Primate acknowledges schism

Published May 1, 2005

Allison Kemper of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, addresses the panel at a forum organized by the diocese of Toronto at St. James’ Cathedral which discussed schism in the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion is already in schism.

That stark declaration was made by Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in the weeks following the meeting of primates in Northern Ireland where the North American churches came under attack over the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions in one Canadian diocese.

“The Communion is, in fact, broken,” Archbishop Hutchison said, citing the refusal by about a dozen Anglican primates (national bishops) from Africa, Asia and Latin America to join the eucharist despite repeated requests made by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the February meeting of primates held near Newry, Northern Ireland. Speaking at a forum organized by the diocese of Toronto and attended by about 400 people at St. James’ Cathedral March 16, the primate said there were no guarantees that the Canadian church would “voluntarily withdraw” its representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council as requested by primates in a communiqu© issued at the end of their meeting. The decision whether to withdraw the Canadian members from the international Anglican body lies with the Council of General Synod, which meets May 6-8 in Mississauga, Ont.

“I think it’s entirely possible that our Council of General Synod will say, ‘No, this is the most important consultative body of the Communion and our presence is enormously important, so we will be attending as invited.’ And we are still invited. Nobody has uninvited us,” he said.

In related developments:

  • The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church publicly declared recently that its clergy occasionally respond to requests to bless same-sex couples. In a statement released on their church Web site, they also said being a non-celibate homosexual should not be a bar to becoming a priest. The bishops also said that they “personally regret” the primates’ request for the voluntarily withdrawal of both the Canadian and American churches in the Council, which meets in Nottingham next month.
  • Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria, announced recently that “after much prayer and careful discernment,” the Church of Nigeria was forming the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America. Archbishop Akinola said in the announcement that the intention was not to intervene in the churches in the United States and Canada, “but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches.” The church will have its own legal and ecclesial structure and local suffragan episcopate.
  • Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone (of South America), told the English newspaper Church Times that he did “think twice” about his decision to visit and preach at a dissenting church in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster shortly after the primates’ meeting. The archbishop told the newspaper that he went ahead with the visit because “this was not a new initiative.” Archbishop Hutchison had earlier called Archbishop Venables’ visit “a clear violation of the agreement” made by the primates not to cross provincial boundaries. “I had no political agenda in going to Canada at all,” said Archbishop Venables. “I agree the timing wasn’t brilliant, but I felt committed to them.” Archbishop Hutchison said his fellow primate could have told him about his plans when they met each other in Northern Ireland.
  • The London-based Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has urged Anglicans worldwide to express their support for Canadian and American Anglicans by affixing their signatures to an online petition. “Their attitude towards lesbian and gay people should be commended rather than condemned,” the group said.

With files from staff.


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