THE Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, has dismissed the Primates’ Meeting in Alexandria this month as having “trivialised” the situation before it (News, 13 February).
In a letter sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury on 10 February, Archbishop Akinola expresses his admiration for the gracious way Dr Williams has borne “the divergent views and the enormous pain they impose”, before charging both the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with taking recent actions “in direct contradiction to the season of deeper communion and greater restraint to which we all expressed agreement”.
He goes on to say that without a “radical change of behaviour” by the two North American Churches, the only outcome of the professionally mediated conversation that Dr Williams has initiated will be “acknowledgement of a bitter truth that the differences . . . are ‘irreconcilable’.”
Archbishop Akinola refers to a report, Tearing the Fabric to Shreds, by the conservative grouping, the American Anglican Council (AAC), which he commissioned and circulated to Primates in preparation for the meeting. He has since made it available more widely “to enable people in the wider Communion to have a fuller perspective of the circumstances in North America”.
The 42-page document accuses the Episcopal Church in the US of “systematically destroying the foundations of Anglican Christianity within the USA” and “tearing the fabric of the Anglican Communion to shreds”.
It lists a “Catalogue of Heresies”, in which it charges the Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, with affirming Pelagianism, Marcionism, pluralism, universalism, and Gnosticism. Among the evidence cited is: “Asked about the literal story of Easter and the Resurrection, Jefferts Schori said, ‘I think Easter is most profoundly about meaning, not mechanism.’”
Others, such as the Episcopal diocese of Utah, stand accused over statements such as: “There is no single biblical morality. Few biblical scholars would claim that a monochromatic approach to ethics and human behaviour exists in the Holy Scriptures. . . The Holy Scriptures, written in antiquity, could not and did not foresee many of the ethical questions we have in our age.”
A parallel, though much slimmer, document, also using the title Tearing the Fabric to Shreds, has come from the conservative body the Anglican Network in Canada. Those charged with “Denial of the Authority of Scripture” are the Bishop of New Westminster, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham; the former Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, the Most Revd Andrew Hutchison; and two other bishops.
Both the US and Canadian documents list in detail the actions taken against priests and congregations who are dissenting from their Churches. The AAC report includes a history of the lawsuits initiated by the Episcopal Church.
The Primates’ discussions on the desperate situations in Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Gaza prompted Bishop Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership, to concede, in a response to the Primates’ Meeting, that the immediate temporal circumstances of North America were “in no way as severe as those in other regions”.
Yet the “spiritual consequences of innovations in Faith and Order are staggering”, Bishop Duncan said. He appreciated the “public recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Windsor continuation group of the desire of the ‘coalition’ (the Common Cause Partnership) constituting the new Anglican Church of North America ‘to be Anglican and to be in relationship with the Anglican Communion.’”
He found “honesty in the written Communiqué” and “a yearning for ‘accountability,’ even ‘robust accountability’,” but said that the “innovations, punitive lawsuits, and abuses of the Episcopal Church continue to take a toll. They proceed unrepentant and undeterred.”