A spokesman for bishops who claim to lead a majority of the world's Anglican Christians denounced the pro-gay policies of America's Episcopal Church on Saturday, following a two-day caucus in Atlanta with U.S. conservatives.
Archbishop Peter Akinola said the future of true Anglicanism in the United States lies with conservative minority opposition groups within the Episcopal Church who oppose gay marriage and the church's approval of an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
Akinola also said in a telephone interview that unless conditions change, he will not attend meetings alongside the leader of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, or attend the 2008 meeting of the world's Anglican bishops if the U.S. hierarchy participates. Akinola leads Nigeria's Anglican church, with 17.5 million members, and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, a continent that includes half the world's 77 million Anglicans.
Episcopal Church spokesman Daniel England said Saturday that Griswold understands that Akinola has strong feelings on the issue. "I'm sure the presiding bishop will be disappointed if the archbishop cannot join him at the communion table," he said.
Akinola said the Episcopal Church "is trying to redefine Christianity and rewrite Scripture, and we have no right to do that. The historic faith of the church is what we stand by, and there is no going back."
In the archbishop's view, although those who favor liberal policies on homosexuality have a clear operating majority in the U.S. church, he strongly backs the minority and its new network. "It's either repent and come back to the fold, or give up on the Anglican family," he said.
But England said the church's position stands. "If he's waiting on the network to replace the Episcopal Church, I think he's in for a long wait," he said.