Nigeria's Anglican Church breaks away over homosexuality rift; Akinola Writes Open letter to Abp. Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland

Nigeria's Anglican church has broken away from its British "mother" church as the disagreement over homosexuality and same-sex blessings deepens.

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We have chosen not to be yoked top them, as we prefer to exercise our freedom to remain faithful...

Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria

Nigeria's Anglican church has broken away from its British "mother" church as the disagreement over homosexuality and same-sex blessings deepens.

The Church of Nigeria, lead by Archbishop Peter Akinola declared in a statement that all references to "communion with the see of Canterbury" had been deleted from the constitution at a meeting last week.

The statement continued, "This churchŠ. Shall be in full communion with the all Anglican Churches Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as the Lord has commanded in His holy book."

Archbishop Akinola has become leader of Anglican conservatives throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America for those against accepting homosexuality into the churches.

The Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda distanced themselves from the US Episcopal Church after it consecrated a gay bishop living with a partner.

Out of the 70 million-strong Anglican communion worldwide, Nigeria has the largest Anglican population behind the Church of England, with 17 million members; Africa has 26 million followers.

As one of the most conservative and forthright speakers against homosexuality, Archbishop Akinola staunchly defends the traditional biblical view of sexuality and marriage.

A new section has been added to the revised constitution "to create convocations, chaplaincies of like-minded faithful outside Nigeria and to appoint persons within or outside Nigeria to administer them and the Primate shall give Episcopal Oversight."

The Nigerian Anglican church already has established its own places of worships within the United States and has made links with other churches there, who disagree with the movements of the US Episcopal Church towards accepting homosexuality.

In an open letter to Anglican leaders to explain the break, Archbishop Akinola wrote those who"are bent to walk a different path may do so without us."

"We have chosen not to be yoked to them, as we prefer to exercise our freedom to remain faithful, " he added.

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The Church of Nigeria

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Akinola Writes Open letter to Abp. Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland

16th October, 2005

The Most Revd Dr. R.H.A. Eames
Primate of All Ireland Archbishop of Armagh

Dear Robin,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have noted with profound sadness your recent pronouncements in Virginia, Washington, DC, and Connecticut about the actions of the Church of Nigeria. I was surprised by the harsh tone of your remarks and also that you have chosen to address me personally in a remarkably one-sided conversation through the media. You have always been the one to advocate careful, mutual listening and I wonder about the reason for this sudden change of behaviour. Since, however, you have chosen a public forum for your remarks I will respond accordingly.

Let me say again that the recent actions of the Church of Nigeria were not the "preemptive strike" of a single voice but rather the deliberate, prayerful and unanimous action of the more than 800 members of our General Synod. It was, and is, our intention to make clear our commitment to the faith once delivered to the Saints as expressed in historic Anglicanism and its traditional formularies at a time when these understandings are being challenged and distorted. If you read our recent statements more carefully you will see that we are not making up our own faith nor are we asking others to submit to our own interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. We have made it clear that if others choose to redefine the Faith that we once held in common, and walk alone they will do so without us because we will not, we dare not, follow them. Your comments about a 'Provincial only' view of the Faith are precisely what we are seeking to avoid, whereas that is exactly what your friends in ECUSA are seeking to impose upon the rest of the Communion.

It might also be helpful to remind you that in this era of 'post colonial Anglicanism' our primary commitment is not to an institution or structure, no matter how beloved or historic, but rather to the living Word of our living God. The actions that we have taken and the changes that we have made are for the best interest of our Church and not for any personal agenda.

It is reported that you, without citing specifics, are 'quite certain' that some of us have been bought. I have always had great respect for you and considered you a friend and a great leader of our Communion but such irresponsible accusations are outrageous, uncharitable and untrue. If you have any evidence of such financial inducements I challenge you, in the name of God, to reveal them or make a public apology to your brother Primates in the Global South for this damaging and irresponsible smear. I have always made it clear that there is no price-tag on my head - I am not a slave to anyone - I have been set free by the blood of the One who died for us all.

I must also respond to your misleading comments about our constitutional provision to establish Convocations and Chaplaincies outside of Nigeria. As you well know such a provision has long been the tradition in Europe. I wonder why it is acceptable for one part of the Communion and not for the other - perhaps the yoke of imperialism still survives?

Our intention is merely to extend pastoral care and Episcopal oversight to those of our people, and others who share the same commitment to our historic faith but who are geographically separated from us. I well remember the careful language of the Dromantine Communiqué - we are not initiating a "cross-boundary intervention" - you know that this effort was well underway when we met together and we all agreed that it, and similar expressions of pastoral concern, were to be preserved not abandoned. Our action is not an expression of 'frustration, bewilderment or alienation' but rather a demonstration of true 'bonds of affection' for which we make no apology.

Finally, I was astonished by your declaration that ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada have satisfied the requirements of the Windsor Report. I note that you acknowledge that this is merely your personal view but where is your evidence? In our Dromantine Communiqué we said that "there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion," and that because of this, "the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered." [12] I have seen no change in this and no willingness to fully embrace Lambeth 1.10 as our current agreement on matters of human sexuality - as you know this is the underlying assumption of the Windsor Report.

I was present in Nottingham for the recent ACC meeting and heard both Presiding Bishop Griswold and Archbishop Hutchinson, and their teams, try to justify their innovations. They failed. They made clear that there is no turning back and they did so with little or no reference to the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures or the devastation that their actions have brought on us all.

While I am grateful that "regret" has been expressed and a temporary moratorium on Episcopal consecrations has been established, same-sex blessings continue to be authorized in some dioceses in both Provinces. And we all know that this is no more than a brief cessation of provocative actions and that no permanent change of mind is intended.

Robin, I do agree with you that the path ahead of us is difficult to predict but your statements have added to our problems. One thing is sure the Church of Nigeria remains committed to the abiding truth of God's Word and the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our earnest desire is to see the torn fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion restored and we continue to work to that end. I pray that you still share a similar commitment. Be assured that our only goal is to witness to the unique message of salvation in Christ that can transform the lives of all those in need.


+ Peter Abuja