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African Anglicans’ ‘duty’ to consecrate dissident US clerics


Anglican leaders in East Africa have defended the consecration as bishops of priests from the U.S. Episcopal Church, who are opposed to the ordination of homosexual clergy in North America.

"We have a pastoral duty," Bishop Gideon Ireri, who heads the Anglican Church of Kenya’s Justice and Peace Commission, told Ecumenical News International from his Mbeere diocese in eastern Kenya. "We are one Anglican Communion, and we cannot let the American flock that is faithful to their sexuality scatter. It is a lesser evil to provide them with pastoral care."

According to Ireri, what is taking place today is a repeat of early church history when dioceses provided pastoral care in other areas where bishops had recanted their faith during an era of Christian persecution.

"It happened in North Africa during the Donatist period. The Donatists refused the authority of priests who had recanted their faith," Ireri told ENI as he explained that many church leaders during that time turned Christians over to the Roman authorities and handed over sacred texts for burning.

The worldwide Anglican Communion has in recent years faced deep divisions over whether or not homosexuals should be ordained as clergy. The matter escalated following the 2004 consecration as a bishop by the U.S. Episcopal Church of V. Gene Robinson, who lives with a male partner.

On 30 August, the Anglican Church in Kenya consecrated the Rev. Bill Atwood and the Rev. William Murdoch, both of whom have broken away from the U.S. Episcopal Church over the issue of homosexuality. They will now form branches of the Kenyan church in the United States. This has triggered fresh speculation about an impending schism in the 77-strong worldwide Anglican Communion.

Following the Kenyan consecrations, The Church of the Province of Uganda made the Rev. John Guernsey a bishop on 2 September.

"Homosexuality is against the scriptures but some Americans started saying it’s correct; they started blessing the union of people of the same sex. Some Christians are not sympathetic to this type of marriage," Uganda Anglican Bishop William Magambo said at Guernsey’s consecration.

Not all bishops in East Africa support the latest moves, according to some clergy, but they warned that the recent consecrations could take their churches a step closer to schism.

"We will most likely see the church breaking," observed Kenyan Anglican the Rev. Samuel Muoko. "God man created both man and woman, not man alone. That says a lot about our sexual orientation." 

Ecumenical News International