Anglican Primates deny attack on Archbishop of Canterbury - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 18, 2005

Anglican Primates deny attack on Archbishop of Canterbury

-18/11/05

The Global South Anglican website which published a letter from 14 primates responding to the Archbishop of Canterburyís contribution at a recent church summit in Egypt has explicitly denied widespread press reports that the communique is an assault on Dr Rowan Williams.

A media firestorm broke out yesterday after a report in the Times newspaper in London described the letter as a ìpersonal attackî on the spiritual head of the worldís 77 million Anglicans. It headlined its account, ìChurch of England evil, say archbishopsî.

By the evening the story has spread across the globe, from the front page of the Guardian to news agency Reuters, CBC TV News, Canada, Australia and several major outlets in Asia.

However the Anglican weblog which made the document public, ironically established partly to combat ìmisreportingî, promptly posted a response expressing ìbemusementî at the Times report and its ìsensationalistî opening paragraph, which claimed that the Southern primates had brought the church close to ìschismî.

ìThe letter is not condemning anyone, certainly not the [Church of England] or Archbishop Rowan Williamsî, declared Global South Anglican. It also rebutted suggestions that the document had been calculated to coincide with the General Synod meeting from 15-17 November 2005.

Global South Anglican says that the document ìis simply a response to [the Archbishop of Canterburyís] talk and Q&A session at the [Third South-South] Encounter. If it took so long, the reason was because it went through various drafts as the Primates worked on it after the Encounter. As for timing, it was not posted deliberately with any event in mind, let alone the CoE Synod.î

The Primatesí letter, which has 14 signatories, contains both praise and criticism ñ welcoming Dr Williamsí theological account of the ìone, holy, catholic and apostolic churchî, but expressing concern at his ìsilenceî over moral issues ñ mainly homosexuality ñ which have been the subject of bitter disputer in recent months.

It questions the Archbishopís own stance on the issue, asking him to change his mind and to take action against ìunrepented sexual immoralityî in the church.

More dispassionate observers say that while the letter is clearly designed to maintain pressure on Lambeth in its relations with Provinces and churches maintaining an affirmative stance towards lesbian and gay people, it does little more than reiterate well established views from the conservative Anglican leadership of the South.

One Church of England insider told the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia today: ìFor those who understand the world-wide Anglican scene, the letter could also be interpreted as an attempt to restrain the Nigerian Church and Archbishop Akinola, since few share his apparent enthusiasm for pushing the Communion to breaking point.î

He added: ìThere is no doubt that there are very severe strains within the Anglican Communion at the moment, but they are not made easier by inaccurate and misleading reporting. Journalists are tempted to tell the story they want, and to regard nuance and detail as inconvenient.î

A spokesperson for Dr Williams, who opened the Church of Englandís General Synod two days ago by asking it ìto beware of poisoning the wellsî, expressed the hope that the letter, ìhowever robustî, was intended to be part of a continuing conversation.

The Global South Anglican website commented: ìWe hope common sense, integrity and professional journalism will prevail and letters such as [this] are read in [their] proper and full context.î

Meanwhile, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in the UK yesterday responded to the row by repeating its desire for the voices of gay Christians to be listened to properly and respectfully.

Its general secretary, the Rev Richard Kirker, expressed disappointment that Dr Williams, although calling for dialogue, had declined to attend an LGCM conference.

A senior group of Anglican theologians and clerics has recently published a book on Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, which strongly challenges the view of those in the church who see homosexual relationships as going against scripture and tradition.

The Primatesí letter and responses to it can be read here.

[Also on Ekklesia: Read Stephen Bates of The Guardian in conversation about his book, A Church At War; buy Gays and the Future of Anglicanism; Nigerian gay and lesbian Christians challenge Archbishop Akinola; Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays; Tutu calls on Anglicans to accept gay bishop; reading St Paul and sexuality, by Oxford New Testament Professor Christopher Rowland]

Anglican Primates deny attack on Archbishop of Canterbury

-18/11/05

The Global South Anglican website which published a letter from 14 primates responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury's contribution at a recent church summit in Egypt has explicitly denied widespread press reports that the communique is an assault on Dr Rowan Williams.

A media firestorm broke out yesterday after a report in the Times newspaper in London described the letter as a 'personal attack' on the spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans. It headlined its account, 'Church of England evil, say archbishops'.

By the evening the story has spread across the globe, from the front page of the Guardian to news agency Reuters, CBC TV News, Canada, Australia and several major outlets in Asia.

However the Anglican weblog which made the document public, ironically established partly to combat 'misreporting', promptly posted a response expressing 'bemusement' at the Times report and its 'sensationalist' opening paragraph, which claimed that the Southern primates had brought the church close to 'schism'.

'The letter is not condemning anyone, certainly not the [Church of England] or Archbishop Rowan Williams', declared Global South Anglican. It also rebutted suggestions that the document had been calculated to coincide with the General Synod meeting from 15-17 November 2005.

Global South Anglican says that the document 'is simply a response to [the Archbishop of Canterbury's] talk and Q&A session at the [Third South-South] Encounter. If it took so long, the reason was because it went through various drafts as the Primates worked on it after the Encounter. As for timing, it was not posted deliberately with any event in mind, let alone the CoE Synod.'

The Primates' letter, which has 14 signatories, contains both praise and criticism - welcoming Dr Williams' theological account of the 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic church', but expressing concern at his 'silence' over moral issues - mainly homosexuality - which have been the subject of bitter disputer in recent months.

It questions the Archbishop's own stance on the issue, asking him to change his mind and to take action against 'unrepented sexual immorality' in the church.

More dispassionate observers say that while the letter is clearly designed to maintain pressure on Lambeth in its relations with Provinces and churches maintaining an affirmative stance towards lesbian and gay people, it does little more than reiterate well established views from the conservative Anglican leadership of the South.

One Church of England insider told the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia today: 'For those who understand the world-wide Anglican scene, the letter could also be interpreted as an attempt to restrain the Nigerian Church and Archbishop Akinola, since few share his apparent enthusiasm for pushing the Communion to breaking point.'

He added: 'There is no doubt that there are very severe strains within the Anglican Communion at the moment, but they are not made easier by inaccurate and misleading reporting. Journalists are tempted to tell the story they want, and to regard nuance and detail as inconvenient.'

A spokesperson for Dr Williams, who opened the Church of England's General Synod two days ago by asking it 'to beware of poisoning the wells', expressed the hope that the letter, 'however robust', was intended to be part of a continuing conversation.

The Global South Anglican website commented: 'We hope common sense, integrity and professional journalism will prevail and letters such as [this] are read in [their] proper and full context.'

Meanwhile, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in the UK yesterday responded to the row by repeating its desire for the voices of gay Christians to be listened to properly and respectfully.

Its general secretary, the Rev Richard Kirker, expressed disappointment that Dr Williams, although calling for dialogue, had declined to attend an LGCM conference.

A senior group of Anglican theologians and clerics has recently published a book on Gays and the Future of Anglicanism, which strongly challenges the view of those in the church who see homosexual relationships as going against scripture and tradition.

The Primates' letter and responses to it can be read here.

[Also on Ekklesia: Read Stephen Bates of The Guardian in conversation about his book, A Church At War; buy Gays and the Future of Anglicanism; Nigerian gay and lesbian Christians challenge Archbishop Akinola; Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays; Tutu calls on Anglicans to accept gay bishop; reading St Paul and sexuality, by Oxford New Testament Professor Christopher Rowland]

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