In a rare step among Anglicans, the Church of Nigeria has cut ties with the Canadian diocese of Vancouver, B.C., because it authorized a May 28 blessing ceremony for a gay couple. The Church of Nigeria includes 17.5 million of the world's 77 million Anglicans and ranks second in size to the mother Church of England among the 38 Anglican branches. By severing relations with Vancouver, the Church of Nigeria is effectively stating that it no longer considers the Canadian diocese part of world Anglicanism.
According to a Monday announcement from the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Abuja said Vancouver is guilty of "flagrant disregard for the Anglican Communion" and the belief of "the vast majority" of its members. Akinola noted that Anglican leaders meeting in Brazil had taken a stand against same-sex ceremonies just one day before the Vancouver blessing.
The Canadian diocese's annual synod met days after the same-sex ceremony was performed and overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to suspend further blessings for one year. Vancouver bishop Michael Ingham acknowledged that the debate has weakened his diocese. "For a time we will be in the spotlight of attention as a diocese, and some of us will find it quite uncomfortable," Ingham said. "We are in the forefront of a movement of change taking place across the church, and change is never accomplished easily."