Conservative Anglicans holding a global gathering to affirm their orthodox Christian roots were forced to end their preparatory consultation early when their leader was held up at the border of Jordan.
Participants of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) had planned four days of prayer, fellowship and networking in Amman, Jordan, this week before opening their major summit in Jerusalem on Sunday. But Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has led the conservative campaign against the liberalism of Anglican churches in the West, could not enter into Jordan from Israel.
"He was kept in bureaucratic limbo," GAFCON spokesman the Rev. Arne Fjeldstad told Reuters, clarifying that Akinola, chairman of GAFCON, was not denied entry. "They claimed that, as a diplomatic passport holder, he had to give advance warning that he was coming. He decided to go back to Jerusalem."
According to a statement Fjeldstad released Wednesday, "previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient." Both Akinola and Archbishop Greg Venables of Southern Cone were unable to enter the country.
The Amman meeting ended early and participants moved to Jerusalem on Thursday.
More than 1,000 Anglican leaders and lay persons, representing 75 percent of the Anglican Communion, are meeting partly in protest to an upcoming wider summit called the Lambeth Conference, which is a once-a-decade meeting of all bishops in the 77 million-member Communion.
Many of the conservative Anglicans are opposed to the invitation of bishops, mainly from the U.S. Episcopal Church, who supported the consecration of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003. But the separate conservative meeting isn't all over a gay bishop, they insist. They contend the American church body along with others is departing from orthodox Christianity.
Some said they will not attend Lambeth "as their consciences will not allow it" and others said they will attend both GAFCON – labeled as a pilgrimage to go back to the roots of their faith – and Lambeth in July.
The Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton, chief operating officer of the conservative Anglican Communion Network, insists that GAFCON is not about North America or the problems that are dividing the Communion.
"It is about expanding a faithful, orthodox Anglican witness worldwide," he said in a statement. "It is also about working together to sail through the storms assailing the western colonial model that has characterized the Anglican Communion for the past century.
"The storms are here and, frankly, the traditional structures of the Anglican Communion don't appear ready to deal with them."
GAFCON participants said they will chart the future of the global Anglican Communion and outline mission imperatives for the next 25 years for orthodox Anglicans but they are not planning a formal schism.
A book entitled The Way, The Truth and the Life will be released Thursday, providing the theological and historical foundation for the movement of orthodox Anglicans attending GAFCON, June 22-29. The book, prepared by GAFCON Theological Resource Team, deals frankly with the crisis facing the Anglican Communion, discusses what is at stake in the conflict, defines "authentic Anglicanism," and presents what the future holds for orthodox Anglicanism.
"We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," Akinola writes.