The worldwide Anglican Communion, embroiled in a long-running controversy about homosexuality, needs to be rescued from “apostates,” Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has told 1,000 Anglican leaders meeting in Jerusalem.
“Our beloved Anglican Communion must be rescued from the manipulation of those who have denied the gospel and its power to transform and save, those who have departed from the scripture and the faith,” Archbishop Akinola said at the June 22 opening of the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON.
The standoff in the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion was triggered in 2003 after the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church consecrated V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay divorced father, as a bishop in the U.S. state of New Hampshire.
Anglican leaders who oppose the actions of the US church have organized the Jerusalem gathering. Many of the almost 300 bishops at the GAFCON meeting have said they will not attend the once-every-10-years Lambeth Conference in July that brings together the world’s Anglican bishops. (The Anglican Communion office has said that more than 600 of the 800 invited bishops have registered for the conference in Canterbury, England.)
Anglican leaders reported to be planning to boycott the Lambeth Conference include Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, once seen as a potential Archbishop of Canterbury.
Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen told journalists on June 22 that the Jerusalem meeting and the bishops’ absence from the Lambeth Conference in July should be viewed as a “button” pointing to the enormity of the problem.
“Our absence will be helpful in that it forces the issue,” Archbishop Jensen said. “It will help them focus their minds, and I hope the result will be a helpful convention which will pull us all together.”
In his address to the Jerusalem meeting, Archbishop Akinola condemned the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, for issuing invitations to the Lambeth gathering to US church leaders who consecrated Robinson as a bishop.
Archbishop Williams “was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say”, he said.
The Nigerian archbishop rejected what he called the “revisionist leadership” of the Anglican Communion. “A sizeable part of the communion is in error, and not a few are apostate,” he said. “In the wisdom and strength God supplies, we must rescue what is left of the church from the error of the apostates.”
Earlier, at a media conference, Archbishop Akinola described Williams as a “brother”, whom he loved but with whom he is not able to agree about certain things of faith. “We want to rescue the communion. How that is to be done I have no idea,” said the Nigerian archbishop.
Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi told the press briefing, “The Western church brought its religion to us and we embraced it, and now the Western church is contradicting what it brought to us.”