Anglicans Begin Closed-Door Meeting on Homosexuality

The top 38 leaders of the 77-million member Anglican Communion gathered in Newry, Northern Ireland, for the long awaited Primates’ meeting on February, 21, 2005. The five-day meeting, which will focus on the conservative-liberal rift that formed over the ordination of homosexuals and blessings of homosexual unions, may be the most significant gathering for the international church body since it formed some 450 years ago.

Since the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) ordained an active homosexual as bishop in 2003, the worldwide communion has been in an affray; some two thirds of the world’s Anglican church bodies severed fellowship with the ECUSA, denouncing its act as “abhorrent” and unacceptable. The spiritual head of the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was also charged as being a “theological prostitute” for refusing to condemn the ECUSA’s actions.

Canterbury meanwhile commissioned a group of the world’s top Anglicans to draft a report homosexuality in the church and its effects on the maintenance of communion and dialogue among the various international bodies. The group penned a 100+ page document entitled the “Windsor Report” to address the controversial topic, but failed to clearly iterate the church’s stance on homosexuality. It essentially chided the ECUSA for its unilateral decision to ordain the gay bishop and mourned the consequent divisions that arose, but at the same time scorned the conservative churches for breaking fellowship with the Episcopal Church and threatening the unity of the communion.

As expected, the report did not fare well with either side of the debate: liberals in America refused to halt the ordination of gay individuals and conservatives loathed the report for faulting them for standing on biblical grounds in arguing against the ECUSA.

Last month, during a nationwide gathering of top ECUSA leaders, the church drafted a statement of apology for the “rifts” that occurred since the ordination of the gay bishop. However, they explicitly stated they neither regret having ordained the gay bishop nor plan to stop further ordinations. Traditionalist Anglicans, particularly in Africa, were enraged by the letter and furthermore called on the American branch to “repent” rather than apologize.

"They have only apologized and not repented," said Dr Reverend Bernard Malango, the Archbishop of Zambia, during a weeklong meeting on the Windsor Report in Africa last month.

"Apology does not make sense to us, the biblical word is repentance," agreed Kenya’s Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, during the same gathering.

According to Greg Venables, primate of the 22,000 Anglicans in South America, tensions are still running high, with conservatives standing on their last rung of patience.

"The mood of all the meetings of conservative primates is that fudging a decision is not going to be allowed," said Venables.

In fact, the primate of Nigeria – home to almost a quarter of the world’s Anglicans – is now considering ways to eject the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion completely, lest it repents and turns from its ways. African church leaders say they must take a hard stance on the issue since doing otherwise would not only prompt its followers to leave to a more conservative church but would also go against the clear word of God.

In light of such crucial variables, Williams also admitted the costs are high and so are the stakes.

"There are no cost-free decisions, there will be no cost-free outcome from this,” said Williams last week. “Part of the cost involved in the repercussions of recent events is that it has weakened, if not destroyed, the sense that we are actually talking the same language.”

The five day meeting is held behind closed doors. The primates will present their findings and agreements in a communiqué that will be presented to the public on Friday.

The Provinces and Primates of the Anglican Communion are listed below. Primates' biographical information can be found online at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/primates/biog/index.cfm.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia
The Most Rev. Whakahuihui Vercoe

The Anglican Church of Australia
The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Frederick Carnley AO

The Church of Bangladesh
The Rt. Rev. Michael S Baroi

Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
The Most Rev. Orlando Santos de Oliveira

The Episcopal Church of Burundi
The Most Rev. Samuel Ndayisenga

The Anglican Church of Canada
The Most Rev. Andrew Sandford Hutchison

The Church of the Province of Central Africa
The Most Rev. Bernard Amos Malango

Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America
The Most Rev. Martin de Jesus Barahona

Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo
The Most Rev. Dr. Dirokpa Balufuga Fidèle

The Church of England
The Most Rev. Rowan Douglas Williams

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
The Most Rev. Peter Kwong

The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
The Most Rev. Remi Joseph Rabenirina

The Church of Ireland
The Most Rev. Robert Henry Alexander Eames

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Communion in Japan)
The Most Rev. James Toru Uno

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East
The Most Rev. George Clive Handford

The Anglican Church of Kenya
The Most Rev. Benjamin M P Nzimbi

The Anglican Church of Korea
The Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Chul Bum Chung

The Church of the Province of Melanesia
The Most Rev. Sir Ellison Leslie Pogo KBE

La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico
The Most Rev. Carlos Touche-Porter

The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)
The Most Rev. Samuel San Si Htay

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev. Peter Jasper Akinola DD

The Church of North India (United)
The Most Rev. Zechariah James Terom

The Church of Pakistan (United)
The Rt. Rev. Dr Alexander John Malik

The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
The Most Rev. James Simon Ayong

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines
The Most Rev. Ignacio Capuyan Soliba

L'Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda
The Most Rev. Emmanuel Musaba Kolini

The Scottish Episcopal Church
The Most Rev. Andrew Bruce Cameron

Church of the Province of South East Asia
The Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung

The Church of South India (United)
The Most Rev. Badda Peter Sugandhar

The Church of the Province of Southern Africa
The Most Rev. Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungane

Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America
The Most Rev. Gregory James Venables

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
The Most Rev. Joseph Biringi Hassan Marona

The Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Most Rev. Donald Leo Mtetemela

The Church of the Province of Uganda
The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi

The Episcopal Church in the USA
The Most Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold

The Church in Wales
The Most Rev. Dr. Barry Cennydd Morgan

The Church of the Province of West Africa
The Most Rev. Justice Ofei Akrofi

The Church in the Province of the West Indies