- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Seven conservative Anglican leaders refused yesterday to take Holy Communion with the head of the U.S. branch of the church, who supports ordaining homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions as the fellowship struggles to avert a split.

The shunning came at the six-day meeting of leaders of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.

“We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding,” the archbishops said in a posting on the Church of Nigeria Web site.

The primates, or Anglican leaders, belong to a group known as the Global South — theologically conservative bishops from Africa and elsewhere who have joined forces to expand their influence within the communion and counter liberal-leaning Anglicans.

“This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion,” according to the statement from the group.

It is not the first time conservative archbishops refused Holy Communion with an Episcopal leader. At a 2005 summit in Northern Ireland, more than a dozen archbishops would not attend daily Eucharist with then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

Jim Naughton, canon for communications at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., which accepts homosexual relationships, criticized the archbishops for making a sacrament a point of protest.

“Imagine if every believer, everywhere insisted on knowing the views of every other worshipper in a church on all the hot-button issues of our time before they would agree to go to Eucharist,” Mr. Naughton said.

Splits between Anglicans have been growing for years, but reached a crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The problems mounted last year with the election of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is the first female head of the U.S. church and the first elected female leader of an Anglican province.

“I am certain, knowing Bishop Jefferts Schori, that she continues to listen careful to the concerns of all her fellow primates,” said Robert Williams, an aide to Bishop Jefferts Schori, without commenting directly on the boycott.

The protest by the Global South bishops came one day after an Anglican committee released a report saying the Episcopal Church had fulfilled two of three requests of Anglican leaders to heal rifts created by Bishop Robinson’s confirmation. The report was seen as favorable to the U.S. church. Conservatives criticized the committee’s conclusion as dangerously misguided.

Conservative Anglicans have formed a rival network in the United States, under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the acceptance of homosexual relationships a “satanic attack” on the church. Archbishop Akinola was among those who refused to attend Eucharist with Bishop Jefferts Schori.

The Anglican Communion is the world’s third-largest Christian body behind the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches.

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