International diplomacy efforts fail to unite Anglican Communion

“The Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Unity have become dysfunctional and no longer have the ecclesial and moral authority to hold the Communion together” — Global South Primates

News Analysis

David W. Virtue

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams is losing the fight to keep the Anglican Communion together.

His forays to Africa (Kenya and Congo), following the disastrous Dublin Primates gathering which saw a third of his archbishops (mostly African) refusing to show up, reveal a communion in tatters with his ability to hold it all together now permanently impaired. On a recent trip to Kenya he was accepted as primus inter pares, but not as the leader of the Anglican Communion, a mild slap in the face.

His more recent foray to Zimbabwe proved only a partial success. Dr. Williams was able to paint President Mugabe and Bishop Kunonga as part of the evil empire of homophobia, but he took some serious hits when he was painted as a man who could not make up his mind about what he thought about homosexuality and had therefore betrayed the Communion. British Anglican columnist Charles Raven noted Williams’ strategic abilities and suggested that his confrontation with Mugabe “looks like an exercise in Lambeth Palace’s African ‘realpolitik’ which orthodox Anglicans ignore at their peril.”

The irony should not be missed. An Archbishop says to an audience in Africa “You know very well, dear brothers and sisters, what it means to have doors locked in your faces by those who claim the name of Christians and Anglicans” while he stood to the side as thousands of orthodox Anglicans in North America had the same experience. He tells his audience in Harare that “Day by day, you have to face injustice and the arrogance of ‘false brethren’ as St Paul would call them”, but would St. Paul find any difference between those who lock doors in Harare and those who lock doors in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada? Are the Zimbabweans false brethren simply because they intimidate with a fist rather than a writ?

It would be a great tragedy if the reframing of Anglicanism that we are seeing take hold in Africa and the Global South was to be subverted by Lambeth rebranding, wrote Raven.

A recent gathering of eleven orthodox Anglican archbishops in China to which Dr. Williams was not invited reveals again how deep the growing divide is between Canterbury and the ever-expanding Global South.

A communiqué released by the archbishops at the end of their China visit in September spoke volumes. It roundly repudiated both Dr. Williams’ own theology and the Anglican Communion’s “Instruments of Unity” insisting that secular pressure to allow unacceptable practices in the name of human rights and equality is wrong.

They further blasted what they said was “the undermining of Scriptural authority and two millennia of church tradition, the erosion of orthodoxy has gone as far as the ordination and consecration of active gay and lesbian clergy and bishops, and the development of liturgies for same-sex marriage.”

Without mentioning names, it was clear they had bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori, Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool in mind.

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