June 23, 2008 / 5:46 AM / 11 years ago

Conservative Anglicans to discuss Communion split

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Conservative Anglican leaders on Sunday began a week of discussions in Jerusalem on the future of the worldwide Communion and warned of a parting of ways with liberal churches.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria of the Anglican Communion speaks during the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) opening session in Jerusalem June 22, 2008. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

“The Communion is in a state of brokenness,” Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of the conservative movement in the 77-million-strong Communion, told hundreds of participants in a fiery speech at the start of the conference.

Akinola stopped short of saying a schism was imminent but described the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) as a last chance effort to find a way to restore the Communion.

The conservatives, who claim to represent 35 million Anglicans, mostly in developing countries, have been hinting at a split within the Communion at least since Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop was consecrated in the United States.

GAFCON comes a month before the Lambeth conference, the once-in-a-decade Anglican summit hosted by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that agrees on guidelines for member churches.

When asked if it was the first step to declaring independence from Canterbury, Henry Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, said: “Perhaps a question like that is best answered at the end (of the conference) rather than at the beginning.”

More than 300 bishops are attending the Jerusalem convention, most of whom will boycott Lambeth, said Arne Fjeldstad, head of GAFCON’s media relations.

“What we would like to see is the renewal of the communion so that we can all again walk together,” said Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, but added: “I’m not confident that it can be done.”

A 94-page conservative guideline handed out at the conference entitled “The Way, the Truth and the Life” said the Anglican rift goes beyond the issue of homosexuality and same-sex unions into a more general interpretation of the Bible.

“Repeated attempts at dialogue have been made by those committed to the teaching of Scripture. However, experience has shown that the revisionists are not willing to listen,” the guideline said.

Editing by Ralph Boulton

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