The gay-hostile Archbishop of Nigeria is planning to ordain his own ‘flying bishop’ in England, in a direct challenge to the authority of Rowan Williams.
Archbishop Peter Akinola has already appointed a bishop to minister to Anglicans in America who object to gay people in the church, despite a plea from the Archbishop of Canterbury not to split the worldwide Communion.
The Church of England Newspaper today carries a front page article claiming that the Nigerian Archbishop will ordain a bishop for an English jurisdiction before the Lambeth Conference next year.
A source describing himself as a ‘worker in the Nigerian diocese’ said Archbishop Akinola’s plans were common knowledge.
“It is possible that Archbishop Peter Akinola will have somebody appointed by the next Lambeth Conference in July 2008,” he told the paper.
Reverend Richard Kirker, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), told PinkNews.co.uk:
“It would be perfectly consistent for Archbishop Akinola to start an English version of his Church, and while I am saddened by his divisive intentions there are some few who will find comfort under his brazenly homophobic creed.
“It has been clear for some time that the Nigerian Church has been distancing itself from the Church of England and particularly the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Archbishop Akinola is leader of the Global South group of anti-gay Anglican leaders.
They recently announced they would boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
In May he performed a ceremony to establish American bishop Martyn Minns as head of a new church branch under his control in Nigeria.
At least 45 US parishes have broken away and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of African bishops.
In an interview with The Times last month, Archbishop Akinola said it was not his intention to split the Anglican Communion:
“That has never been on my mind. We are going nowhere.
“We have our traditions, we have not broken the law. It is your churches that are breaking the law. You are the ones doing what should not be done with impunity,” he said.
“All we are saying is do not celebrate what the Bible is saying is wrong. If the Bible says it is an aberration, it is an aberration. Do not do it. We see it as a problem that can be treated.”
“While Archbishop Akinola spreads his brand of religion to England the main concern of LGCM remains that the Church of England does not respond to this schism by increasing its own institutional homophobia – competing with him for the prize of who can be nastiest to gays!” commented Reverend Kirker.
“Of course we would like the English Church to see that now is the time to stop its homophobic stance altogether, but life just isn’t that simple.”
The Lambeth Conference has become the latest battleground in the ongoing war over the place of gay people in the Anglican church.
As many as 120 bishops will not attend unless the American part of the Anglican church repudiates its current accepting attitude towards gay clergy and relationships.
The ordination in New Hampshire of Gene Robinson the first gay bishop in the 450 years since the church began, in 2003, led to a divide between the liberal and conservative camps in the 77 million member Anglican Church.
In June The Times revealed that Archbishop Williams was “exploring” whether to invite Bishop Robinson to attend but not vote at the 14th Lambeth Conference.
It will take place between 16th July and 4th August 2008 in Canterbury.
The Archbishop of Canterbury indicated last year that he did not want to discuss human sexuality issues at the conference, emphasising training matters instead.
July’s General Synod of the Church of England in York resolved to create a disciplinary covenant that might see some gay-friendly clergy and bishops thrown out of the Church.
The decision to consider a mechanism by which those who dissent from the majority opinion could be forced out of the Church was a significant win for the conservative and evangelical elements in Anglicanism.