Akinola and Africans also pulling out

06 February 2008

by Pat Ashworth

CONFIRMATION by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, that he and other Sydney bishops would not be at the Lambeth Conference followed hard on the heels of a similar declaration from the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola.

He told a press conference in Lagos last week, and referred to the rival Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in the Holy Land in June. “Those of us who will abide with the Word of God, come rain, come fire, are those who are in GAFCON. Those who say it does not matter are the ones who are attending Lambeth.

“There might be a view, for whatever it is worth, that they want to be there to observe what is going on. But Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Sydney — we are not going to the Lambeth Conference.

“What is the use of the Lambeth Conference for a three weeks’ jamboree which will sweep these issues under the carpet? GAFCON will confer about the future of the Church, which will set a road map for the future. We are a movement that will move away from the ‘maybe-maybe not’.”

Despite Archbishop Akinola’s announcement, there is unlikely to be a blanket refusal to attend from the regions he mentioned. Individual bishops from those African provinces whose leaders have declared non-attendance on their behalf may well still come to Canterbury, the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Trevor Musonda Mwamba, indicated on Tuesday.

He said: “All the bishops from Central Africa will be there, without a shadow of a doubt. There will also be individual bishops from Nigeria, Uganda, and the rest. . . There will be great representation. We are looking forward to it. It will be a great time for renewing our faith in the Lord, in the Communion and in what we stand for.”

A leader in the Sydney Morning Herald after Dr Jensen’s declaration roundly criticised his refusal to attend Lambeth. Absence was no argument, the paper suggested, noting that “the conservatives were planning their own rival ‘global’ conference despite appeals for them to attend Lambeth. . .

“Dr Jensen says the Anglican Communion is now in a ‘tumultuous’ state, but insists he and his allies remain ‘totally committed’ to its good health. Yet their present tactics seem likely to deepen the crisis and widen the division. They are not so much taking their bat and ball and going home as refusing to go on the field at all, preferring instead to play among themselves.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in an interview with the Press Association last week, said that he felt “some real hope” about the Lambeth Conference.

“I think the fact that the overwhelming majority of bishops in the Communion are going to come to Lambeth is a very promising sign. It includes a lot of people who still disagree quite strongly with one another, but, as I say, they want to make it work. There is a strong sense of ownership.”

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