The Story Goes Round…The Attempted Coup is at Hand, and Egypt is the Place. (revised 9/13)

Well, it goes round and round – the story that is of an impending dramatic set of actions that will shift the actual and real power away from the “first among equals” that is the Archbishop of Canterbury to a patriarch of an Anglican sort in the person of an Archbishop from the Global South. The body of Christian communities that would gather around that Patriarch would claim to be the true heirs of Anglicanism and would include certain groups of Anglicans in North America who embrace realignment.

The story goes round and round, and it came out here: The Scotland on Sunday just ran an article by Trevor Grundy titled, “Africans set to found rival Anglican church.” It quotes Archbishop Malango of Central Africa who said, “We’ve had enough.” This is the same Archbishop Malango who was interviewed by David Virtue, who reportedly backed off his statements, who Virtue later stated said exactly what he (Virtue) reported.

I went back to David Virtue’s interview with him. The punch line of the interview has obviously come up again in the Scotland on Sunday article. The Archbishop said then, “We shall meet as CAPA Primates in October (actually they meet in September) and one of the questions will be where a new Anglican Communion will be set up. (You will notice he did not say if.) We shall approach that question very carefully. The choice right now is Alexandria. We did not want it to be in Israel....too political, nor any other Middle East nation, nor Africa, for obvious reasons, nor Europe or Southeast Asia. We think Alexandria, Egypt is best as we can trace our historical roots from there.”

The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) Primates will meet in September and in October the South to South Encounter, a meeting of Anglicans from the “non-West” will be held in Egypt. The advertised theme for that gathering is, “The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

In the past representatives to the South to South Encounter came from a wide range of Provinces in the “non-West” world, but not so this time. This time the Province of Brazil has been told not to come. The Chair of CAPA, the Archbishop of Nigeria, is also the chair of the South to South Encounter. He was the one to tell Brazil the sad news.

Prior to all of this an organization called the Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and the Caribbean (CAPAC) was formed. It consisted, interestingly enough, of two Provinces of the Anglican Communion (the Province of the West Indies and the Province of the Southern Cone) and two North American network organizations. The two network organizations, although of the “West” are considered part of the emerging realigned churches to become part of the new Patriarchy.

CAPA and CAPAC member churches seem to be the ones invited to the South to South Encounter…with one supposes representation from East Asia. One would suppose that all Provinces except the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would be part of CAPAC, but not so. Only two Provinces are, and a founding member of the Encounter meetings, Brazil is not. Their exclusion has already taken place from CAPAC. At the CAPAC meeting the only representatives from Brazil were from Recife, claiming to be the Diocese of Recife. So the ouster of Brazil from CAPAC preceded the decision of the planning committee, or at least of its chair, the Archbishop of Nigeria to shut them out of the Encounter meeting.

All of this clearly points to the crux of the matter, reported by Mr. Grundy, namely, “A conference that could turn the Anglican community on its head takes place in Alexandria, Egypt, next month, organized by angry Africans and Latin Americans who say they are ‘sick and tired’ of endless debate about same-sex blessings and the ordination of gay Christians.”

So the story goes round and round - and what of its truth? It is hard to know. Archbishop Malango has twice now been quoted on the matter. The action of the Archbishop of Nigeria in ousting Brazil seems in line with the move to make the Encounter meeting one of like minded Provinces. The inclusion the Networks in the CAPAC agreement puts them there as partners in the enterprise. Some small part of this might be confusion on Archbishop Malango’s part, some small part may be confused reporting. But the letter from the Archbishop of Nigeria is there, and CAPAC is there, and the Encounter is taking up the matter of “the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” And there is considerable reason to assume that they will indeed be concerned with the actions of churches in England, the US and Canada.

So, with all that in hand, now consider this: It appears that the Archbishop of Canterbury is invited to this South to South Encounter.

I hope he is advised to stay away, advice that must come from close at hand. And I hope he takes that advice. This is not because he could not do some good there. I think he could well be able to make a significant contribution to substantive theological dialogue. The problem, however, is that this meeting is not about theological dialogue. It is about decapitating the Anglican Communion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has the head in question.

