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Venables takes Brazilian diocese under his wing


THE PRIMATE of the Southern Cone, at the southernmost tip of South America, the Most Revd Gregory Venables, has assumed control of large parts of a Brazilian diocese.

Bishop Venables wrote to the Bishop and clergy of Recife that he intended to provide "a special status of extra-provincial recognition" of the 32 clergy deposed by the suffragan Bishop of Recife, the Rt Revd Filadelfo Oliveira Neto ( News, 9 September).

The dispute in Recife has been raging since the former Bishop, the Rt Revd Robinson Cavalcanti, took part in irregular confirmations in Ohio in March 2004 ( News, 19 March 2004). The Primate of Brazil, the Most Revd Orlando Santo de Oliveira, attempted to discipline Bishop Cavalcanti, and eventually deposed him. Thirty-two clerics, two-thirds of the diocese of Recife, continued to support Bishop Cavalcanti, and were themselves deposed in August this year.

A fortnight ago, the diocesan standing committee in Recife issued a statement arguing that Bishop Cavalcanti had been legally deposed from the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, having "acted in bad faith and ideological falsehood". It also states that the former Bishop "surreptitiously took measures to change the statutes, transferring property which belonged to the province".

The committee’s statement also says that the schism was "not due to a conflict between ‘orthodox Evangelicals’ and ‘revisionist liberals’", but a dispute about authority.

Despite this, the Nigerian Primate, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, banned the Brazilian Primate from the forthcoming meeting of Anglican leaders from the Global South, to be held in Alexandria, accusing him of "creating a crisis concerning our relations" ( News, 16 September).

When the Anglican Primates met in Newry in February, they announced the setting up of a panel of reference to referee cross-border actions by bishops. They stated: "We commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate cross-boundary interventions" ( News, 4 March).

Bishop Venables justifies his action in his letter: "Due to the gravity of the attempt to declare the removal of the Bishop, and the declaration of excommunication of 40 [sic] of the diocesan clergy, and the extremely slow pace at which the panel of reference is operating, a great gap has been created, exposing the need for the bishop and clergy of Recife to receive ongoing recognition and some measure of spiritual covering."

He says that, having consulted other Primates, he will "continue to support these ordinations and ministries . . . until such time as the panel of reference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Anglican Communion has, in some way, adequately addressed this crisis".

The matter is believed to have been considered by the panel of reference, which met in August, but no pronouncement has been made. The panel reports to Dr Williams, and undertakes to submit its advice within six months of being applied to.

In the mean time, the American Anglican Council, a conservative grouping in the US, has objected to the removal of Bishop Cavalcanti’s name from the Anglican Communion website. A spokesman for the Communion office said on Wednesday: "It was at the request of the provincial authorities, the Primate, and the provincial secretary that we removed it. It is their site, not ours."

Anglican pain. The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Robin Eames, spoke this week about the "hurt and dismay" cause by the present dispute about sexuality and authority in the Anglican Communion.

In a pair of lectures at the Virginia Theological Seminary, where he received an honorary doctorate, Dr Eames said: "The impressions of the Anglican Communion I gained in the preparation of the Windsor report are dominated by one word: pain."

Calls for remedies abound, he said. His experience in Northern Ireland had taught him four things about reconciliation:

"First, reconciliation cannot be forced. It comes when parties wish to be reconciled.

"Second, reconciliation involves pain just as the situation to be reconciled causes hurt.

"Third, reconciliation does not mean the total achievement of individual aims. It speaks of honest compromise.

"Fourth, reconciliation involves recognition of the possible and acknowledgement of difference."

Dr Eames concluded: "Anglicanism needs a new theology of relationships . . . and a new means of cementing what we all most long for — unity in Christ."

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Mon 27 Mar 17 @ 10:29
Listen to the first episode of the Church Times Podcast- The latest on the Llandaff row & @malcolmguite on Coleridge https://t.co/BuiRqOQXZQ

Mon 27 Mar 17 @ 9:57
@TR_Smith here you go: https://t.co/KOMd0sCFbY It's also available on iTunes etc.