Tensions Mount Over 'False Reports' on Anglican Schism

A sharp letter from Global South Anglicans leaders demanding action from the Archbishop of Canterbury over “unrepented sexual immorality” in the church, and a subsequent flurry of media reports alleging a “threatened split over gay clergy,” are straining already stretched relations between conservative and liberal Anglicans around the world.

The most recent spate of inner-Anglican conflict originated from a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury published from 17 primates representing the Global South. The archbishops, headed by Nigeria’s Peter Akinola, told Anglicanism’s top cleric, Rowan Williams, to “rethink your view” on homosexuality and “embrace the church’s consensus.”

"We wonder whether your personal dissent from this consensus prevents you from taking the necessary steps to confront those churches that have embraced teaching contrary to the overwhelming testimony of the Anglican Communion."

Williams has personally been tolerant of gay clergy, and as usual, he called for reconciliation during the Global South leaders’ meeting last month.

"We have to beware of poisoning the wells by doing our business with suspicion and hostility or lack of mutual respect,” Williams had said.

The letter acknowledged that unity is important but said too many critical issues were “left unsaid.”

“We were disappointed in what you left unsaid, in particular, the application of the Church’s identity to the current situation that has left the fabric of our Communion torn at its deepest level,” the letter, written in response to Williams' presentation, noted.

Following the letter’s release, a slew of newspapers around the world began describing the statement as a “personal attack” on Archbishop Williams and plastered headlines such as “Church of England Evil, Says Archbishops.”

Furthermore, some of the archbishops whose names were listed as endorsers of the letter refuted any involvement in the statement, saying they were wrongfully included in the list.

Meanwhile, Williams refuted allegations that he “has a mandate to change the teaching of the Church” and said he is committed to a process of reconciliation.

"If this letter is a contribution to that process of debate, then it is to be welcomed, however robust. If it is an attempt to foreclose that debate, it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed,” a statement from his Lambeth Palace office released today read.

Also today, Global South Anglicans denied media reports that they have attacked Williams.

“The letter is not condemning anyone, certainly not the [Church of England] or Archbishop Rowan Williams”, declared Global South Anglican, the website where the initial letter was first posted.

However, in regards to those archbishops who alleged “wrongful inclusion of their names” on the letter, Global South Anglicans said they are entitled to “a change of opinion.”

“This controversy has been brought upon us, by those that would undermine all that we stand for in preserving the sanctity of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith,” a statement from Akinola read. “They are the ones who are dividing the Church. Of course, anyone who wishes to have their name removed from this letter is free to do so. All formal requests to dissociate will be immediately effected.”