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01 Nov 2004 11:42
Widening the growing global Anglican rift over homosexuality, Anglican bishops in Africa said on Monday they would stop theological training of African clergy in Western institutions.
Bishops were also studying creation of a separate, “African” theology rejecting gay clergy and same-sex marriages, they said.
The African Anglican leaders, ending a six-day meeting, stopped short of calling for an outright split in the Anglican church as some had feared.
Africa accounts for about half of the world’s 76,5-million Anglicans—and Nigeria’s 17,5-million Anglicans are the biggest congregation outside England, where the church has its origins.
The African churches are the fastest-growing in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola said the bishops will weigh proposals to build new theology institutions to train its priests on theology consistent with African culture.
Top among the decisions reached was the resolution to end theological training for African clergy in Western institutions—perceived by the bishops to have been permeated by unwholesome concepts such as gay unions, which they consider contrary to the Bible and to African culture.
“We need well-resourced, highly rated and contextually relevant theological institutions that can engage intelligently with our peculiar challenges from an African perspective,” the bishops said in a closing statement.
The global Anglican Church has been deeply divided by the election of a gay bishop by the United States Episcopal Church and the blessing of same-sex marriages by the Westminster diocese of Canada.
Most Reverend Peter Akinola, primate of the Nigerian church and chairperson of the Conference of Anglican Provinces of Africa, is at the forefront of criticism of same-sex marriages and gay clergy.
The bishops, drawn from the 12 provinces of the Anglican church in Africa, also issued a separate statement on the report of the Windsor Commission, set up by the head of the Anglican Communion and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to consider the controversy over homosexuality.
The African bishops welcomed the report’s condemnation of same-sex marriages and the appointment of gay bishops and indicated that their future commitment to church unity will depend on the US Episcopal Church and the Canadian Anglican Communion reversing their actions and showing repentance.
“Failure to do so would indicate that they have chosen to ‘walk alone’ and follow another religion,” bishops said.
However, the African bishops rejected aspects of the report urging them to “express regret” for their harsh criticism of homosexuality and their moves to team up with congregations disaffected with the Episcopal Church leadership over the gay bishop controversy.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bishop, Most Reverend Bob Duncan, addressed the conference on behalf 10 dioceses, 1 000 parishes, and 1 200 clergy across the Unites States—all orthodox and faithful Anglicans, he said.
“There are tens of thousands for whom I speak, who are at one with you in Africa, for whom our North American Primates do not speak,” Duncan told the conference, to heavy applause. - Sapa-AP
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