Five summers ago, the lion of African Anglicanism roared. This week, it has bared its claws.

The summer of 1998 saw the every-ten-years Lambeth Conference of the worldwide Anglican communion absorbed with issues of human sexuality. At its meetings, African Anglicans led a campaign against the liberalizing of the church's teachings on homosexuality.

Joining in the African "roar" was Bishop John Rucyahana of Shyira, Rwanda, who issued this warning to the liberalizing contingent in Western Anglicanism: "We don't like your First World way of speaking ambiguous words and not being straight on the issues." Rucyahana and his colleagues were heard, and heeded: the conference passed a resolution (526 to 70, with 45 abstentions) that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Scripture."

In the wake of Lambeth, liberals in American Anglicanism (the Episcopalian Church) resented this new voice of "African fundamentalism," while a conservative like bishop Jack Iker of Ft. Worth, Texas could observe with some satisfaction: "No longer does the United States or England speak for the Anglican Communion but the church in Africa and Asia does."

Baring claws

This week, one branch of African Anglicanism seems to be moving from rhetoric to action in the conservative cause. In a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of the Nigerian Church (Anglican Communion)—a church representing 17 million of Anglicanism's 70 million members—has threatened to break communion with the worldwide body over the same issue that dominated discussion at Lambeth: Williams has supported the appointment of the openly gay Dr. Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading, in England.

Said Nigerian Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola: "We cannot continue ...

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