Anglican Church schism recedes over gay issue with African leaders
The prospect of schism in the worldwide Anglican Church receded as African leaders meeting in Jerusalem stepped back from the brink and declared they are not seeking to start a new church.
Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Primate of Kenya and leader of that country's four million Anglicans, and the Ugandan Primate Archbishop Henry Orombi confirmed last night that there will be no split.
Archbishop Nzimbi's comments are especially significant because he is heading the committee that will draw up the final communique to be issued on Sunday night.
It also confirms the word behind the scenes in Israel and as disclosed by The Times on Monday, that the agenda is now reform from within rather than starting a breakaway conservative Anglican church that excludes homosexuals or tried to "convert" them to heterosexuality.
The emerging figure that is crucial in the softening of the line on schism is the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, who has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US and African conservatives to Australia. Significantly, the Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who heads the US conservative grouping Common Cause, is not in Israel although he is named as one of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) leadership team in the programme.
In a recent interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Jensen said that it would be legally impossible to engineer schism. The Episcopal Church of the US has already launched a number of legal actions against breakaway parishes and bishops. Dr Jensen said: "I can't. I'm part of a constitution, which is virtually unchangeable, of the Australian Church. I wouldn't want to. I love the Church. It would be bad for Christianity, bad for the Gospel." He continued: "I think there is going to be an evolution in the Anglican Communion. It has occurred. And what the Future Conference is going to work out is how to live best within that evolution. That's its business."