Speed Reads

Once more into the breach

African Anglican leaders threaten split from Church of England over same-sex union blessing

When the Church of England voted Feb. 9 to allow Anglican clergy to bless same-sex civil unions, there was grumbling in England that the change doesn't go far enough because it still excludes same-sex church weddings. In Africa, the change was a step too far for the Anglican leaders of Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, Religion News Service reports. The leaders of those three African churches, with a combined flock of about 35 million Anglicans, rejected England's compromise and are threatening to cut bait.

The Church of England, in "offering to bless that sin" of same-sex civil marriage, is "making contradictory statements and expecting everyone to believe both can be true at the same time," Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Uganda said in a statement. "As the Church of Uganda, we cannot accept that. God cannot bless what he calls sin." The Anglican Church of Uganda broke with the U.S. Episcopal Church, also a member of the global Anglican Communion, when it installed an openly gay bishop, he noted. 

Cutting ties with the Episcopal Church is one thing; breaking with the Church of England is another matter entirely. All 45 national or regional provinces in the Anglican Communion "are autonomous and free to make their own decisions in their own ways," the Anglican Communion explains. But "all are in communion — or a reciprocal relationship — with the See of Canterbury and recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Communion's spiritual head." The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England.

And now the Church of England has joined the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church of Brazil, and a few other Anglican provinces in blessing same-sex unions. "We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the Anglican Communion," Kaziimba wrote. "There is no way we are walking together" with those "provinces that have walked away, but we pray for them to repent."

Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, head of the Church of Kenya, blamed "the unfortunate rise of devious liberal churchmanship within Anglican Communion" for the Church of England's same-sex decision. "History is about to repeat itself," Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba of Nigeria said in his statement. "The Anglican Church is at the threshold of yet another reformation, which must sweep out the ungodly leadership currently endorsing sin, misleading the lives of faithful Anglican worldwide."