Orthodox Anglicans Don't Expect Unity for Long

Days after Anglican leaders came out of a global meeting pleased with the respect and graciousness that were exchanged despite ongoing internal conflicts, one prominent conservative bishop demanded that the "bitter truth" be acknowledged – that their differences are irreconcilable.

In an open letter addressed to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, who is considered the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola expressed his discontentment with the churches in North America and their continued pro-gay actions.

"It now seems increasingly clear that without a radical change of behavior on the part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada the only possible outcome of such a process is acknowledgment of a bitter truth that the differences in the words of Archbishop Idris Jones are 'irreconcilable,'" Akinola wrote in the letter, released Tuesday.

During a Feb. 1-5 meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, Anglican leaders agreed to maintain a moratorium on the ordination of openly gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions as they try to move forward to mend their rifts and re-establish mutual trust.

Some Anglicans in North America, however, have taken steps to start blessing same-sex unions, Akinola noted. The Diocese of Virginia adopted an amendment, days before the Anglican meeting, affirming "the inherent integrity and blessedness of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons."

Also, the Diocese of Toronto put forward a proposal last week to allow some parishes to offer blessings – although not the nuptial blessing – to same-sex couples.

"I have learned that even as we met together in Alexandria actions were taken that were in direct contradiction to the season of deeper communion and gracious restraint to which we all expressed agreement," wrote Akinola, who attached documents that outline the "heresies" of The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – and the Anglican Church of Canada and how they are both "destroying the foundations of Anglican Christianity."

"I know that you are grieved by the continuing brokenness of our Communion," Akinola wrote to Williams, "but I believe that healing will only come when we face into the true reality of our situation."

At their most recent meeting, Anglican bishops who lead the Communion's national churches had discussed much of the conflicts and theological debates that have been fracturing the global body.

Controversy in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion had heightened when The Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in 2003.

Many described the tone of the latest meeting as calm and respectful, unlike previous meetings, and they acknowledged the brokenness of the Communion and the complexity of the situation.

Although the bishops were able to achieve a spirit of grace and love and take steps to try to restore unity, some have come to the conclusion that in the long term, the Anglican Communion cannot stay together.

"It is divided because we don't agree," the Most Rev. Gregory Venables of the conservative Southern Cone told VirtueOnline, a conservative online publication. "We found ways to set up to see if we can talk to one another. We found theological definitions about why we don't agree. We might be able to have meetings in the future but we will always disagree. There is no denial that we are not in communion."

He added, "We were all agreed. There are two very different understandings of the Christian Faith now living together, indeed at war with one another in the Anglican Communion and the situation has no long term resolution. It would take a miracle to keep it together and Dr. Rowan Williams understands that. He will try and keep it together for as long as he can under his watch."