African Anglicans aiming to usurp UK Archbishop

'Jerusalem Declaration' deepens Church of England's split.

rowan williams 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
rowan williams 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
In a revolutionary move bordering on schismatic, African archbishops unilaterally announced Sunday in Jerusalem that they have taken over the leadership of the Anglican Church from England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Southern Cone, Uganda and West Africa and, later, the Anglican Church of Tanzania, will form a new Council of Primates purporting to provide new leadership for the Anglican Communion, according to press release published at the end of a seven-day conference held in Jerusalem. "The uniqueness of the Jerusalem Declaration is that the Africans are sending out a clear message to England saying in essence that this is our church," said Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad, Head of Communications for the Global Anglican Future (GAFCON) conference, which ended Sunday. Fjeldstad said that the importance of Jerusalem was central to GAFCON's message. "Jerusalem was the natural place for us to go back to our Jewish roots and our Christian heritage. It is a way of reaffirming that we are Bible-believing Christians." Fjeldstad added that participants had a "holistic spiritual experience" in the Holy Land by visiting sites with profound historical significance. Sunday's declaration is the outcome of a split in the Anglican Church between an increasingly more liberal Western leadership that has ordained an openly homosexual bishop and consecrates same-sex marriages and a more conservative "global south" made up disproportionately of Africans from the southern hemisphere. Similar trends are apparent in the Catholic Church and in some Protestant sects. But in none is the split more evident that in the Anglican Church. GAFCON's organizers say that the majority of about 60 million actively churchgoing Anglicans (out of a nominal 77 million) are Africans. The most dramatic development resulting from the declaration will be the official realignment of dioceses, particularly in the US and Canada, which will create two separate movements within the church. More conservative Anglican congregations alienated from a local leadership in the US and Canada that they feel has strayed from true gospel will realign themselves with more conservative dioceses that will be created by archbishops based in Africa. This process of realignment has been taking place for nearly a decade. Phenomena such as "flying bishops" in which conservative Anglican clergymen are flown in to lead disgruntled by the local leadership have become more common. The Jerusalem Declaration will formalize this process and make it official. In the preamble to the declaration the conservative Anglican clergymen state that Episcopal USA and Anglican Canada are promoting a "false gospel that undermines God's word and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of the salvation from sure death and judgment". "Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, the way, the truth, and the life. It claims God's blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony." GAFCON and the issuing of the declaration were purposely planned to precede the Lambeth Conference, what has historically been the most important meeting of Anglican clergymen since the church was first created in the 16th century. The declaration criticizes the Archbishop of Canterbury for failing to take action against those who proclaim this false gospel. "Bishops of unrepentant churches are welcome to Lambeth 2008," said the declaration adding that there has been a "failure to honor promises of discipline." The conservative clergymen go on to say that "we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury."