- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The “new realignment” of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion began in earnest yesterday as about half of the denomination’s 38 archbishops condemned the U.S. Episcopal Church for its consecration Sunday of the world’s first openly homosexual bishop.

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, archbishop of the world’s second-largest Anglican province of 17 million in Nigeria, said neither he nor approximately 18 other bishops would recognize the New Hampshire Diocese of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a divorced man who lives with his male lover.

Archbishop Akinola, who represents bishops in Asia, Africa and South America, called their relationship with the Episcopal Church an “impaired communion.”

“The consecration … clearly demonstrates that authorities within [the Episcopal Church] consider that their cultural-based agenda is of far greater importance than obedience to the word of God,” he said.

Earlier, he said Episcopalians had made a “clear choice” toward heresy.

“Such a church is bound to become a shrine for the worship of men rather than God,” he said. “We cannot go on limping between two opinions.”

However, he and other Third World bishops — almost all of whom opposed the consecration — stopped short of severing relations with the Americans.

“There was a request [from the Archbishop of Canterbury] they not break communion, so they are responding in a more muted way,” said Canon David Anderson of the American Anglican Council, the main group opposing Bishop Robinson’s selection.

Some prelates were not shy about declaring their opposition.

Archbishop Donald Mtetemela of Tanzania cut ties with about two-thirds of the Episcopal Church, including the 54 bishops who were part of Sunday’s consecration and others who consented to Bishop Robinson’s election at the Episcopal General Convention in August.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya said yesterday he would not only cut ties with the 54 Episcopal bishops involved with the consecration, but also would refuse to accept missionaries or funds from their dioceses.

“The devil has clearly entered the church,” the archbishop, who oversees 4 million Anglicans, told Reuters news agency. “God cannot be mocked.”

The Anglican Church of Uganda, which has 8 million followers, said it would cut ties with the New Hampshire Diocese.

Australian Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney said Sunday “was a sad day for the church” and “as far as I am concerned, he [Robinson] is not a bishop.”

Pakistani Bishop Sadiq Daniel of the Karachi and Baluchistan Diocese likewise condemned the ceremony.

The phrase to “break communion” is the closest Anglicans come to excommunication. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Anglicans have no ecclesiastical figure with the power to dismantle national churches and hierarchies. Its spiritual head, the archbishop of Canterbury, is more of a first among equals and lacks the authority to discipline.

Archbishop Akinola’s statement asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to come up with a network so that conservative Episcopal parishes in liberal dioceses can function without having to compromise themselves or leave the denomination.

One possibility is a substitute bishop, archbishop or a group of retired conservative bishops that would oversee those Episcopalians who oppose Bishop Robinson’s consecration.

Although a commission has been set up that must report back within a year with a plan for dissenting Episcopal parishes, Canon Anderson said something concrete needs to be worked out by Christmas.

“People have already told me they are bailing out after the beginning of the year” to join other churches, he said. “We are approaching a state of civil war in the Episcopal Church.”

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