THE Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates Council has bracketed the UK with Kenya and Uganda as nations “where Christian views are marginalised and ignored”.
England is also defined as an “Associate Participant”, along with Australia, New Zealand, the Anglican Church in North America, and the Communion Partners of the Episcopal Church in the United States, in the “Fourth Global South to South Encounter” to be held in Singapore later this month.
The Council, which constitutes the Primates of Nigeria, West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Southern Cone, together with the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, and the leader of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Robert Duncan, was meeting in Bermuda as guests of the American businessman Emmanuel Kampouris (News, 9 April).
Absent from the Bermuda meeting was the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi. He demanded of the Archbishop of Canterbury last week that the Primates of the Anglican Communion should meet urgently, without the American and Canadian Primates, and with an agenda set by the participants.
In a three-page letter sent to Dr Williams last Friday and released to the press, Archbishop Orombi hints at a double standard in the treatment of Primates and complains that the responsibility of the Primates is being diminished.
He commends the “clarity and honesty” of the President Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, who resigned in February from what became the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (SCAC) (News, 5 February). Archbishop Orombi does not recognise the SCAC, and has not attended meetings since its failure, as he sees it, to uphold the “hard-won agreement” of the Primates at Dar es Salaam in 2007.
He does not say he has resigned from the committee, but declares: “I stand with my brother Primate, Bishop Mouneer Anis, in his courageous decision. Many of us are in a state of resignation as we see how the Communion is moving away further and further into darkness.”
Archbishop Orombi protests at a perceived shift in the balance of power from the Primates. He tells Dr Williams that the SCAC was “adopted by yourself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC”, and charges it with “granting itself supreme authority over Covenant discipline in this latest draft”.
The Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, wrote to all the Primates last month, after the election and confirmation of a lesbian, Canon Mary Glasspool, as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles. She stated her intention to preside at the consecration on 15 May, and acknowledged that the development would “cause hurt and pain to some of you”.
She continued: “I am deeply aware of the range of opinion and position about this. I would note that our Communion also has a very broad range of opinion and position about the suitable characteristics of bishops in general.” She promised that all the Primates would receive papers from the House of Bishops after their discussions.
Archbishop Orombi objects to the presence of US and Canadian representatives at the SCAC meetings, and says that Canon Glasspool’s election proves that the US Episcopal Church has no interest in “gracious restraint”, let alone “a moratorium on the things that have brought us to the point of collapse”.
The Archbishop insists on an urgent meeting of all the Primates, bar those of the US and Canada. “Your Grace, I have urged you in the past and I will urge you again.” Asking that the agenda be set by the Primates, “and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting”, he complains that none of the GAFCON Primates’ submissions were included in the agenda for the Alexandria Primates’ Meeting in 2009. He concludes: “We cannot carry on with business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.”
His letter to Dr Williams was followed by a similar one from the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, the Most Revd Ian Ernest. Archbishop Ernest said he “felt constrained by my conscience to uphold my duty as shepherd of the flock and to forthwith suspend all communication both verbal and sacramental with both the Episcopal Church and the ACC . . . until such time as they reverse their theological innovations.”
He criticises Dr Williams’s “amazing patience” with the Episcopal Church. And he talks about the “subversion” of the teaching and leadership position of the Primates. He demands: “If over 80 per cent of Anglicans live in the global south, why is this not reflected in the Communion structures?”
The GAFCON Primates stated in a communiqué from Bermuda: “We recognise that the current strategy in the Anglican Communion to strengthen structures by committee and commission has proved ineffective. Indeed we believe that the current structures have lost integrity and relevance. . .
“The Anglican Communion will only be able to fulfil its gospel mandate if it understands itself to be a community gathered round a confession of faith rather than an organisation that has its primary focus on institutional loyalty.”
The Primates’ convictions about the UK are expressed in the context of a paragraph on “the challenges that our sisters and brothers face in different parts of the world. In particular, we are mindful of those who live with the threat of violence because of their Christian faith, such as Nigeria, Iraq, and Sudan, and those who live in places of deprivation, such as Haiti and Chile.
“We also observe that there are a growing number of nations, such as Kenya, Uganda and now the United Kingdom, where Christian views are marginalised or ignored. We stand with all these in such circumstances and assure them of our continued prayers.”
Archbishop Gregory Venables, of the Province of the Southern Cone, was appointed to serve as chairman of the Council, succeeding the Rt Revd Peter Akinola of Nigeria.