Friday, September 21, 2007

From The Times By Ruth Glendhill: Conversation with Akinola

September 21, 2007

Peter Akinola 'blows the fourth trumpet'
I feel like running a caption competition for this picture. We'll send a bottle of champagne to the best suggestion. This is of course the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in the US. At a press conference this evening, Dr Williams said the Lambeth Conference is 'necessary' and that smaller provinces should not be held hostage by the larger ones. He also said there was no ultimatum, and no demands or deadline being put to TEC at this meeting. The Episcopal Church has posted a video of his earlier sermon. See below for full transcript of interview with Peter Akinola about this and next week's meeting of the US bishops.

There is full coverage of the meeting on all the usual sites, including TEC, TitusOneNine, Standfirm, Anglican Mainstream and Thinking Anglicans. David Virtue is in New Orleans along with my colleagues Stephen Bates, doing his story swansong, and Jonathan Petre. Fantastic coverage also from BabyBlue.

I spoke to Peter Akinola yesterday on his mobile telephone and a brief report appeared in the paper. I thought readers might be interested in a fuller report of his comments here, and have also posted some nice pictures of the Archbishop which have come over the wires at The Times.

I understand that the Common Cause conservative bishops, such as Keith Ackerman of Quincy, are leaving New Orleans today and believe the Communion is finished. Nevertheless, Dr Akinola was remaining upbeat when we spoke, shortly before the meeting began. He made it clear, however, that the Nigerian bishops were most unlikely to be going to Lambeth 2008. Instead, with the other Global South partners, they could even be at a "Fourth Trumpet" GS meeting. In other words, a rival Lambeth. But Dr Akinola was adamant. This was not schism. Yes, Communion was broken. But Nigeria was remaining in the Anglican Church. It was not they who had moved.

Dr Akinola also made clear that he has no plans to consecrate a CANA bishop in England, as the Nigerian chaplain here, under the pastoral care of the Bishop of London, is encountering none of the difficulties faced by the Nigerian Anglicans in the US.

The Nigerian Primate said: 'The current state of the communion as I see it is that we are in a state of broken communion. Some of our colleagues call it impaired communion. Whether impaired or broken, the communion today is not what it was five years ago and the crisis that we have faced these last five years arises from Ecusa's intransigence and obstinate refusal to go in line with the majority of the communion on the question of same-sex unions and the consecration of clergy in same-sex relationships.'

He continued: 'They were warned not to do this, that if they did it, it would tear the fabric of our communion. They ignored us. They rebuffed us. They went ahead and did it. Now province after province has declared a state of brokenness with Ecusa. That brokenness has yet to be mended.'

He said it was true that the Church of England had not broken with TEC. 'That is largely because the Western world uis moving towards the same reality - same-sex unions and the ordination of people in openly gay relationships. Even in the UK itself, the Labour Government has used the force of law to promote same-sex unions, or civil partnerships. The only difference is that in England, such clergy are requested to declare they are going to be celibate. But that is neither here nor there. What is the purpose of coming together in the first place? So England and the Western world in general are moving towards the same direction.'

His thoughts for the future? He recited a Nigerian proverb: 'What the night portends, the moon will indicate it.' He said: 'For the past 10 years, the communion has been speaking loud and clear that what Ecusa is doing is not right. Ecusa has sadly never listened to anyone. If they now choose to listen to Rowan Williams, Allelujah! We will celebrate! But they have never listened to anyone. Even the communique we issued in Dar es Salaam, after much pain, after much labour, they refused to honour. We will see if they will give up their agenda, the new religion they are creating. They can say one thing, but then in the churches they keep on doing the same thing.'

He said he had received an unofficial response to his and his bishops' request that the Archbishop of Canterbury postpone the Lambeth Conference. 'He has not written officially. But all the indications are that Rowan Williams has firmly anchored his hope in the Lambeth Conference. He seems to believe firmly that the Lambeth Conference is the solution.

'We believe very differently. We have told him quite clearly that there is no point in coming together in a climate of fear and distrust when bishops cannot be in communion with each other. We felt we should first have healing and then rejoice together at Lambeth. Apparently, he thinks differently. We have done quite a lot to save the communion. But if it does not want us, we will stay away. We do not believe it is appropriate for us to come together with other bishops when we are in broken communion.'

So will there be a separate church? 'I do not want to sound prophetic here or paint a gloomy picture. I do not think it will break up at this point since we are still walking and talking and praying. It is still hoped that somehow some day the good Lord will save his church from further fragmentation.'

He said the 'revisionists' [his word, not mine!] would all meet at Lambeth. 'There are many people in the UK and from America who are of the same mind as us. They will then be forced to think what to do. We keep on praying that Dr Rowan, who we love very much and keep on praying for every day for God's guidance and God's wisdom, we still believe that somehow he will resume with us and do what we ask him. Should he refuse to the end, we might have to call our meeting.'

What meeting would this be? It would be the successor to the first, second and third 'Trumpets' of the Global South, the last in Egypt in 2005. Dr Akinola said: 'We might just call a meeting to blow the Fourth Trumpet about the future of the Anglican Communion.' Would this be in 2008, in July, by any chance? He could not confirm this. He will be consulting with colleagues.

'Each meeting is very prophetic,' he said. The Global South does not see itself as forming its own, separate communion however. 'We see ourselves as the Anglicans.The Anglican fathers came together in 1998 and set a standard of faith. We have not violated that. Those who broke the standards are the ones who are walking away.'

He ended by saying he was still hopeful and he and all his Global South colleagues are praying for Dr Williams. 'We are still full of hope. Remember we are Christians. If we lose hope, then everything has gone. We are praying that Ecusa will do what has been asked of them. If they do, we will be on the path to reconciliation. If they do not, they will have chosen to walk apart.'

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