Anglican archbishops from Africa, Asia, and Latin America said Friday that an apology from the U.S. Episcopal Church does not go far enough to heal the rift among Anglicans over the consecration of the denomination's first openly gay bishop.
The Anglican Communion--the international association of churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England--fears its unity is threatened by deep disagreements over homosexuality. Conservative clerics from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have harshly criticized the U.S. branch's move in consecrating a gay bishop.
Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola noted that U.S. bishops apologized to individual church members in a letter issued earlier this month expressing "sincere regret" for consecrating the openly gay Gene Robinson in 2003 as bishop of New Hampshire without full consideration of other Anglicans' objections. But Akinola told journalists they failed to repent for an act he said was contrary to their faith. "That gives us a very big question mark whether we are together or not," said Malawi archbishop Bernard Malango.
Akinola spoke after a weeklong meeting in Kenya to discuss recommendations by an Anglican commission to resolve discord within the communion over homosexuality.
In a report issued in October, the panel urged the U.S. branch not to elect any more gay bishops and called on conservative African bishops to stop meddling in the affairs of other dioceses. At the Kenya meeting Friday, church leaders were circumspect about their views on the recommendations, saying they did not want to preempt a meeting of all Anglican archbishops in Ireland next month. About 15 archbishops attended the gathering in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Some African church leaders, including South African archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, have questioned why the communion is spending so much time on the issue of homosexuality, when there are pressing issues such as war, AIDS, and poverty to be addressed on the continent.
But Akinola said it was a question of faith. "I didn't create poverty. This church didn't create poverty," Akinola said. "These are two separate things."
There are about 77 million adherents in the 38 Anglican and Episcopal churches around the world, with half of them in Africa. Nigeria alone has about 17.5 million Anglicans. African church leaders have been among the most vocal in criticizing the consecration of an openly gay bishop in America and the blessing of same-sex unions by some Canadian clergymen. Some Africans have even broken ties with individual American and Canadian churches. (AP)