Irrevocable Anglican split on sexuality fears

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The global Anglican Communion has become deeply split over attitudes in its various provinces to sexuality issues.

A conference scheduled for 2020 in London, called by the Archbishop of Canterbury the Rev Justin Welby to involve bishops from the various jurisdictions, is under threat because of the sharp divide between conservatives and liberals over theological interpretations of the Bible.

The Scottish Episcopal Church and the United States Episcopal Church have affirmed their position in favour of same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy, much to the unease of the Church of England hierarchy and consternation by bishops in southern hemisphere and African provinces, which account for tens of millions of worshippers.

The conservative lobby is organised through the GAFCON movement, which feels that liberal bishops in Scotland and the US are moving irrevocably away from what the Bible teaches, that marriage is unquestionably a bond between a man and a woman.

This week, at a GAfCON conference in Jerusalem, Archbishop of Unganda the Rev Stanley Ntangali suggested he and other bishops would boycott the 2020 event because the global Communion has not shown strong leadership on the issue of sexuality.

He said: “Unless Godly order is restored in the Anglican Communion, we shall not attend other meetings invited by Canterbury.”

The Rev Ntangali said this would remain unless the Anglican Communion recognised church groups set up to cater for the needs of conservative Anglicans who feel they can no longer serve in the current Anglican church.

The Church of Ireland has reiterated its stance on the traditional concept of marriage, although some clergy and laity, mostly located in the Irish Republic, favour liberalising church decrees. They include Bishop of Cork the Rev Paul Colton, who said: “We most find a solution, even if the situation in a variety of churches, not only ours, is becoming more polarised. I am conscious not everyone sees this as a matter of justice or injustice. The Scottish approach to same-sex marriage, altering its canon on marriage, may be a way forward for the Church of Ireland.”