NAIROBI, Kenya -- Following a two-day conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa’s Anglican archbishops vowed to reject donations from western churches that support the ordination of gay clergy, and gave the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion – the Episcopal Church USA – three months to repent for ordaining the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop, or face dismissal from the communion.
"We do not want any money from the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. This is not rhetoric. It is not a matter of a joke. We mean what we say," the chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, said Nigeria's Archbishop Peter Akinola at a press conference held on April 16.
Akinola, who spoke on behalf of 12 out of 13 Archbishops of Africa, boldly exclaimed that faith is of much higher value than any donation of money.
"If we suffer for a while to gain our independence and our freedom and to build ourselves up, I think it will be a good thing for the church in Africa," said Akinola. “We will not, on the altar of money, mortgage our conscience, mortgage our faith, and mortgage our salvation.
Five archbishops from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East also attended the two-day conference, which ended on Thursday. The Anglicans in the four regions also do not condone homosexuality, and have severed ties with the diocese where Robinson is ordained. Some 42 million Anglicans live in Africa, while only 2.3 million Anglicans dwell in the U.S.
"Those who have chosen a different path away from Anglican doctrines must repent and come back to the Anglican fold or be kicked out of the communion," Akinola said.
Prior to Robinson’s consecration, thousands of Anglicans around the world forecasted a schism, and called on the bishops of the ECUSA to help maintain the unity of the 77-million-member communion by taking Robinson off the ballot; Robinson and the majority of the U.S. bishops however, continued on with the consecration.
"We have recommended to the Lambeth Commission (in London) to take this clear line of disciplinary action against ECUSA because of what it has done,” said Akinola.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, formed the Lambeth Commission last year to “gather views on homosexuality” and find ways to mend the differences between the views. However, to date, the commission did not reject the consecration as sin.
"We believe the commission will accept our recommendation because we represent more than half of the entire Anglican world," Akinola said. "The answer to the homosexual problem is continuous teaching and convincing them that homosexuality is not a way of life."
The American officials of the ECUSA, upon hearing the African Archbishops’ resolution, commented that they doubt that the very poor African provinces would reject all U.S. church funding.
"It's hard to parse this statement and to figure out are there any loopholes here or what," said Jim Naughton, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington.
"I suspect they're looking for a symbolic way to say we're unhappy," said Canon Patrick Mauney, director of Anglican and Global Relations for the U.S. Episcopal Church.
However, Canon Bill Atwood, director of an international aid agency created by U.S. Episcopal conservatives, said that the African bishops are serious about their claim.
"Western leaders, especially in the Episcopal Church, have miscalculated," said Atwood, who was in Nairobi.
"I do not see Africa ever taking a homosexual to be a bishop," Akinola said.
"A few provinces have been receiving money for HIV/Aids programmes and rehabilitation projects,” Akinola continued. “We have just requested our primates to get exact figures of what they have been getting from ECUSA and make them available by end of May. But at the moment, we don't have any figures."
According to unofficial statistics, 70 percent of the African church's funding comes from the United States.
"We are saying no to dependency syndrome. We have realised that we have to be self reliant," Akinola said.
"If we denounce ECUSA, then it is also best that we refuse their money. We will not accept their money because they have decided to redefine Christianity to suit their needs,” continued Akinola. "We are going to suffer for a while. But if we do so to gain our independence, it will be a good thing for the continent."
Meanwhile, within the ECUSA, the diocese of Central Florida voted overwhelmingly to redirect the funds from the national church to the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes, which reject Robinson’s ordination. Central Florida has formally associated with the Anglican Communion Network and is the first diocese to formally redirect funds to the Anglican Communion Network.
“I am delighted about the Diocese of Central Florida’s decision to redirect funds to the Anglican Communion Network (ACN),” said the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan, Moderator of ACN. “Such funding will greatly assist ACN to fulfill domestic needs and its commitment to missions both in the US and abroad, including support for Global Mission Partners. The ACN is most grateful to receive this generous support.”