It is being rigged: Provinces that were formative to the development of the South to South Encounter are being dis-invited. By way of CAPAC the North American Networks will find ways to be present or be represented. The Archbishop of Nigeria is openly talking of suspending the Church of England from the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council. The theme of the Encounter is far from benign: “The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” and the issue at hand is who claims the right to be the Anglican expression of that Church.

The several reports now begin to paint a picture which, if even true in part, spell disaster for any participation by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

(i) If the meeting is highly critical of the Church of England as well as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada the ABC will be identified with the outcasts and the Encounter will have to prove it by deriding the ABC. There is no reason for the Archbishop of Canterbury, a fine person, to be subjected to ridicule. In terms of the office, such ridicule would spell the end of the ABC’s role as “first among equals.”

(ii) If the meeting actually leads to a break with anything like what Mr. Grundy reports, there will be a diplomatic disaster. He quotes an unnamed leading “gay vicar” as saying, “I also hear that African Anglicans plan to place a throne in a conference room and ask Archbishop Akinola to sit in it – while Dr. Williams is supposed to stand by and watch.”

Such a possibility could of course be nonsense. The way it is stated smacks of racism. The problem, however, is that it might be true. The whole business of a throne (and of course a room to go with it) is an exercise in ecclesial diplomacy. Patriarch in several of the Catholic Churches, East and West, use such rooms to greet delegations with chairs arrayed on either side of the throne or central chair. The fact that a particular person sits in that chair signals his (and it seems always to be a “his”) primacy in the gathering. If such a thing took place at the Encounter in Egypt, the Archbishop of Canterbury would simply have to absent himself, for not to be invited to sit in the seat of honor would signal his diminished authority. He might attempt to get around that, being the invited guest of a "chair" of the conference, but in such matters context is everything, and the reading of ecclesial tea leaves would leave nothing to chance. Better he not come to the Encounter at all.

(iii) Of course the primary reason for the Archbishop should stay away is that this is no longer an Anglican Communion gathering. The planners of the Encounter, or better yet its chair, have determined that it is a gathering of particular Provinces, groups, dioceses claiming to represent their provinces, etc., who are convinced of the need to “realign” the Anglican Communion and not the Provinces of the Global South in its entirety.

The call for the Anglican Consultative Council to disassociate itself from the Encounter if Brazil is unwelcomed is now something that requires the Archbishop of Canterbury’s exact and distinct action. He would be well advised, I believe, to refuse to go to Egypt and to do so in solidarity with the Province of Brazil. Actions taken at the Encounter in Egypt need to be seen as totally divorced from the workings of the Anglican Communion, and the work of those attending needs to be seen as an effort to effect a coup.

The story goes round and round...and it seems to come out here. I can earnestly hope that I am wrong.


Since writing this George Conger wrote a commentary on the article by Trevor Grundy. Here is my response to his commentary.

I appreciate Fr. Conger's words of caution about the Scotland On Line article. I also appreciate Tobias' comments on the HoB/ D list on the same.

Several notes on the Conger comments::

First George Conger's remarks, then my response:

The article says a meeting scheduled for October is to be held in
Alexandria, Egypt. This is not true.
OK, so maybe not Alexandria... but why list it there. At least can we settle on Egypt? That seems true enough. For that is what the Archbishop of Nigeria wrote the Primate of Brazil when he said, "Until we hear from you and your church your clear decision to correct these actions and statements, the organizing committee has agreed unanimously to withdraw the invitation for your province to be represented in Egypt." RICHARD N. OSTLING, AP RELIGION WRITER wrote of " a special international conference for conservative Anglicans in Cairo, Egypt, beginning Oct. 25" So he has it in Cairo, not Alexandria, but he does note "conservative Anglicans.". I assume October is the right month and Egypt is not a metaphor?

The article says the meeting is being "organised by angry Africans and
Latin Americans". This is not true.

