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Conservative Anglicans warn liberal churches in West

October 31, 2005

By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) – Traditionalist Anglican clerics warned
the U.S. and Canadian churches on Monday that their liberal
actions over gay rights were tearing apart the 450-year-old
church and told them to change their ways urgently.

In some of the strongest language they have used so far in
an already acrimonious dispute, churches from Africa, Asia and
Latin America said they saw no evidence yet that U.S. and
Canadian Anglicans were responding to calls for “repentance.”

The 77 million-strong Anglican church has been divided
since 2003 when the U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) ordained a
gay bishop and Canadian Anglicans began blessing same-sex
marriages.

The move outraged traditionalists who dominate southern
hemisphere churches, the so-called Global South. They say the
Bible condemns homosexuality and that liberals in the West have
introduced unacceptable “innovations” into biblical teaching.

“We recognize with regret the growing evidence that the
provinces, which have taken action creating the current crisis
in the (Anglican) communion, continue moving in a direction
that will result in their walking apart,” the group said in a
communique issued on Monday after a six-day meeting in Egypt.

“We call for urgent and serious implementation of the
recommendations of the Windsor Report,” the group of 20 church
provinces said, referring to an Anglican report which laid down
steps to be taken in bid to resolve the dispute.

The Windsor Report included calls for the U.S. and Canadian
churches to express regret for their actions.

Archbishop Robin Eames, who led the Windsor task force, has
said he believes the report’s demands have now been broadly
met. But conservatives say the U.S. and Canadian churches only
said sorry for causing hurt but did not say their actions were
wrong.

“We see no evidence that both ECUSA and the Anglican Church
of Canada are willing to accept the generally accepted
teaching, nor is there evidence that they are willing to turn
back from their innovations,” the Global South communique said.

Officials say the final position of both churches will only
emerge from U.S. and Canadian conventions in 2006 and 2007.

STRONG STATEMENT

African Anglicans have been among the fiercest critics of
the liberal trends, fearing their followers could desert to
other more conservative Christian denominations or Islam.

“(The communique) is a statement of warning that they (the
U.S. and Canadian churches) may, by their actions, force
themselves out of the communion,” said Nigeria’s Canon
AkinTunde Popoola. “This is one of the strongest collective
statements.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican
spiritual leader, urged the two camps in the debate to keep
talking when he addressed the Global South meeting on Friday.
But he has also acknowledged the depth of the rift.

Unlike the powerful Vatican in the Catholic church, the See
of Canterbury of has no power to impose a solution.

The group said it backed an idea for an “Anglican
covenant,” proposed in the Windsor report. An Anglican official
said such a covenant would involve member churches agreeing not
to act independently of others in certain mutually agreed
areas.

The church in Nigeria, home to a quarter of the world’s
Anglicans, said in September it had deleted references to
Canterbury in its constitution, a move it said would open its
doors to conservatives opposed to the advancement of gay
rights.

The Global South said it was committed to recognizing
“networks” of conservative Anglicans in North America opposed
to liberal trends in their churches.