ATLANTA -- The leader of the largest Anglican archdiocese in the world denounced the ongoing actions of the Episcopal Church USA – the US branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion – and declared that the true future of American Anglicanism lies with the conservative groups in the denomination, at the end of a two-day caucus in Atlanta, Saturday, April 3, 2004.
Archbishop Peter Akinola has been at the forefront of the battle to restore the biblical purity in the ECUSA since last November when the denomination consecrated an openly gay man as bishop. The archdiocese of Nigeria, which Akinola leads, has 17.5 million adherents, as opposed to the US’s 2.3 million. Akinola also leads the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa – a continent that includes half the world’s 77 million Anglicans. He is also the spokesperson for “Global South” archbishops who severed normal ties with the Episcopal Church a few months ago.
Currently, 13 of 38 international archbishops have followed Akinola’s steps, denouncing the ECUSA and placing fellowship on hold until the gay bishop Gene Robinson’s consecration is repealed. They also called on the ECUSA to oppose gay marriage and halt the blessings of such unions in their churches.
Following the 2-day caucus, Akinola also said that he would not attend any meetings alongside the leader of the ECUSA – bishop Frank Griswold – or attend the 2008 meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops, should Griswold participate. He refused to attend a meeting in England last month for the same reason.
Last week’s meeting in Atlanta once again reinforced the support of the international community for the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes and the American Anglican Council – the two groups of conservative believers who reject the ECUSA’s stance on homosexuality.
Akinola said the Episcopal Church "is trying to redefine Christianity and rewrite Scripture, and we have no right to do that. The historic faith of the church is what we stand by, and there is no going back."
The archbishop said he strongly backs the conservative opposition and its new network, even though those who favor liberal policies on gay rights have a clear operating majority in the U.S. church.
"It's either repent and come back to the fold, or give up on the Anglican family," he said.
But England, the Episcopal Church spokesman, said the church's position stands.
"If he's waiting on the network to replace the Episcopal Church, I think he's in for a long wait," he said.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York announced that it is facing a major budget deficit because of Robinson’s consecration. Since November, parishes held back more than $100,000 in pledges to the diocese, because it voted to confirm the gay bishop last year.
Currently, at least five of 63 parishes in the diocese have withheld their “fair share” gifts to the diocese in 2004 because of the confirmation of Robinson. 22 parishes have not yet submitted a pledge or have pledged less than the dioceses requested.
"We didn't believe that the national church was headed in the right direction," said James Glownia, senior warden for St. Bartholomew's parish, one of the diocese that severely cut its funding for the diocese. "It was the only thing we could really do to protest against it, so to speak."
Glownia said giving at the church actually has increased since the vestry voted not to send the money to the diocese. The gifts are being passed on instead to six local Christian ministries and to the American Anglican Council.
The total revenue deficit - including shortfalls stemming from other reasons - is more than $200,000 in a budget of about $1.1 million, said Bishop J. Michael Garrison, who was among those that voted for Robinson.
The bishop cited a combination of economic difficulty within many parishes and a "significant amount of protest" over the approval of a gay bishop.