But this meeting is being organized by a committee that has decided that a regular "Global South" Province is having their invitation withdrawn. This makes it at least different from the previous two South to South meetings. "Anger" may have been the wrong word, but upset might have been too limited. The limitations come from the upset by the committee.
By the way, it appears from Louie Crew's inquiry as to the funding of the South to South Encounter that none of the funds come from the ACC as the agent of the Anglican Communion "instruments of unity." They come from funds gleaned from the South. This does not mean that they do not come from friends elsewhere (dioceses, discretionary funds, friendly organizations, etc in the :"West," but that they don't come from the central program funds of the Communion. None come, it seems, from the Episcopal Church either. All of which means this is not a meeting constrained by any of the normal inclusionary norms of the Communion, namely that inclusion in the Anglican Communion is the primary context for inclusion in sub-groups, like the "non-West."

The article says the participants seek to supplant Rowan Williams with
Peter Akinola of Nigeria. This is fanciful nonsense--and no proof is
offered for this absurd allegation.
That seems correct...no direct proof except by extension of the remarks of several reporters.

This group does not seek to "exclude homosexuals from full church life"
as the article states--they all affirm the 1998 Lambeth Statement on
Human Sexuality: Resolution 1:10. To say they seek to exclude (homosexuals) from full church life is partisan raving-it assumes that salvation in Christ comes only with a plastic collar and purple shirt.

Both Archbishops have been quoted as saying things about gay and lesbian persons that are terribly hateful. Those were not quoted in this article.

George is exactly right about the writers' confusion of members of CAPA and the beginnings of CAPAC
The quotes from Archbishops Malango, Gomez and Akinola come from earlier printed reports-some of which the imputed speakers claim were taken out of context.

Some but not all.

The leading gay vicar is an original quote--but not one I
would put too much trust in. It's a good pub story-but is it anything
Who knows?

The Nicholas Henderson story is unrelated-but as it involves
Anglicans, Africa and THE ISSUE has been tacked on for good measure.
I agree

My opinion: There is a great deal of heavy breathing, shoddy sourcing,
loony conspiracy theories and profound ignorance of the people, issues
and ways things are done in the Anglican Communion.

Certainly the story was short of the mark... but "ways things are done in the Anglican Communion" has come to include a lot of actions unbecoming Anglicans - and from all sorts and conditions of Anglicans.

Does this article advance the ball? No. Is the situation dire? Yes. Will
things fall apart after the October meeting? No.

I hope George is right. But I wait.


  1. Can you elaborate on the aspects of racism in the statement regarding the throne??

  2. In a letter in March 1833, John Keble said that schism in the church was something "I would not so very much deprecate, if I were sure of getting rid of the right persons." It's obvious that Akinola, Malango, the CAPA and CAPAC people feel this way about those who do not agree with them on every issue.

    Let them go--goodbye and godspeed. If a time comes when both sides want to talk about reconciliation, without either side dictating the terms, then talk can happen.

    The important thing is that they have not beek "kicked out" (although I am sure some will try to put that spin on it). They have freely chosen to leave, and nobody should try to hold them against their conscience or will.

  3. The quote from the article said, "I also hear that African Anglicans plan to place a throne in a conference room and ask Archbishop Akinola to sit in it - while Dr. Williams is supposed to stand by and watch. Where will that leave the man, and where will that leave the Queen, who is head of the Church of England?"

    Noting straigtforwardly shows racism in this, but remembering that the work is being done by a coalition of African (CAPA) and western hemosphere (CAPAC) folk, it seemed to me that the phrase, "African Anglicans plan..." singled out the African church leaders, and the picture then was of Africans acting "tribally". It may have been very much an over sensitive remark on my part, given my current grieving over the terrible press coverage of events in New Orleans. It also doesn't help that a product of the US I am aware of my own racism all the time!

    At any rate, it was an aside and not central to the point of the paragraph which is that no matter the flavor of the origional statement, the ecclesial diplomatic character of a throne or special chair is not lost.

