THE Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, has announced that he will not attend the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury next month.
On Tuesday, writing as chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, he said that developments including same-sex marriage had given rise to “the next great Reformation”.
“If Christians are never to break fellowship unless the disagreement is about the teaching of the creeds, the 16th-century Reformation 500 years ago, when the great doctrines of grace were at stake, must be seen as an error,” he wrote. “Now we are living in the midst of the next great Reformation. In our day also there is broken fellowship over homosexual practice, same-sex marriage, and the blurring of gender identity, none of which are mentioned in the creeds, but all of which contradict fundamental biblical understandings of marriage and human identity.”
He had been “disappointed”, he said, by what occurred after last year’s Primates’ Meeting, when “consequences” were meted out to the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 22 January 2016), including the actions of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) (News, 8 April, 2016). The Episcopal Church “has not repented, and continues to take aggressive legal action against orthodox dioceses,” he wrote. “I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity.”
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said on Tuesday that it was “simply not true to say that the Anglican Church in North America is part of the Anglican Communion”, after GAFCON’s membership development secretary, the Revd Charles Raven, made the assertion online last month. “To be part of the Communion, a province needs to be in communion with the see of Canterbury, and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion.”
In his latest report to the standing committee he wrote: “It is part of my personal mission to encourage all to celebrate our unity and to seek to understand and overcome any differences. . . I am saddened that there is arrogance within some areas of the Communion where some Anglicans claim that they are the Church, and are the true custodians of the undiluted gospel, with the implication that the others have lost it.”
He lamented the rejection, in the global South, of offers of support in relief and development from elsewhere in the Communion, but praised Primates who were “eschewing doctrinal disputes in order to concentrate on the need to relieve poverty”.
“In Kenya, the Primate has made it clear that he is not interested in a divided church, but will concentrate on development in rural and urban areas and on reaching out to Muslim neighbours,” he wrote.
His visits had led him to believe that “a majority of Anglicans in the global South — bishops, clergy, and laity — have limited understanding of the nature of the Communion, or the Anglican understanding of what the Church is.”
There was a need for a debate about “the moral weight” of resolutions made by the ACC last year, “and those which will emanate from the Lambeth Conference”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was “a living sign of what it means to be a Spirit-filled Christian”, he wrote. “I have also seen the grace of the Lord at work in Anglican provinces that were at odds with the rest of the Anglican Communion, but were reconciled by the personal ministry of Archbishop Justin.”