Features

Showdown in Africa

"Showdown in Africa" Continued...

Issue: "'Infidel'," March 3, 2007

As the meeting unfolded, Akinola and six other primates in the fast-growing "global south" declined on theological grounds to take part in communion services with TEC's primate (compared with 22 in 2003 and 15 in 2005). The global south provinces represent nearly half the total membership of the Anglican Communion. The Church of Nigeria alone has nearly 20 million members, according to Anglican estimates.

The primates discussed a number of topics but spent almost the entire final day on matters related to TEC. The global south kept hammering away for stronger, more specific language in the communiqué, and defending their interventions on TEC soil in America on behalf of parishes seeking refuge from TEC.

The primates finally adjourned as midnight approached. Akinola was the last to sign the document.

"It was the most intense meeting I have ever attended," Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda said afterward. "Even until the last night of our meeting, we were in a deadlock. But, the Lord has prevailed. Biblical authority is being restored, and from that, we are hopeful that biblical mission will be the result."

"We came very close to separation over this," said the global south's Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone in South America.

Separation indeed. In Akinola's briefcase was a signed statement by global south primates, ready to be released as a minority report with the communiqué if it had not been strengthened, according to several sources. It also would have signaled a breakup of the communion, they added.

Anglican who's who

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. "province" of the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, which is made up of 38 autonomous regional denominations that trace their roots to the Church of England, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as its titular leader. Each provincial entity is led by an archbishop or presiding bishop known as a primate. Of the 38 primates, 35 attended the six-day meeting under tight security at a beachside hotel near Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania in mid-February. They included Katharine Jefferts Schori, Anglicanism's first female primate, and 13 other new primates. The meeting was closed to the media, but officials held daily press briefings.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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