Nigerian Bishops Warn of Schism in Anglican Church

( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2007 02:10 PM EST

Anglican leaders from the Church of Nigeria have warned the worldwide communion that they "cannot walk together" with provinces that do not repent of their departure from Scripture.

In a communiqué issued at their annual retreat on Jan. 9-13, the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria said that it maintains its posture not to share fellowship with member-Provinces that "denigrate the authority of Scripture."

"Our participation in this worldwide fellowship is contingent on genuine repentance by those who have chosen to walk away, for two cannot walk together except they are in agreement," said the Most. Rev. Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria in a statement. "Christian unity must be anchored on Biblical truth."

The Nigerian primate’s statement was directed to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church which had consecrated an openly gay bishop and elected Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports same-sex unions in recent years, as Presiding Bishop of the U.S. arm of Anglicanism.

The recent decisions of the Episcopal Church violated the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which states that they reject homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture while they are still called on to minister to all despite sexual orientation.

In September 2006, the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) agreed to "The Road to Lambeth," clearly stating that the North American churches must repent or depart. The Nigerian Anglican leaders at the recent retreat reaffirmed the CAPA document.

If the churches, or "the apostles of 'revisionist agenda,'" fail to repent, CAPA leaders warned that they would hold their own Lambeth conference on African soil in 2008 rather than joining the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Lambeth conferences are held once every 10 years. Bishops from around the globe are scheduled to gather for worship and discussion in July 2008 at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams , the Anglican spiritual leader, said earlier this month that he feared schism in the church as the situation is slipping out of his control.

Recent actions of the Episcopal Church's General Convention and its failure to obey the demands of the Windsor Report push the possibility that Africans will have their own Lambeth 2008, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of the Anglican Church of Kenya indicated in an interview with Virtue Online.

African bishops had considered the Windsor Report, which called parties to the controversy to express regret, "a vehicle by which the offending churches" would repent and turn back.

Congregations in the United States also opposing recent actions of the Episcopal Church have split with the national body. And most recently, two of the largest churches in the Diocese of Virginia joined the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – a splinter group and an outreach initiative of the Church of Nigeria.

African bishops at the recent retreat said they were delighted that CANA was taking "giant strides to other parts of the world."

The latest warning by the Church of Nigeria comes months after Anglican leaders of 20 provinces proposed the formation of a separate orthodox Anglican body in the U.S. Some also stated that they would not be able to recognize Jefferts Schori as a representative of the U.S. Anglican arm at the upcoming Primates meeting in February.