  4. Williams could simply ignore the intended insult and sit at Akinola's feet (symbolically or literally) to receive teaching. This gesture of humility might bring home the pares in primus inter pares and actually win over some of those who witnessed it. Won't win over Akinola himself that easily though. There will be a split. The only question is how large.

    This conflict is already charged with questions of race and empire. It is ironic that the forces of militarism, greed, racism, and sexism are aligning themselves with the Global South (for now, they will discard their allies if and when they've got what they wanted). Suddenly, US conservatives hear the cries of the South, when the South tells them something they want to hear. What about the AIDS crisis? What about the criminal behavior of multinational corporations?

    If the thing with the throne is really carried out, how Rowan responds will carry enormous symbolic weight. I personally would like to see him go and try to be a pastor. He may not reach Akinola but the message of treating Akinola like a brother and an equal will not be lost on some.

  5. I think Mark is right--++Rowan should stay away from this. It is no longer an Anglican meeting, it seeks to undermine the communion, and thus ++Rowan has no reasonable part to play in it.

    This whole thing is becoming like an ugly, bitter divorce where one side is desperately trying to hang on, and the other is willing--so long as demands on an ever-expanding list are met.

    Best perhaps for both parties to leave, even though it is too late to do so with dignity. At some point in the future, it may be possible to talk about ecumenical dialogue, or re-establish a relationship on reasonable grounds. But a time of separation seems in order.

    Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen in some marriages--schism may not be the worst thing that can happen in the church.

  6. I would like to see Abp Williams go - taking his towel and basin. Footwashing is at the heart of leadership in Christianity.

  7. Fr. Bill wrote: "Suddenly, US conservatives hear the cries of the South, when the South tells them something they want to hear. What about the AIDS crisis? What about the criminal behavior of multinational corporations?"

    Indeed. When all this brouhaha is over & the "Global South"* starts talking about these issues, the silence from the AAC/Network types will be deafening. The leadership of that group are hard core political neo-cons who have no intention of doing anything that'll cost them financially.

    Can you say "marriage of convenience" boys & girls ? There, I knew you could ;)

  8. * Note that they aren't that "Global" anymore (if they ever were), considering what's going on in provinces like Brazil and South Africa...

  9. I've got to the point I'm looking forward to Akinola to start his break away church of which he will appoint himself 'pope' or something like that. Will be nice to see the business of the communion settle down to ministry.

    And yes, Williams should stay away, a long way away.

  10. I hope that this is a surprise to no one. The changes in the USA, Canada, and elsewhere are things that need to be addressed. The political moves in the USA not to create any new Bishops, when the demand was only in respect to sodomites becoming Bishops, can be seen by many as the last straw. Good faith discussions are not happening. It is US style politics and it is not a discussion between Christians.

    It seems to me the question is not that a split will occur, be how it will occur. Will USA and Canada be asked to leave or will things split down the middle?


  11. I hope and pray the article is as well informed as one of DV's articles.

  12. I am grieving; my heart breaks. My Sisters! My Brothers! It is so hard to go back!

    Christ have mercy.

  13. Well, if not outright racism, I certainly regret the racial focus from such statement's as Richard Kirker's (from the Scotsman article) "Personally, I'd rather see a split within the ranks of the Anglican community than for people of principle to bow to the demands of homophobic Africans."

    Why is it relevant that they're Africans? "people of principle" shouldn't bow to homophobes ANYWHERE!

    [Again, I would remind Kirker et al: LGBT Anglicans have had no better friends than +Desmond Tutu (saint in our time) and +Njongonkulu Ndugane. They may not represent the (current) majority of African Anglican bishops . . . but they're certainly no less "African" than +Akinola or +Malongo!]

  14. J.C. Fisher's comment on Richard Kirker's thoughtless lumping together of "African homophobes" certainly points out that just because one group of persons sees itself as the wronged/persecuted party does not mean it is immune from saying very careless, thougthless things.

    All of us need to be very aware of our use of language, and the meta-messages behind what we say, as well as the messages themselves.

