Conservatives fight to protect traditional Anglicanism

By  Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service
  • July 10, 2008

{mosimage}JERUSALEM - A group of conservative Anglican bishops concluded a week-long conference by calling for the creation of a separate bishops’ council to address what they feel is lack of action to protect traditional biblical Anglicanism.

In a June 29 closing statement, the bishops emphasized that they were not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. But the bishops — mainly from Africa, South America and Australia — said that they did not see the archbishop of Canterbury as being the sole determiner of Anglican identity.

“Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion,” the bishops said.

But “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,” they said.

The more than 300 bishops attending the June 22-29 Global Anglican Future Conference, known as GAFCON, in Jerusalem said they were frustrated by the ineffectual response from Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to their long-held concerns over the ordination of openly gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions specifically in the Canadian and American Anglican churches.

Many of the bishops in attendance said they would not be participating in the July 16-Aug. 4 Lambeth Conference, in England, which brings together the world’s Anglican leadership every 10 years.

The statement said the Anglican Communion was facing a “critical moment” in which the bishops’ council would build structures to “lead and support” the church.

“We have a great problem,” said Ugandan Anglican Archbishop Henry Orombi of Kampala, a GAFCON organizer, at a June 29 press conference. “We are coming as Anglicans, believers in the word of Jesus. ... We are going back to our roots where we need to repent.”

The bishops spelled out 14 tenets of orthodoxy underlining Anglican identity in what they called the Jerusalem Declaration, which they issued as part of the statement. In it they declared their intent to “promote and protect the biblical Gospel and mission to the world.”

The Jerusalem Declaration rejects “the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed.”

In his own statement June 30, Williams said the proposals were “problematic in all sorts of ways” and would “create more problems than they solve.” He said that rather than pushing aside the existing structure of the Anglican Communion it should be renewed.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, mother church of the Anglican Communion, drew fire from the Vatican for its July 7 decision to allow the ordination of women bishops.

“Such a decision means a break from the apostolic tradition maintained by all the churches of the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England,” said a statement published by the Vatican press office.

The Vatican’s July 8 statement said that at the invitation of Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, would have an opportunity to speak during the July 16-Aug. 3 Lambeth Conference “to present the Catholic position” regarding issues currently causing tension within the Anglican Communion. The issues include structures for maintaining the unity of the church, the ordination of women bishops, the ordination of openly gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions.

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