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Primates warn of split from C of E

18 January 2013

Anglican Primates warned this week that the House of Bishops' decision to see the episcopate as open to priests in civil partnerships could lead to "further separation" from the Church of England ( News, 11 January, 4 January).

The Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, said last week that, if the C of E "continues in a contrary direction, we must further separate ourselves from it". The Church of Nigeria would be "prepared to take the same actions" it took in 2003 after the consecration of the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, a gay priest in the United States, which resulted in a breaking of communion with the Episcopal Church in the US.

The Anglican Church in North America, which broke away from the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada over the same issue, also said that it would "further separate" itself from the C of E, in a communiqué published after its College of Bishops meeting last week. It, too, was "prepared to take the same actions" as it did ten years ago.

A statement from the Primates of the Global South - signed by Archbishop Okoh; the Bishop in Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Dr Mouneer Anis; and seven other Primates - said that the opening of the episcopate to priests in civil partnerships would "widen the gap between the C of E and Anglicans in the Global South".

The C of E decision had been taken "without prior consultation or consensus with the rest of the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is still facing major challenges of disunity. It is contrary to 'the interdependence' which we try to affirm between Churches within the Communion . . . We strong urge the Church of England to reconsider this divisive decision."

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagli, said last week that the House of Bishops' decision "only makes the brokenness of the Communion worse, and is particularly disheartening coming from the Mother Church. . . Our grief and sense of betrayal are beyond words."

"No prior discussion". The Government's announcement last month that same-sex marriages would remain illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales "came out of the blue and with no prior discussion with the Church in Wales at all", the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has said ( News, 14 December).

Dr Morgan wrote in a letter to The Times on Monday that the Church in Wales did not want to be "proscribed . . . from holding same-sex marriages if, in the future, it decided it wanted to do so by changing its canon law".

Speaking in the House of Commons, on Thursday of last week, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, "not to rush bringing forward the legislation on same-sex marriage" until draft clauses protecting Churches and other faith groups had been agreed by church and government officials.

Mr Lansley said that it was "absolutely our intention to ensure that the legislation that comes forward is clear and will carry support".


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