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KENYA: Is Split in the Anglican Church Inevitable?

Is Split in the Anglican Church Inevitable?

The Nation (Nairobi)
All Africa News

January 15, 2004

OPINION

By Francis Ayieko

NAIROBI--Recently, the Uganda Anglican Church withdrew an invitation to the Episcopalian Church of the US to attend the ordination of the Right Rev Henry Orombi as the country's new archbishop. He will be enthroned on January 25.

After this, there should be no doubt that there is now an open split between
the liberals and the conservatives in the 450-year old Anglican Communion.

The unprecedented move taken by the Church of Uganda to protest the installation of gay American bishop Gene Robinson, is the biggest jolt to hit the communion since Robinson became the head of the New Hampshire diocese.

After his ordination on November 2 last year, several countries rushed to announce that they had either cut links or were contemplating doing so with the US Anglican liberals. But so far, only Uganda - which together with Kenya became the first African countries to declare themselves formally separated from the Episcopal Church - is the first nation to take a firm action that confirms an open split.

The move might be seen as an isolated one but it mirrors the resolve by many
Anglican leaders to openly tell American liberals that enough is enough. In Kenya, as late as January 4, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi still condemned homosexuality with as much vigour as he did two months ago. His decision to s ever links with the Episcopal Church, promptly supported by all the 29 dioceses under him, is a reflection of a widespread belief within the Anglican Church in Africa that it is not being listened to.

Yet Africa is home to the highest number of Anglicans in the world. Whereas the US and Britain together have fewer than five million practising Anglicans, East Africa alone boasts some 12.5 million worshippers.

Between the conservatives and the liberals, there is not just a state of imp aired relationship. It is an inevitable schism with little prospects of being reversed.

The glee with which the liberals greeted Robinson's consecration just shows their resolve "that they must be openly heard" in the communion at any cost.

That came out very well from the 4,000-member congregation which gave Robinson a three-minute standing ovation immediately after his consecration.

Even though the tough stance taken by the conservatives on homosexuality is yet to yield meaningful fruits; they have been blunt enough in saying that t hey have no fellowship with their liberal counterparts. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has been one of the most vocal anti-gay campaign clergies, has made it clear that no communion exists any longer between the liberals and conservatives.

This swirling controversy has placed more pressure on a special commission appointed last October by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The commission, instituted after a two-day crisis meeting of the 38 heads of the Anglican Church worldwide at Lambeth Palace, was to seek a way of resolving the crisis, so that the communion could remain intact.

But Robinson's ordination on the one hand, and the move by Uganda's Anglican s on the other, renders it irrelevant.

Archbishop Rowan's decision to name a mix of conservative and liberal church
leaders to the commission, headed by Irish Anglican leader Robin Eames, was
indeed a bright idea meant to achieve consensus.

However, that could only have worked had the Episcopalian Church paid heed t o pleas, not only from Anglicans, but also from other denominations the world over, not to continue with the ordination.

Although the financial consequences of an open split with the Episcopal Church - the wealthiest part of the Anglican Communion - could be severe, Anglican leaders from Africa and other Third World countries have openly indicated they are not ready to sacrifice their faith at the altar of financial support from American liberals.

Already, Archbishop Akinola has warned of a financial backlash against the financially weak church in Africa "if its opposition was too loud". But he maintains that African churches must become self-reliant "so that our boldness in condemning the spiritual bankruptcy of the rich churches could be matched by a refusal to accept their money".

In Kenya, Archbishop Nzimbi was emphatic that no further support, including missionaries, from the US - the largest contributor in the worldwide communion - would be accepted.

Mr Ayieko is the editor of EndTime News, a monthly Christian newspaper.

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