- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Eighteen Anglican archbishops, most of them from Africa and Asia and representing more than 55 million Anglicans, have called on the Episcopal Church to “repent” its pro-homosexual policies within three months or face expulsion from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Specifically, the 2.3-million-member Episcopal Church was asked to revoke the Nov. 2 consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the world’s first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop.

“This deliberate disobedience of the revealed will of God in the Holy Scriptures is a flagrant departure from the consensual and clearly communicated mind and will of the Anglican Communion,” said the letter, which was dated April 16, but not released until Tuesday.

Should the denomination refuse to comply, the letter said the Episcopal Church eventually could be suspended, then expelled from the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, the worldwide church body of which the Episcopal Church is part.

A spokesman for the Episcopal Church downplayed the missive.

“It’s a little hard to know what they mean by ‘repent,’ ” said Dan England, a church spokesman. “If they mean we must undo the action of General Convention, no one has the authority to do that except for General Convention itself.”

The General Convention is the church legislative body that approved the Robinson consecration in August.

“Here, bishops are elected, but in many parts of the world, including England and Africa, bishops are appointed,” Mr. England said from headquarters in New York. “If a bishop is appointed, then a bishop can be unappointed. But we don’t do things that way.”

As to whether the Episcopal Church could be expelled from world Anglicanism, he said he didn’t know “how that would happen.”

“The Anglican Communion is a gentleman’s agreement by which the archbishop of Canterbury recognizes certain realities in various parts of the world. The Episcopal Church is the official expression of Anglicanism in this part of the world,” he said.

In their letter, the archbishops also suggested that the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, be disciplined for allowing church-sanctioned same-sex unions. A handful of U.S. dioceses, including the Diocese of Washington, also have developed liturgical rites for such unions.

Relationships between the Africans and the U.S. church have been frosty for months.

In January, on the eve of the installation of Bishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, the Africans wrote church headquarters in New York to say their delegation would not be “welcomed, received or seated” at the ceremony because of the Robinson consecration.

The snub included Bishop Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. However, the Ugandans did invite two bishops from the American Anglican Council, a conservative group that opposed the Robinson consecration.

Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of the Dallas-based Ekklesia, an international network of Anglican bishops, said the Anglican Communion will splinter unless the Episcopal Church changes its ways.

“People are not willing to stay linked to this injustice,” he said. “When global Anglicanism says [the Episcopal Church] is not the legitimate bearer of Anglicanism in America, what price is Canterbury willing to pay to keep the offending Episcopal Church under its wing? Is [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams willing to lose 90 percent of the Anglican Communion to keep Frank?”

The lead signatory to the April 16 letter, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, also has called on his 11 fellow African archbishops to disassociate themselves from the Episcopal Church by refusing thousands of dollars in aid funds.

Since then, three provinces — Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda — each have refused $7,520 grants from the Episcopal Church, according to a spokesman. Mr. Atwood said African dioceses are looking for alternative sources of money and will turn down millions more in Episcopal dollars.

Both sides said the letter was meant to influence a meeting next month in North Carolina of the Eames Commission, a group of Anglican leaders dealing with the aftermath of the Robinson consecration.

On May 7, Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies wrote the head of the commission, Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh, Ireland, on why Anglican conservatives are itching to act.

“There is no small feeling amongst conservative members of the Communion that they are being asked to show restraint whilst the liberal agenda moves ahead, with bishops [in the Episcopal Church] taking action against conservative parishes; the Church of Canada proceeding to debate the blessing of same sex unions; dioceses in the Episcopal Church actually going forward with the authorization of such rites; and the appointment of known advocates of same-sex unions to senior office in the Church of England,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

“This is only likely to create a situation where the playing field is perceived as skewed — conservative reaction is held back, whilst liberal viewpoints are allowed to claim too much territory.”

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