Conservative Anglican Leaders Call for Break With Church of England Over Same-Sex Blessings

UNITED KINGDOM: Conservative Anglican archbishops on Monday said the Church of England had forfeited its traditional leadership role in the worldwide Anglican Communion by approving the blessing of same-sex relationships earlier this month, opening a historic rift in one of the world’s biggest Christian denominations. 
“The Church of England has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith,” the archbishops wrote, adding that their fidelity to traditional teaching makes it impossible for them to remain connected to it or to other Anglican churches that have adopted liberal teaching on homosexuality. “This breaks our hearts and we pray for the revisionist provinces to return” to tradition.
The statement said the archbishops were “no longer able to recognize the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Hon & Most Revd Justin Welby, as the ‘first among equals’” among Anglican bishops worldwide. 
The outspoken denunciation of the Church of England by 12 leading Anglican archbishops from around the world marks a watershed in a long-running crisis of unity in the Anglican Communion over the teaching and practice of homosexuality. 
Over the past three decades, Anglicans in Africa and other parts of the global South have become increasingly critical of the socially progressive tendency of churches in the West, clashing particularly on LGBT rights.
Conservative Anglican churches, including some in Africa that represent nearly half of the world’s estimated 100 million Anglicans, have already broken off relations with churches that espouse liberal teaching and practice on homosexuality, including the Episcopal Church in the U.S.
But a break with the Church of England, the historical progenitor of Anglican churches around the world, could threaten the very survival of the Anglican Communion, a loose federation whose bishops recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury in England as their spiritual leader. 
The 12 conservative archbishops who called for a break on Monday are primates, or elected leaders, of their respective national churches. They are all from countries in the global South except for Archbishop Foley Beach, head of the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative church that was founded in 2009 after the Episcopal Church elected an openly gay bishop in 2003.
The 12 conservative archbishops pointed to Archbishop Welby’s support for the Church of England’s decision on Feb. 9 to allow priests to bless same-sex civil marriages in church. 
The Church of England decided not to allow church marriage of same-sex couples, a decision that drew protests from liberal members.
Archbishop Welby’s office didn’t immediately comment on the conservative archbishops’ statement on Monday morning, saying that they would respond later in the day. 
The archbishop has expressed pleasure at the Church of England’s decision to allow blessings of same-sex relationships but has said that he will not perform such blessings himself so as not to compromise his unifying role in the Communion. 
At a meeting of global Anglican leaders earlier this month in Ghana, he stressed his understanding of cultural and theological differences on sexuality within the Communion and repeatedly said that he was ready to renounce his leadership role in the global church if it was no longer accepted.
The 12 conservative archbishops said on Monday they were ready to work with like-minded leaders “to reset the Communion, and to ensure that the reset Communion is marked by reform and renewal.” They didn’t provide details of a proposed reorganization but said that they were ready to provide “pastoral oversight, guidance and care” to conservative dioceses in countries where the national Anglican church has adopted “revisionist” liberal teachings.
On Monday, a prominent advocate for same-sex marriage in the Church of England said the conservatives’ announcement was a positive development, since it would reduce the need for liberal Anglicans in the U.K. to accommodate the objections of foreign churches. 
“The recognition that the independent, autonomous churches of the Communion are free to act independently of each other is unsurprising and an indicator of our historic reality,” said the Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, chaplain of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, who has been in a same-sex marriage under civil law since 2014.
“We can hope that the constant looking over their shoulders by English archbishops will stop and they will, finally, start actually listening to the people of this country and the CofE and move toward full affirmation and welcome for LGBTI people,” he said.

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