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AKINOLA: C of E Should be Suspended for Backing Civil Partnerships

AKINOLA: C of E Should be Suspended for Backing Civil Partnerships

By Alex Delmar-Morgan
7/31/2005

NOTE: This piece was submitted to THE SUNDAY TIMES. Only a portion of the article was published on Sunday 7/31

THE most powerful Anglican leader outside Britain has called for the Church of England to be suspended from the worldwide Anglican Communion over its backing for civil partnerships.

Last week English bishops issued a pastoral statement saying that they would allow their gay clergy to register their civil partnerships under the new act which comes into force this December but they would be required to abstain from sex. Peter Akinola the Archbishop of Nigeria, the largest Anglican province in the world, ridiculed the policy by asking the Church of England bishops if they were intending to place cameras in the bedrooms of their clergy and said that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and his church should now face disciplinary action.

"I believe that the temporary suspension of the Church of England is the right course of action to take. The church will be subjected to the same procedures and discipline that America and Canada faced".

In a rare personal jibe against Williams, he said: "Lambeth Palace upholds our common historic faith. It will now lose that place of honour in the world. Must I come to Lambeth Palace in order to go to heaven. The answer is no!"

A suspension would remove the Church of England from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the governing body of the worldwide Anglican Communion, thus losing a say in worldwide policy.

The American and Canadian churches were suspended at a primates meeting earlier this year. America was judged to have gone against the teachings of the Anglican church by ordaining an openly gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire and the Canadian church lost its position through its warmth towards same-sex blessings, even though only one diocese gives them official approval. A move, which would be highly embarrassing, to suspend the Church of England would be akin to the Commonwealth expelling Britain, its founder member and it would leave the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury in the anomalous positions of being leading Anglicans technically outside the Anglican Communion.

Several leading Archbishops across the world are outraged that Church of England bishops voted for the Civil Partnerships Act in parliament in a House of Lords debate. Eight voted in favour of the new law and only two were against. They are also astonished at the large number of same-sex blessings which take place annually in parish churches in England. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) sends out more than a thousand packs containing services and the details of the nearest Anglican priest who will conduct such ceremonies. Three hundred ceremonies now take place annually in England. The LGCM estimates that more than 1,500 clergy will have registered their civil partnerships within five years.

Bernard Malango, an influential primate who is Archbishop of Central Africa, is to write to Williams criticising the pastoral statement: "If Rowan has approved of this, it is very unfortunate," he said: "It makes me sick. They have to explain what they mean by being married and having no sex. This is the final nail in the coffin of the entire Anglican Communion".

Drexel Gomez, the Archbishop of the West Indies predicted yet another Anglican split: "I don't see how civil partnerships will work," he said: "I will have a difficult time explaining this; my people will take it in a negative way. This is an added threat at this moment of tension within the communion. Two-thirds of the communion will not be able to accept it".

Note: Akinola will bring the matter to a meeting of Anglican primates from the global South (Africa, South East Asia and South America) in September. If he gains enough support, the matter will then be referred to the next meeting of the primates.

END

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