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20 Sep 2005 18:49
Nigeria’s Anglican church has deleted all references to its mother church from its constitution, deepening a rift over homosexuality but stopping short of a feared schism.
A statement on the church’s website on Tuesday said “all former references to ‘communion with the see of Canterbury’ were deleted” at a meeting last week. Instead, the constitution affirms its ties with all churches that maintain the “faith, doctrine, sacrament and discipline of the one holy, Catholic and apostolic church”.
With about 17,5-million Anglicans, Nigeria has a strong voice in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican communion.
Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola has emerged as a leader of Anglican conservatives around the world, taking a key role through the Global South grouping of churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America in opposing any church acceptance of homosexuality.
The Nigerian and Ugandan churches broke ties with the US Episcopal Church over its 2003 consecration of a gay bishop living with a partner.
No one was available to comment on Tuesday on behalf of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams or the Anglican Communion office in London about the changes in the Nigerian church’s constitution.
Williams has struggled to keep liberals and conservatives from a formal break. But some fear an unbridgeable rift has opened between liberals—many of them in North America—and conservatives, who are strongest in Africa and Asia but include many North American traditionalists.
The Nigerian church said its constitutional changes allow it to set up missions outside Nigeria and cater for churchgoers unhappy with “recent theological innovations encouraging practices which the Nigerians recognize as sin”.
That appeared to refer to the United States. Nigerians and other Africans already have arrangements with some conservative US parishes whose members object to the US Episcopal Church’s stand on homosexual clerics. Nigeria also has established its own churches in the United States for Africans and other who do not
want to attend churches linked to the US Episcopal Church.
Archbishop Akinola has described the blessings of same-sex unions and gay bishops as a “Satanic attack” on the church .
Akinola also slammed a July 25 announcement from England’s bishops that gay priests in same-sex partnerships will remain in good standing as long as they promise to follow church teaching that limits sexual relations to heterosexual marriage.
The English bishops’ statement was a response to a new law on same-sex partnerships in Britain, which goes into effect on December 5. - Sapa-AP
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