Archbishop: Absence of Orthodox Anglicans Jeopardizes Communion

The potential absence of a good number of Anglicans from the Global South and other regions may mean a global body that is no longer Anglican, said one bishop.

"The official Anglican representation will be synonymous with the American Episcopal Church and that movement is increasing if Global South traditionalists don't attend. Many believe that if that happens the communion will no longer be Anglican," said West Indies Archbishop the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, referring to a 2008 global Anglican meeting that some conservative leaders have threatened to protest.

Gomez believes the 77 million-member Anglican Communion is at a turning point and has grave doubts it will survive in its present form, according to VirtueOnline, a voice for global orthodox Anglicanism.

"We cannot go on with an ambiguousness and intolerance that is only increasing," said Gomez at a Festival of Faith gathering in Bladensburg, Md., over the weekend.

Anglican leaders in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda as well as the Church of England have either stated their rejection of invitations to the 2008 Lambeth conference or their plans to do so and boycott. They argue that they will not attend with U.S. Episcopal bishops who are "unrepentant" of their recent actions, including the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop.

"In planning for Lambeth we don't know who is going or coming, but if there is a large group who will not attend it will change the structure and significance of the Lambeth Conference," said Gomez. "The Archbishop of Canterbury wants to focus on spirituality and mission.

"The big question is how can you have a meeting of the leaders of the communion in one place while refusing to address the issues that are tearing the communion apart and preventing the Anglican Communion from moving forward?"

Some have criticized conservative Anglicans for their stance against homosexuality and accused them of being homophobic, but Gomez clarified that they are not against homosexual persons.

And the issue is about "homosexual practice" – a lifestyle about that is incompatible with Scripture, as the Anglican Communion affirms. But beyond the sexuality itself, Gomez pointed to the context and biblical revelation attached to homosexual practice.

"In the church's long history, the uninterrupted consensus is that physical intercourse is only intended for man and woman within marriage in a life long commitment. Anything else is contrary to God's will for humanity. The ground for the church taking this stand is the Bible and it is transparently clear about homosexual behavior."

Moreover, the vast majority of Christians hold the same stance as the conservative Anglicans on homosexuality, Gomez noted. It is "the liberals," mainly those in The Episcopal Church, who are in the minority.

The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – has been given a Sept. 30 deadline to make an unequivocal pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples.

If The Episcopal Church does not meet the deadline and answers "without clarifications and unambiguity on where they stand on same sex blessings," then Gomez said it could signal a break up of the communion, as many are predicting.

"Their (the TEC's) action was known and done in defiance of the rest of the entire Anglican Communion," said Gomez. "The American Church, on its own, and knowing the position held by the rest of the communion acted in defiance of the beliefs and practices of the rest of the Anglican Communion."

Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu, the Church of England's second most senior cleric, warned Anglicans that if they do not attend Lambeth, they would be the ones severing their link with Canterbury and the Anglican Communion.

The orthodox leaders, however, do not express the same view.

Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, said being obedient to Scripture is of greater importance than being recognized by Canterbury. Duncan believes Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, had never publicly supported the orthodox in the United States.

Gomez and other conservative leaders are hoping for a change of heart and direction in The Episcopal Church.

"We have to change the mindset of people in The Episcopal Church who not only resent traditional Anglicanism but want to root it out," said Gomez.

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