Conservatives offer alternative

Published October 1, 2008

When conservative Anglicans gathered in Jerusalem in June to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) they decided against formally breaking away from the Anglican Communion. Six conservative primates today are looking into the creation of a province within North America.

Six conservative primates of the Anglican Communion have rejected proposals aimed at resolving the current dispute over homosexuality, saying that “the urgency of the situation” requires them to continue with their plans for a “gospel movement” that would offer alternatives to Anglicans at odds with their churches over the issue.

The primates said a “possible formation of a province in North America for the Common Cause Partnership” was now being considered as a priority. (The row over sexuality has been triggered by the 2002 decision of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster to approve the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration in 2003 of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of the American diocese of New Hampshire.)

The primates, who constitute the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) primates’ council, met in London in August and released a communique stating that they were saddened that the recent Lambeth Conference “did not offer a more effective way forward than what is proposed.”

They said that the Lambeth Conference merely offered the same prescriptions for addressing the conflict that has engulfed the nearly 80-million strong Anglican Communion. “Our immediate difficulty is that the voice of Lambeth 2008 is seriously weakened because it merely repeated what has been said by the primates’ meeting… and which has proved to change nothing,” they said. “We are therefore continually offered the same strategies which mean further delay and unlikely results. Indeed, delay itself seems to be a strategy employed by some in order to resolve the issue through weariness.”

The Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) had presented bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference with a proposal to create a pastoral forum that would create a “safe space” for conservative Anglicans who have left their churches because of theological disagreements over the place of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.

[pullquote]”The idea of the pastoral forum has only now emerged but has never been discussed with those actually affected by the innovations which have created the problems with which we are trying to deal,” the six primates said. “If the panel of reference did not work, it is unclear how the pastoral forum will succeed.” (The panel of reference, established by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2005, is empowered to “consider situations where dioceses are in serious dispute with their provinces, and also, by reference from a primate, to mediate in situations arising within that primate’s jurisdiction.)

The communique, signed by archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Gregory Venables (Southern Cone), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Valentino Mokiwa (Tanzania), Benjami Nzimbi (Kenya), and Henry Orombi (Uganda), also cast doubt on the ability of the proposed Anglican Covenant to hold the Communion together.

“The Anglican Covenant will take a long time to be widely accepted and may have no particular force when it does,” they said. (The proposed covenant, now on its second draft, with the third draft expected to be released before year end, will be presented for discussion to primates when they meet early next year, and to the Anglican Consultative Council, which meets in Jamaica in May 2009. Ratification by provinces follows the release of a final draft, a process that could take years. They added that the proposed moratoria on same-sex blessings, ordination of gay bishops and cross-border interventions was not going to work. “The idea of ‘moratoria’ has never dealt with the underlying problem as is shown by the equivalence of cross-border care and protection with the sexual sins which have caused the problems.”

The primates who, except for Archbishop Venables, boycotted the conference, said they were “reluctant to say that (the proposals) cannot work,” since some of their colleagues from the Global South have “strongly commended” them. But, they added, “there is nothing new here such as to make us hesitate from the course we are taking, given the urgency of the situations with which we are dealing and the realities already on the ground.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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