Rebel Anglican summit hit by leader's visa problem
PARIS (Reuters) - A summit of conservative bishops challenging the worldwide Anglican Communion over homosexuality and biblical authority has got off to a shaky start after its leader could not enter Jordan for a planning session.
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, whose campaign has raised the specter of schism in the 77-million strong Communion, was not allowed into Jordan from Israel on Wednesday to attend a pre-summit meeting of about 130 conservatives in Amman.
Leaders assembled in Amman left on Thursday for Jerusalem, where their Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) summit will open on Sunday, GAFCON spokesman Rev. Arne Fjeldstad said by telephone from the Jordanian border.
GAFCON, which says it represents about 35 million Anglicans mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, will be held less than a month before the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world opens on July 16.
Fjeldstad said Akinola was not denied entry into Jordan but gave up after several hours' delay at the border.
"He was kept in bureaucratic limbo," he said. "They claimed that, as a diplomatic passport holder, he had to give advance warning that he was coming. He decided to go back to Jerusalem."
Planned for four days, the Amman meeting "wound up early" when GAFCON leaders learned "that previously granted permission for the Jordan consultation was deemed insufficient", Fjeldstad said in a statement late on Wednesday announcing the move.
DISPUTE OVER BIBLICAL AUTHORITY
Some 280 bishops are expected to be among more than 1,000 Anglican leaders due at the Jerusalem GAFCON on June 22-29. They plan to visit biblical sites including Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, and prepare a strategy for future action.
They are not planning a formal schism but many will not be among the 800 bishops due at the Lambeth Conference, which usually agrees doctrinal guidelines for member churches. Among the boycotters are bishops from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.
The Communion's crisis reflects a split between traditionalist churches in the so-called Global South -- where more than half of all Anglicans now live -- and liberal ones mostly in Britain, Canada and the United States.
The 2003 consecration of Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of the U.S. Episcopal Church, deepened a rift, the root of which lie in a dispute over strict or liberal interpretations of the Bible and authority in the Communion.
"The authority of Scripture is a defining mark of Anglican identity," Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi says on the GAFCON website www.gafcon.org. "In the current Anglican crisis, we are at risk of losing our biblical foundation."
He says the faith spread by British missionaries will be redefined by those who were converted. "The younger churches of Anglican Christianity will shape what it means to be Anglican. The long season of British hegemony is over."
Conservative Anglicans say the Bible bans homosexuality while liberals argue that all people are equal under God.
The Communion's differences over homosexuality are not limited to the Robinson issue. The Church of England is investigating a service to bless the civil union of two gay clergymen held in London against Church rules on May 31.
(Editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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