Gathering of Conservative Anglicans Rekindles Debate on the Unity of Communion

Over 120 conservative Anglicans, mostly from the Global South, have gathered in Egypt for a major meeting as fear over the further division between liberals and traditionalists in the warring worldwide Communion intensified.

The six-day Anglican Global South to South meeting, which began Tuesday at All Saints Episcopal Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, has brought together the leading opponents of the liberal stance on homosexuality from Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is the third of such meetings.

Among the meeting’s attendants is the Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, one of the most outspoken figures on homosexuality issues within the Anglican Communion. Akinola has been leading many like-minded Anglicans from Global South to defend the traditional biblical view of sexuality and marriage. He and others have sternly condemned the consecration of homosexual bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire by the U.S. Episcopal Church in 2003 and the practice of same-sex blessings prevalent in the Canadian Anglican Church.

In a bid to resolve the disputes within the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Windsor Report was prepared by the Lambeth Commission led by Archbishop Robin Eames.

However, conservatives rebuked the report for failing to address the issue of homosexuality with reference to biblical teachings. They also noted that the pro-gay leaders failed to repent as demanded by the report.

Drexel Gomez, archbishop of the West Indies, spoke outside of the gathering in Egypt, decrying that liberal Anglicans in the Western Churches have not respected the recommendation of the Windsor Report.

"They have not met what we asked for," said Gomez, according to Reuters.

"I still believe there is room for us to walk together," added Gomez, explaining the condition. "But if they (the United States and Canada) refuse to buy into what we call the Anglican consensus then I believe that those people who cannot accept the consensus are the ones who must leave."

George Curry, chairman of the Church Society, echoed similar opinions stating to the Associated Press that "the establishment is desperate to keep together the communion … but the liberals are unwilling to revisit or invalidate the movements that the conservatives find intolerable. This tolerance has been stretched to the breaking point."

Church Society is a conservative lay and clergy Anglican group based in Watford, England.

Conservatives have repeatedly signaled their intent of "walking away" from the Anglican Communion. In particular, the Church of Nigeria headed by Akinola has removed all the former references to "communion with the see of Canterbury" from the Constitution last month.

The gathering of conservatives in Egypt appeared to be a great challenge to the unity of the Communion amid the unresolved deadlock on the debate over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The conservative voice within the Anglican Communion is in fact strengthening, especially in Africa due to its large Anglican population. Out of the Anglican Church’s 70 million followers worldwide, 26 million are in Africa, and 17.5 million alone from Nigeria.

Akinola rejected a report last month that claimed he would set up a rival church independent of the Anglican’s spiritual leader Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the gathering in Egypt. Nevertheless, many believe an eventual breakup of the conservatives from the worldwide Communion would be unavoidable.

The Rev. Gerald Bray, a professor of Anglican studies at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., told AP, "The demographic center of gravity for the Anglicans has moved to Africa and Asia."

"If the first world churches don't accommodate the [Africans and Asians], they will simply go and establish churches of their own. It seems to be getting closer and closer to that point," he said.