American Episcopalian bishops are resisting terms to head off a greater split with the Anglican mother church that were hammered out at a conference in Tanzania last month. Rejection by the end of September and an American reaffirmation of principles welcoming homosexual clergy and same sex marriages boost chances that the Anglican Communion will try to expel some two-point-three million American Episcopalians from the 77 million member Anglican arm of the Church of England.
Bishop Martyn Minns is the Missionary Leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an initiative of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. He says that to Anglican communities in African countries, the American clash is not so much cultural, but centers more around issues of faith and a struggle over Church authority.
“I think the whole thing right now is a very understandable development because the African church is coming of age and that’s hard for folks who’ve had the power for much of the life of the Communion and now have to share it. I think this is a very understandable struggle to figure out a new set of relationships with the African churches now that are growing, and in fact are taking the lead in terms of spreading the gospel,” he said.
Bishop Minns points to the internal struggle still being waged among US Anglicans over the endorsement of homosexual practices and says that despite the prevailing view advocated by Episcopalian bishops, American divisions are still running deep.
“There are a lot of folks in this country who really don’t believe that we should change the basic understanding of the Scriptures, and there’s not unanimity at all. I think I would say that what we actually believe is that what we’ve been given in the Scriptures is timeless, and so therefore it’s not a matter of going back. But it has taken the truth that has been tested and proven for thousands of years and is applying it to our lives today. But all the Communion seems to see in the American development is actually rejecting some of that in a way that they can’t accept,” he said.
Although he says it is too soon to predict whether American Anglicans will fully reject February’s Tanzania Communique, Bishop Minns readily points out the determination of the US church to stick by its stands in the face of international Anglican opinion.
“My instinct is that those presently in control of the Episcopal Church are really pretty much determined to go their own way. Now whether or not they will take the whole church with them or how much they will separate is yet to be determined,” he surmises.
Right now, US church authorities continue to see themselves as uniting against foreign interference in the policies of their church. However, Bishop Minns remains hopeful that by the September deadline for compliance with international Anglican prescription, there will be some movement on the actual theological and sexual divisions that are contributing to the rift.
“I’m a Christian, so I live with hope,” he says. “Right now, they seem pretty intransigent, so I don’t know. That’s the big question. We’ll have to wait and see.”