The Archbishop of Southern Africa has responded robustly to a recent threat made by some African Anglican heads who say that they will not attend the forthcoming Primates Meeting in Tanzania in February 2007 because of the presence of US Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
The Most Rev Njongonkulu Ndungane says that he will be ‚Äúhonoured‚Äù to welcome Bishop Schori to Africa, and urges his colleagues to follow suit ‚Äì and says that the continent‚Äôs church leaders should be focusing on the conflicts tearing its nations apart, not unseemly ecclesiastical squabbling.
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda said in a December 2006 pastoral letter to his church that he and other ‚ÄòGlobal South‚Äô Primates had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, that they ‚Äúcannot sit together with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February.‚Äù
They cite her position on the what they claim is the Bible's teachings about ‚Äúfaith and morality‚Äù ‚Äì based on a narrow interpretation contested by many scholars and other church leaders.
In a statement issued this week, Archbishop Ndungane, who succeeded Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, decried the reports of a boycott ‚Äúbecause of the presence of a woman, who has been legitimately elected by the church in her country,‚Äù saying it ‚Äúis like fiddling while Rome burns.‚Äù
Most importantly, he added, ‚Äúit goes against God's fundamental call for unity and reconciliation.‚Äù
The Archbishop continued: ‚ÄúI hope it is not the case that Bishop Jefferts Schori's presence is objectionable to some because she is a woman,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúWomen have always been the backbone of Africa and, as an African, I am honoured to welcome her to our great continent.‚Äù
Bishop Jefferts Schori will be the first woman ever to sit among the leaders, or Primates, of the Anglican Communion when they next convene in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, but in his pastoral letter Orombi insisted that his ‚Äúproblem‚Äù with the Episcopal Church is ‚Äúnot that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop.‚Äù
In response, Ndungane notes that ‚ÄúAfrica is on fire with conflict in places like Darfur and Somalia‚Äù and cited the ‚Äúlife and death struggle against HIV and AIDS, malaria, famine and unimaginable poverty, all of which are creating a continent of orphans.‚Äù