Monday, May 14, 2007

Akinola’s Latest Assault on the Anglican Communion

Peter Akinola, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, has made another move in his relentless drive to transform the Anglican Communion into the Orthodox Church of the Global South—with himself in charge.

Thumbing his nose at personal written pleas from Episcopal Presiding Bishop Kathryn Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Akinola has again insinuated himself into the internal affairs of the Episcopal Church (USA).

His Cinco de Mayo gift to the U.S. church was to appear in Woodbridge, VA (about 25 miles down I-95 from Washington, D.C.), and install a bishop to oversee 34 U.S. churches that have parted company with the Episcopal Church over the issues of blessing same-sex partners and consecrating bishops who have same-sex partners.

In a move that flies in the face of centuries of Anglican governance, the bishop of these U.S. congregations will report to the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

I have covered Akinola’s pernicious behavior in prior postings. That he lacks both the civil and the ecclesial authority to install a bishop over U.S. congregations seems not to trouble him or the 34 churches.

Several U.S. courts have ruled against the renegade congregations when they tried to confiscate the property of the Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked Akinola not to take the action, because the Episcopal Church (USA) is still working on a September 30th deadline to respond to previous demands that Akinola instigated.

But Akinola is not one to let little niceties like law or due process or tradition stand in his way. He is determined that his bigotry against gay people—including gay Christians—will be the worldwide policy of the Anglican Communion, even though it flies in the face of decades of contemporary scripture scholarship and decades of discernment by Anglican congregations in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

As I have noted before, historically the Anglican Communion has been distinguished by its ability to cherish a broad diversity of theological views in a single worldwide community. The diversity was maintained because the national churches within the Anglican Communion all agreed to respect one another’s distinct traditions and identity, including their internal positions on controverted issues.

By taking another action at odds with that history, Akinola again makes loud and clear what his true interest is. Clearly it is not salvaging the Anglican Communion.

Unless the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Anglican primates tell Akinola that his actions are out of bounds, he will succeed in destroying the Communion. The replacement will be a church where he is the final arbiter of what is orthodox and who may belong.

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