KIGALI, Rwanda The first woman leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church will be snubbed by conservatives at the next global Anglican Communion gathering to protest her support for gay clergy, a bloc of tradition-minded clergymen said Sept. 22.
The statement deepens the ideological rifts threatening to break apart the 77-million-member communion and seeks to further pressure its American wing, which in June elected Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as its national leader.
The liberal direction of the church and Jefferts Schori’s support of gay ordination has angered many conservatives, including the African-led Global South alliance. Global South leaders wrapped up a four-day meeting in Kigali on Sept. 22 by saying some of its membership would not accept Jefferts Schori’s authority at a meeting of the world’s Anglican leaders in February in Tanzania.
Jefferts Schori is scheduled to take over leadership of the church on Nov. 4.
“Some of us will not be able to recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a primate at the table with us,” said a statement representing Anglican leaders from Africa, Asia, Latin American and supporters elsewhere.
The declaration said others would be in “impaired communion with her” meaning they could meet with her but would remain opposed to views considered in violation of Scripture such as acceptance of gay relationships.
Some Anglican leaders also reject the ordination of women.
The Global South group suggested the Episcopal Church send a separate representative chosen by U.S. parishes “who are abiding by the teaching of the communion.”
It was another step by conservatives, led by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, to encourage a breakaway Episcopal group that would be outside Jefferts Schori’s oversight. A meeting in New York earlier this month between feuding Episcopal factions ended without any sign the internal disputes could be easily settled.
Splits between Anglican liberals and conservatives have been growing for years.
The situation reached a crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Dissension worsened with the election of Jefferts Schori earlier this year,
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, has struggled to hold off one of the biggest meltdowns in Christianity in centuries, but he lacks any direct authority to force a compromise.
A spokesman for the U.S. Episcopal Church did not comment.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 29, 2006.