Akinola: Lambeth betrayed us

26 June 2008

Reports by Paul Handley in Jerusalem

Don’t mention a schism: Archbishop Akinola addresses GAFCON on Sunday REUTERS

Don’t mention a schism: Archbishop Akinola addresses GAFCON on Sunday REUTERS

THE Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, produced a barnstorming opening to GAFCON on Sunday night.

He made it clear that the days of negotiating with liberal Anglicans were over. GAFCON was not “a monster on the horizon, or even a strange breed of Anglicanism devoid of antecedent factors”. Instead: “GAFCON is a continuation of that quiet but consistent initiative; a godly instrument appointed to reshape, reform, renew, and reclaim a true Anglican biblical orthodox Christianity.”

Archbishop Akinola ran through the history of the past decade, beginning with the Global South Encounter in Kuala Lumpur in 1997, which, he said, pronounced that any form of sexual expression outside marriage was “sinful, selfish, dishonouring to God, and an abuse of human dignity”. This was followed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, at which, he stated, the majority of bishops stood together “against the revisionist agenda that was being peddled then”.

There followed a period of post-Lambeth condescension from various Americans, the Archbishop said, ending in the consecration of a gay bishop, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, in 2003. The Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace that preceded the consecration, followed by others in Northern Ireland in 2005 and Dar es Salaam in 2007, all condemned the US action.

In his address, Archbishop Akinola made little mention of Bishop Robinson, or even of those involved in his consecration. The focus of his attention was the attitude of Lambeth Palace. “To our utter dismay, it became apparent that our sober resolutions were, in the aftermath, trivialised by some of our most respected leaders. As if that were not bad enough, our corporate identity was abused, and the pains and concerns shared so open-mindedly [were] ridiculed and betrayed by the flagrant compromises of those entrusted with the responsibility of guarding divine and eternal truths.”

Archbishop Akinola was bitter about the invitation of US bishops to the Lambeth Conference before the September 2007 deadline for clarifying their stand on gay consecrations and same-sex blessings had passed. “At this point, it dawned on us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.”

This was the only explicit reference to Dr Williams, but the attack on him was only partly disguised by references to “Lambeth Palace”. There were several: “Lambeth Palace chose not to be bothered about that which troubles us. . . We have found ourselves in a world in which Anglican leaders hold on to some form of religion, but consistently deny its power. . . The Lambeth authorities are not willing to listen,” and so on.

He also accused Lambeth “agents” of attempting to bribe bishops to come to the Lambeth Conference (News, page 4).

In sum, said Archbishop Akinola: “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 ‘once and for all delivered to the saints’; from those who are proclaiming a new gospel which really is no gospel at all.

“In the wisdom and strength God supplies, we must rescue what is left of the Church from error of the apostates.”

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