Crackup of Anglican Communion at Hand, Evangelical Bishops Say
Editor's note: If you are following the now-labeled "Summer of Schism" among global Anglicans, the well-known George Conger, occasional correspondent for Christianity Today, offers the assessment below after his exclusive interview in the U.K. with Archbishop and Primate Gregory Venables from Argentina, and Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan.
These are two of the most prominent evangelical Anglicans worldwide. Venables preached the closing sermon at the recent Global Anglican Future conference in Jerusalem, and now, both Venables and Duncan are in attendance at Lambeth, the once-every-10 years gathering in Canterbury on the campus of the University of Kent.
After this report, I've included a press release from GAFCON primates, released in the last 48 hours. This is a direct response to the criticism from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams regarding the GAFCON statement.
The bottom line is this: The Anglican crisis continues to escalate and will do so well toward the end of 2008. This fall, several American dioceses will vote on whether to separate from the Episcopal Church. On Wednesday, a west suburban Chicago-area priest confided: "It's all over but the lawsuits." She may just be right.
By George Conger in Canterbury
The crackup of the Anglican Communion is at hand, evangelical bishops attending the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury tell Christianity Today, and to them, the 400-year-old Anglican project appears over.
"I'd like to expect a miracle," said Bishop Venables, a leader of the evangelical alliance at Lambeth, but said he feared the prospects for the church holding together were grim.
"Humanely speaking, there is little hope for even a peaceful separation" between the liberal and evangelical wings of the 80-million-member communion of churches, Bishop Venables said on July 18.
The 20-day gathering of bishops from across the worldwide communion began on July 16, on the campus of the University of Kent in Canterbury. The conference, held every 10 years, is one of four institutional ties for the 38 provinces, or member churches, of the Anglican Communion. While it has no juridical power, Lambeth has exercised a moral authority over the communion and has been the venue for resolution of past controversies, such as the ordination of women and the morality of contraception.
The 2008 conference, however, has been mired in turmoil for over a year before the first bishop arrived, when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams issued invitations to all of the communion's bishops, with three exceptions.
The Episcopal Church's gay bishop Gene Robinson was asked not to attend, as was the Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, who was banned from the conference due to his ties to the regime of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe.
The American bishops of the African-overseen Anglican jurisdictions in the United States, such as the Rwandan-led Anglican Mission in the Americas and the Nigerian-led Convocation of Anglicans in North America, were also denied invitations as their consecrations as bishops were considered valid but irregular. Conservative bishops in the developing world applauded the decision not to invited Bishop Robinson, but said that those American and Canadian bishops who had consecrated him should also be banned from the gathering, and were outraged by the exclusion of their American bishops.
When Archbishop Williams declined to accede to their demands, the churches of Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya as well as a smattering of evangelical bishops from across the communion — including the bishops of Sydney, representing the Australian church's largest diocese — announced they would not come.