28 September 2017
By Sunday Elom
Some African Churches in the global Anglican Communion including Nigeria are boycotting next week’s meeting in England to deliberate the approval of same sex marriage by the Episcopal Church, a liberal branch of the Anglican Communion in Scotland.
Reports say that the Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to face “consequences” for its vote to allow same-sex marriage.
The African churches, however, believe that sanctions are not enough, saying only a reversal to bible principles would suffice or total excommunication of the Scottish church.
According to reports by Daily Telegraph, Anglican leaders will next week decide how to respond to the church’s vote to change its Canon on Marriage to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The most likely outcome is that they will decide to restrict the organisation from representing the group at interfaith meetings and from voting on decisions about policy or teaching.
The measures, which are effectively sanctions, would restrict the church from taking part in these key roles for three years.
The church voted in June to alter its rules to let clergy carry out same-sex marriages. But it is likely the church will face the same measures earlier imposed on a US branch which made the same decision in 2015.
However, the Episcopal Church is still a member of the group and was not excluded entirely, a decision which has prompted more conservative members to boycott next week’s meeting.
The compromise narrowly avoided a full schism in the global Anglican group, which has been divided over the issue of sexuality since the American church ordained an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.
Discussions over the Scottish church’s decision are likely to throw into sharp focus the split between the increasingly liberal northern churches and those from Africa, which take a more traditionalist stance.
Representatives from Rwanda, Nigeria and Uganda will also not attend next week’s meeting called by the global Anglican Church because they believe the American church should face a tougher punishment for changing its rules.
Following the decision in January last year the Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Uganda, said he would not attend meetings of the Communion “until godly order has been restored”.
In August he confirmed to the BBC that he had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury explaining his non-attendance. Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria and Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda have also said they will not travel to Canterbury for the meeting.
Okoh, who is chairman of Gafcon, a conservative organisation that has pushed for more serious consequences for churches which change their doctrine to allow gay people to marry, said in an open letter earlier this month that same-sex marriage and “the blurring of gender identity” were contradictory to “fundamental biblical understandings of marriage and human identity”.
Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was “greatly looking forward” to the meeting, which will be attended by 39 senior Anglican figures from around the world, adding that he would “miss…very much” the members who were not planning to attend.