Amid confusion about who will play a role at the global Anglican Primates meeting in Tanzania this week ‚Äì with reports that even the evangelical Dr John Sentamu is unacceptable to hardliners gathered around Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola ‚Äì a UK-based broad church organization has declared ‚ÄúEnough is Enough‚Äù.
‚ÄúWe know we don‚Äôt have much time‚Äù, says Inclusive Church over the future of the 77 million strong Communion, threatened by deep rifts over different theological approaches to sexuality and the Bible. ‚ÄúThe decision for everyone to go their separate ways could be taken at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. Meetings leading up to it start this week.‚Äù
Speaking at the launch of a fundraising initiative for ‚Äúthe Anglican centre‚Äù, the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr David Stancliffe, said: ‚ÄúI live by the catholic conviction that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. I welcome this campaign to reinvigorate and encourage the broad centre of the Church of England.‚Äù
Dr Stancliffe particularly highlighted Sudan, which is linked with Salisbury. He said that such examples of practical friendship were more important than claims of pan-African homogeneity, and added that Sudan had not followed the lead of Archbishop Akinola in neighbouring Nigeria.
Meanwhile, an ‚Äòopen letter‚Äô has been sent to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Wales and Armagh on behalf of a 500-strong Anglican clergy organization, the Society of Catholic Priests, calling on them to refrain from action against the Episcopal Church of the USA.
The letter warns the leaders of the Anglican Communion not to treat TEC/ECUSA as the source of all the problems in the church. Instead, the Rev Jonathan Clark, who heads up SCP, asks the Primates to recognise that ‚Äúfractures within the Communion run not between but through provinces, dioceses and parishes.‚Äù
The Rev Richard Jenkins, director of another Anglican organization, Affirming Catholicism, commented: ‚ÄúThis letter reflects a real and concern among ordinary clergy that the Anglican leadership isn‚Äôt doing enough to value those who in conscience feel that the Church should take a more open attitude to lesbian and gays. Staying together with integrity means learning to value all shades of opinion.‚Äù
Moderate evangelicals are also upset at the vituperation of the current arguments in the church. Fulcrum (‚Äúrenewing the evangelical centre‚Äù) is among those who are seeking to maintain dialogue while holding on to their biblical and Reformed principles.
Inclusive Church says it ‚Äúconsists of Anglicans who were happily minding their own version of the Anglican business until pushed. Many priests and bishops are members, as well as churchgoers and, increasingly, people who simply care.‚Äù
Explaining its 'Enough is Enough' campaign, the network adds: ‚ÄúWe aren‚Äôt saying that everyone should think the same. We are saying we believe the church should have room for a breadth of views and a breadth of people. We value diversity because it is God-given.‚Äù
However this is not a view shared by hardliners within world Anglicanism. Some Primates (regional church heads) from the Global South are refusing to share communion with those they disagree with, or to meet with them. They want those they oppose kicked out of the church, or at least pushed into a siding.
Following calls for the exclusion of the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, the Most Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, from the Tanzania gathering, Nigeria‚Äôs Archbishop Peter Akinola ‚Äì who some say wishes to install himself as head of the Communion ‚Äì is reported to have said that it is ‚Äúunacceptable‚Äù that Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu should attend.
Dr Sentamu is black, an African and an evangelical. But Archbishop Akinola‚Äôs allies are suspicious of him because they regard him as accommodating to those they consider ‚Äúliberals‚Äù and because he is close to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
Dr Williams has wanted Dr Sentamu to chair the meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in order to free up his own role. It has been traditional for Canterbury to chair the meeting, but Dr Williams wants to play a pastoral rather than an administrative role.
Ironically, the gathering is supposed to prepare the ground for a Lambeth Conference aimed at producing a settlement within Anglicanism. But the hardliners, who are said to number 20 out of the 38 Primates, are currently holding a meeting ‚Äì and are strategizing with powerful Western allies ‚Äì before the official gathering starts on 15 February 2007.
It is believed that they will present a blueprint for a "parallel" Anglican Church to accommodate a range of opponents of the ECUSA majority in America and elsewhere. Plans are also being mooted for an ‚Äúalternative‚Äù Lambeth, if demands regarding the agenda are not met.
Commentators say that all this amounts to a direct challenge to Dr Williams, who does not hold (and does not want) executive powers within Anglicanism, but whose spiritual authority and influence is seen as being undermined by the current divisions.
Inclusive Church chair, the Rev Giles Goddard, said of the hardliners: ‚ÄúThey issue grand-sounding covenants. But in the end, they want to slam their church doors shut. They don‚Äôt much want women priests, they certainly don‚Äôt want women bishops. As for gays, it seems that they don‚Äôt want them in church, or in the community, or in the country.‚Äù
The network says it is ‚Äúkeen to promote classical, generous Anglicanism‚Äù and is now seeking ‚Äúa thousand hundreds‚Äù in order to fund a small office and a General Secretary. ‚Äú¬£100,000 will enable us to have the resources we need for the next two years.‚Äù
Leading bishops in Tanzania and Botswana have said lately that the self-proclaimed leaders of the ‚ÄòGlobal South‚Äô Primates do not speak on behalf of Africa as a whole, and that sexuality is not the key issue that should define the future of Anglicanism.