African Anglican churches push to break away from Canterbury

Saturday September 11 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at a past Lambeth Conference in Cantebury. African Anglican churches are pushing to break away from Canterbury. File Photo

The process that will end in the Anglican Church splitting up has begun with the Canterbury - the headquarters of the church - disengaging itself from Africa, Asia and Australia.

African Anglicans are reportedly taking a lead role by mobilising their colleagues in Asia, South America and Australia to come together under the Global South umbrella.

Sources at the August 23-29 2nd All Africa Bishops Conference in Entebbe, Uganda told The EastAfrican that key consultations on the schism were held at the sidelines of the main meeting and would be concluded after engaging members from Asia, South America and Australiad.

The push for a split follows the collapse of reconciliatory talks between Archbishop Williams Rowan of Canterbury and the liberal church leaders in the United States and Canada after the latter snubbed pleas to disown homosexuality.

“We have met several times (during the Kampala conference) and as Africans we shall meet our colleagues with a similar belief before we break up. The Rt Rev Dr John Chew Hiang Chea, the Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church in South-east Asia, has chaired the meetings,” said a source.

The dispute started after the US church backed an openly gay bishop and same-sex unions began to be blessed in Canada in 2003. Apart from homosexuality, ordination of female Bishops, property ownership, and global leadership are among the other bones of contention.


The EastAfrican has established that 10 out of 12 Anglican provinces represented at the Kampala meeting supported the breakaway.

In the past year, Global South leaders issued an ultimatum for the US Episcopal Church to return to orthodox interpretation of Scripture.

At the June 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, Israel,conservative archbishops and evangelical Anglican bishops from a number of African countries, the United Kingdom and some from the US threatened to breakaway from the Church of England if their colleagues did not heed to the ultimatum.

The christian leaders had declared though they would remain in the Anglican communion but be independent of Canterbury.

Even as Archbishop Rowan dissuaded the African clergy from breaking away in his sermon during the conference the atmosphere indicated that he had been abandoned.

Earlier, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi had a face-off with Rowan and according to the former the conversational left more cracks within the church.

“He has a very complicated task; that he has a family breaking apart—going into different directions. I sympathise with him. Its not diplomacy anymore. He (Rowan) is going back knowing there is no grey area on our part,” said Orombi.

Even as Bishops from Singapore, Southeast Asia and Africa maintained their position in closed-door sessions, the Canterbury archbishop preached tolerance in a sermon after the meetings.

“We listen to Jesus and then we must learn to listen to those we lead and serve, to find out what their own hopes and needs and confusions are. We must love and attend to their humanity in all its diversity, so that we become better able to address words of hope and challenge to them,” he said.