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NIGERIA: Africa's Top Anglican Warns U.S. Church

Africa's Top Anglican Warns U.S. Church

RICHARD N. OSTLING
Associated Press

The spokesman for bishops who claim leadership of a majority of the world's Anglican Christians denounced the gay-rights policies of America's Episcopal Church on Saturday, following a two-day caucus in Atlanta with U.S. conservatives.

Archbishop Peter Akinola said the future of true Anglicanism in the United States lies with conservative minority opposition groups within the Episcopal Church who oppose gay marriage and the church's approval of an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.

Akinola also said in a telephone interview that unless conditions change, he will not attend meetings alongside the leader of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, or attend the 2008 meeting of the world's Anglican bishops if the U.S. hierarchy participates.

Akinola leads Nigeria's Anglican church, with its 17.5 million members, and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, a continent that includes half the world's 77 million Anglicans. He is also spokesman for "Global South" archbishops who have severed normal ties with the Episcopal Church.

Episcopal Church spokesman Daniel England said Saturday that Griswold understands that Akinola has strong feelings on the issue.

"I'm sure the presiding bishop will be disappointed if the archbishop cannot join him at the communion table," he said.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town has criticized Akinola's strong stand against the U.S. church. But the archbishops announced jointly March 29 that they agree with the stand against gay clergy and blessing of same-sex couples taken by the world's bishops at their 1998 meeting.

The dispute over the American church's acceptance of gay activity became a major world issue when it approved an openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Akinola underscored his support of the conservative minority over the weekend when he met in Atlanta with leaders from the two main U.S. organizations that oppose toleration of homosexual activity: the American Anglican Council and the recently formed Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.

Akinola said the Episcopal Church "is trying to redefine Christianity and rewrite Scripture, and we have no right to do that. The historic faith of the church is what we stand by, and there is no going back."

In the archbishop's view, although those who favor liberal policies on homosexuality have a clear operating majority in the U.S. church, he strongly backs the minority and its new network.

"It's either repent and come back to the fold, or give up on the Anglican family," he said.

But England, the Episcopal Church spokesman, said the church's position stands.

"If he's waiting on the network to replace the Episcopal Church, I think he's in for a long wait," he said.

ON THE NET

Episcopal Church: http://www.episcopalchurch.org

American Anglican Council: http://www.americananglican.org

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/nation/8348866.htm

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