Man looks at his/her history" (The Resurrection and Identity).

As a prolific writer who emerged from among the Jamaican Anglican community over the past 40 years, Canon Ernle Gordon through his writings shows how "the Anglican church, because of its creational, sacramental, catholic and incarnational modes is able to be indigenous and respect the critical analysis" needed to transform the Jamaican, and indeed the West Indian community.

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