· New Hampshire’s gay bishop was
· Move marks power shift to developing countries
Riazat Butt and Toni O’Loughlin Jerusalem
Conservative evangelicals representing half of the world’s Anglicans launched a new global church yesterday, challenging the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and vowing to rescue people from the forces of “militant secularism and pluralism” created by a “spiritual decline” in developing economies.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Foca, will sever ties with the main churches in the US and Canada, whose leaders they accuse of betraying biblical teaching. Foca architects will tomorrow go to the conservative evangelical church of All Souls, in central London, to discuss global Anglicanism and English orthodoxy.
Hundreds of disgruntled clergy, representing many Church of England parishes, will be in the audience and the speakers will include the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, and the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi.
Great swaths of Anglican provinces, including Africa, South America and Asia, are furious with their counterparts in the northern hemisphere, accusing them of being in thrall to contemporary culture, with the ordination and consecration of gay New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson acting as a turning point. The creation of Foca is a schism in all but name.
Outraged over the “false gospel” being promoted in the west, Foca pledges a return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, ignoring 21st-century additions and interpretations. It will train its own priests by sending them to hardline theological colleges such as Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and Oak Hill, London, and will insist on more orthodox practices in its churches.
There will also be a primates’ council, comprising senior bishops and archbishops who attended the Jerusalem summit that led to Foca’s inception.
At a press conference Jensen said they would bring “order to a situation of turmoil” and help to deal with “the chaos caused in the Anglican church through revisionist activities”.
He added: “This [primates’] council gives the opportunity for this high-level group to consider matters calmly and to look into them, to see if drastic action needs to be taken.
“It’s unusual, but the times we live in are unusual. The revisionist agenda, which we have seen come into fruition within the same-sex union, is a missionary one and it is going to spread its theological views as far abroad as it can.”
They were ready to cross borders and boundaries to rescue parishes in distress, he added.
The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, said the group would develop a protocol to “spell out the process of how to become a member.
“It is for people who are convinced of what we have done and are willing to move on with us. Much of the UK and Europe are under the severe attack from these [secular and pluralist] forces. The church has diminished greatly.”
When asked how far the archbishops were prepared to go to intervene, Akinola replied: “If you receive an SOS from anywhere in the world we will move in.”
Akinola said the declaration would strengthen the church in the eyes of the Muslim community in Africa. “Before now, Muslims and Christians have been wondering what sort of church this was.”
The US bishop David Anderson said the discussions in Jerusalem provided hope for traditionalists. He added: “At some point we will have our own province in North America.”
The 300 bishops and archbishops who attended the Global Anglican Future Conference deny wanting to split from the 80 million-strong Anglican communion.
A formal schism would involve tortuous legal procedures over the ownership of churches and other properties.
However, in a statement, they said: “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” The rejection of Rowan Williams marks the end of colonial domination of the Anglican communion, shifting the balance of power to developing countries.
Details of Foca were finalised yesterday morning and the reading of the statement was greeted with standing ovations, spontaneous singing, hugging and tears of joy. One of those present said he thought the skies were about to open so the delegates could ascend to heaven.
The existence of another communion will have a profound impact on Anglican churches all over the world by providing disillusioned conservatives with a powerful network of allies overseas.
Late on Friday Jensen said the Americans “committed an extraordinary strategic blunder” in 2003 when they consecrated Robinson, because they thought there would be no consequences. “The consequences have been unfolding over the last five years. Now their church is divided; it looks as though there will be permanent division, one way or the other,” he said.
“All around the world the sleeping giant that is evangelical Anglicanism and orthodox Anglicanism has been aroused by what happened in Canada and the United States of America. It was an act of folly.”
There are already at least a dozen bishops, consecrated by African churches, who have the specific task of serving conservative US parishes.
The Archbishop of the Southern Cone, covering a number of South American countries, Gregory Venables, has provided a spiritual haven for the rebel US diocese of San Joaquin, California, and is thought to be in discussions to take in the diocese of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth, Texas.
Of the 300 bishops and archbishops who attended the Global Anglican Future Conference, around 200 are boycotting this summer’s Lambeth conference, the once-a-decade gathering of the Anglican world’s 880 bishops, in a snub to Williams’s leadership.
There was no need to issue an ultimatum to the Lambeth conference, said Jensen. “The sheer existence of Gafcon poses a challenge to others in the Communion,” he added.
The conservatives have blasted Williams for failing to discipline the Americans and Canadians.
Akinola accused him of leading the Anglican communion into a “state of turmoil and brokenness” and also appeared to accuse him of apostasy, something he later denied, to the relief of the conference organisers, who were also embarrassed when Akinola and other African archbishops did not condemn acts of torture against homosexuals.
There has been no response from Williams or Lambeth Palace, in spite of the abuse hurled at him, his office and supporters.