JerusalemMore than 1,000 senior leaders of the Anglican Communion, including about 280 bishops from Africa, Latin America and Asia, who oppose the ordination of homosexuals are preparing for a summit meeting in Jerusalem.
Many of the church leaders attending the June 22 to 29 meeting are from the global South, and have said they will boycott the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in England due to begin on July 16. One of the root causes of the disagreement is a long running controversy relating to same-sex blessings and the consecration of a gay bishop in the United States.
The dispute threatens to tear apart the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.The Lambeth Conference this year is seen as seeking to bolster unity among church members. The alternative gathering in Jerusalem, called the Global Anglican Future Conference, has a declared three-fold goal including preparing for an Anglican future in which, organizers say, “the gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred mission is a top priority.”
Conference leaders on June 19 released a book, “The Way, The Truth and the Life” at a press conference in Jerusalem. They had arrived in the city four days earlier than planned after Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola encountered visa difficulties entering Jordan, where a pre-meeting for some of the church leaders had been planned.
“At a time when the fabric of the communion has been torn apart, the entire drive of the book is to hold together what is meant by ‘Anglican.’ How can we claim this identity?” said Rev. Vinay Samuel, co-ordinator of the book. “This is not to exclude anyone but in a confused situation this says, ‘This is where we are’.”
The Jerusalem conference aims to develop a renewed understanding of what it means to be an Anglican Christian, organizers have said. A statement on the conference Web site, www.gafcon.org says the meeting is not meant to be an alternative to the Lambeth Conference, and there are no future plans for another such gathering.
Anglican archbishops from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South America and Australia initiated the Jerusalem event after concluding that their concerns were not being properly addressed by The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said the organizers.Evangelical Anglican bishops from Britain and United States took part in organizing the conference in Jerusalem.
In 2003, V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay, divorced father, who recently entered into a civil union with his long time partner, was consecrated bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire of the U.S. Episcopal (Anglican) Church, and this triggered the current crisis in the worldwide communion.
The consecration as a bishop of an openly gay man is in “direct violation of the Bible and historic Christian teaching,” Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi, one of the key organizers of the Jerusalem conference, said in a statement. “We are not going to pretend by going to Lambeth that we are in fellowship [with the US church]. We are not. What they have done is a very serious thing, and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in inviting them is grievous, and we want them to know that,” he said.
Archbishop Orombi is among the African Anglican leaders who have been consecrating dissident US Episcopal priests as bishops in African “missions” in North American congregations. This has created further division within the Anglican Communion.