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TANZANIA: Make or Break Time for the Anglican Communion

TANZANIA DAR2007: Make or Break Time for the Anglican Communion

By David W. Virtue

On the eve of the Primates meeting in Tanzania, Mrs. Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church's new presiding bishop was in Philadelphia Sunday (Feb. 11) speaking at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas celebrating the life and ministry of its first rector, the Rev. Absalom Jones.

Clergy, choirs and parishioners from both Christ Church, Philadelphia, and St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, joined in the celebration. Holy Eucharist was celebrated on the original altar (table) used by the Rev. Absalom Jones.

Mrs. Schori was not at the pre-primates meeting in Nairobi, Kenya this week. She will make her grand entrance on Wednesday the 14th at the White Sands Hotel in Dar es Salaam where temperatures are hot (high 80's) and spiritual temperatures even hotter. From Nairobi VOL has learned that the Ugandans and Kenyans are very well prepared for Tanzania and that they know what's at stake, but no one knows the outcome for sure.

It was no doubt fitting that Mrs. Schori should attend an African American church prior to flying off to Tanzania on Monday. (This reporter will also be leaving for Dar es Salaam at the same time.)

Scenarios about what will happen in Tanzania are flying through the Blogsphere at the speed of light. ListServs and Blogs are alive with speculation, most of it nonsense. VirtueOnline has learned from sources in London that whatever happens in Tanzania, it will be a decision by the Primates and not by Dr. Rowan Williams alone. He is not a Pope, he does not want to act like one and whatever the majority of archbishops decide is what will happen.

If they decide that Mrs. Schori is out, she is out and will not be invited to Lambeth 2008. Everyone will get their say and then they will vote. IF that is the case, the vote will be close.

There are thought to be about 21-22 orthodox archbishops out of 38, but three will not be present. The Anglican Communion News Service through its spokesman James Rosenthal said he had received reports that three Primates will not attend: the Archbishop of Wales, who is on sabbatical, the Moderator of the Church of North India, and the archbishop of the Sudan who is unwell.

But there will be a slew of first time archbishops including Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia, a conservative and the Most Revd Paul Kwong, elected Archbishop of the Hong Kong Province on Saturday who trained at the Episcopal Divinity School of the Pacific, a TEC liberal seminary. He is thought to be liberal. Rosenthal said all the other Primates had registered.

The Episcopal Church in the US will be in the spotlight at the meeting. Two full sessions of the Primates' Meeting, as well as two external sessions with presentations by US conservatives, will discuss the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

But what is not known is if the agenda of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) put together by Canon Kenneth Kearon will still be the one, or if it will be challenged by the African Primates and changed.

Already a group of conservative African Primates are talking in Dar es Salaam and VOL has learned that Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola is not prepared to compromise even to the point of barring the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu from the meeting because VOL exposed him as a shill for the American Episcopal Church at GC2006.

Clearly this is a make or break conference for the Anglican Communion, and what happens in Tanzania could be an ecclesiastical blood bath and the man to watch is the Archbishop of Nigeria. We shall know more ere long.

I am posting a number of last minute stories from the international media about Tanzania including one I have written about Mrs. Schori and Bishop Spong.

Perhaps this will help the Primates in their deliberations.

In today's digest you can read a major article on Rowan Williams, a Review of his Teachings on the Authority of Scripture by the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers. An article by the Rev. Dr. Joe Murphy, The Episcopal Church (2007) and Christianity: Two Separate Religions, brilliantly analyzes Mrs. Schori's sexuality views. He also takes a long hard look at her statement that she gave USA TODAY that "God became human in order that we may become divine." An article False Teachers touched yet another nerve ending, and Does Jefferts have something the rest of us don't? is another reflection on some of her words.

But what we will see at work this week is deep and profound spiritual warfare taking place the like of which we have not seen before in the Anglican Communion. Much prayer is called for. Please pray for the archbishops and leaders, safety getting to and from Tanzania, for this writer and the whole communion which will be deeply and profoundly affected by the decisions our leaders will make.

All Blessings

David W. Virtue

PS. Jonathan Petre writing for the Telegraph reports that a "ring of steel", or at least a heavy security presence, has been imposed overnight around the conference centre in the White Sands hotel where the five-day meeting, which will determine whether the Communion has a future, will begin on Thursday.

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