Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, considered the world's most powerful Anglican leader, said he has lost faith that The Episcopal Church in the United States will ever listen to conservative evangelical leaders in the Global South.
Months ahead of a deadline that Akinola and other Anglican leaders set requesting The Episcopal Church to make an unequivocal pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or bless same-sex unions, Akinola again stressed the call for The Episcopal Church to halt its liberal agenda.
"All we are saying is, do not celebrate what the Bible says is wrong," Akinola said in a recent interview with London's The Times.
The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – widened rifts in the global Anglican Communion when it consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. Akinola, who heads the fastest-growing church in the Anglican Communion, and the majority of Global South Anglican leaders have expressed staunch opposition to The Episcopal Church's actions in recent years and has asked the U.S.-based church body to express regret.
The Episcopal head, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and other Episcopal leaders, however, have stated that they do not plan to go "backward" on their decision and instead are hoping to remain at the Anglican table to help change the views of conservative Anglican leaders.
Sitting on the edge of his seat during the interview, Akinola said, "The Church in the West cannot pull us by the nose. If you are going to interpret the Bible in your own way, good luck to you. But without us."
The Anglican Communion rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture but calls on its people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals. While Akinola is outspoken in his opposition to homosexuality, he has called for the pastoral care of homosexual persons and told The Times, "We have no quarrels with homosexuals."
He went further to say that through counseling and prayers, people (homosexuals) can change. "That's our belief."
Akinola also called the 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson, who plans to take advantage of the recently passed same-sex civil unions bill in New Hampshire with his partner, "just a symptom" of The Episcopal Church's agenda.
"The condition for having communion together is for [The Episcopal Church of the United States] to return to where we were by giving up its agenda," he said, according to The Times. "The problem is [the U.S. church body's] and the Western Church's way of seeing and handling Scripture. Gene Robinson is just a symptom. I kept on saying, you do not have to go through Canterbury to get to Christ."
Akinola is one of four Anglican leaders from Africa who has set up conservative bodies in the United States to provide a "safe" place for U.S. Anglicans who disagree with the actions of The Episcopal Church.
Episcopal leaders in the United States have rejected what they see as an "interference" by overseas bishops, but Akinola stated, "We have not broken the law. It is your churches. You are the ones doing what we said should not be done, with impunity. We are saying you cannot sweep it under the carpet . . . not any more.
"For God's sake let us be," he said in the interview. "When America invades Afghanistan it is in the name of world peace. When Nigeria moves to Biafra it is an invasion. When England takes the Gospel to another country, it is mission. When Nigeria takes it to America it is an intrusion. All this imperialistic mentality, it is not fair."
Akinola and his nearly 130 bishops plan to meet in September to decide whether to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference – a global decennial Anglican meeting. The invitation of leaders from The Episcopal Church, excluding Robinson, has led Akinola and several other conservative Anglican bishops to either reject or consider declining the invitation to attend the meeting.