  15. " I hope that this is a surprise to no one. The changes in the USA, Canada, and elsewhere are things that need to be addressed. The political moves in the USA not to create any new Bishops, when the demand was only in respect to sodomites becoming Bishops, can be seen by many as the last straw. Good faith discussions are not happening."

    Hmm... let me get this straight. We are damned if we make bishops, and damned if we don't. Right!

    The expressed intent of the decision to suspend consents was to comply with the requests of the Windsor report without comprimising those who at this moment think some lesbian or gay priests should be candidates. It was precisely equitable, no one could be confirmed.

    Nothing in the decision prohibits discussions. Quite the contrary, it makes all discussions in all diocese open without putting a person in view. Given that one of the problems expressed by some conservatives was the exceptional decency of +Gene, that is arguably a good thing. Forget personalities and discuss the situation.

    Of course, one does not see Network (does that sound like Mafia or what?) or Anglicans Missing In Action sorts actually seeking to have discussions. These are the people who vote for ressolutions calling for discussion and the refuse to have them. The sight of Peter Akinola running from a room to avoid meeting Louie Crew is the icon of conservative discussion.

    Of course, if one thinks that only the chosen who are like themselves should be elected bishop, then I suppose it is a problem. But the last straw? Does anyone really think that Peter Akinola cares?


  16. I agree with Father Bill. +Williams could send a powerful message by going and by being the servant of the servants. Besides, Africa has come into her own in the Church and most of us in the west have yet to acknowledge that reality. It doesn't have to be about Akinola's personality. It can be about the cheif pastor of our Communion acknowledging the gifts of African participation in the fullness of life of our Church.

    But ultimately the decision remains with the ABC. I pray for him, as I pray for all of us. I thank God for Rowan Williams. I don't know that another person could fill the shoes he's filling with such humility and sense of apostolic mission.

  17. I guess my biggest concern is from Akinola's own statement (see Thinking Anglicans for today, 14 September):

    "The South/South Encounter is a gathering of like-minded Anglicans"

    Funny, but I always thought "encounter" left open the possibility that there would be at least one or two voices who might NOT be like-minded, that different opinions and viewpoints might be heard, and that all might benefit from the contact with diversity.

    By excluding those who do not exhibit "like-mindedness" on this one issue, the really important stuff can't happen.

    The biggest weasel-word in the Windsor Report is 'mission'--often used, never clearly defined. "Like-mindedness" only serves 'mission' if it is defined as making everyone just like us.

  18. " The political moves in the USA not to create any new Bishops, when the demand was only in respect to sodomites becoming Bishops, can be seen by many as the last straw. "

    It may in fact have been intended as a political move, but I've always thought the decision to abstain from making new bishops makes a lot of sense. It underlines the fact that in the case of the US church the immediate presenting issue is not about governance so much as it is about discernment. The people of New Hampshire followed the rules for identifying the person God intended for their bishop and came up with Gene Robinson. If it turns out Akinola et al are right about God's will for the church, then the process itself is implicated in coming to the wrong conclusion. Since we are an "episcopal" church, getting this process right is pretty important. So, until we clear this up at the next GC, we won't use the process again.

    This raises a question I've meant to ask: what does the Anglican Right say about the process in New Hampshire? I always hear people talking about GC 2003 as if it were the only player in this. Do they say the discernment process was flawed in some way, other than coming to the wrong conclusion? Do they claim that "special interest groups" highjacked the process, for example by getting lots of sympathetic delegates elected at parish meetings? Or was it a normal convention, about half full of delegates who only agreed to serve because they felt guilty about turning down their rector's request that they run for vestry?

  19. JC Fisher might think differently if perhaps she knew that Richard Kirker was born in Nigeria and lived there and in South Africa until he was 19. He is an "African".

  20. I think that kind of hair-splitting is unwise, Martin.

    Regardless of what continent an ethnic European like Kirker was born/raised on (even if he were, say, an Afrikaaner of hundreds of years of roots there!), he ought to know that "African" has been used pejoratively (especially as a stand-in for blackness), and continues to be so (ab)used today.

    Being on the short end of the straw in one power-dichotomy (sexuality), shouldn't blind one to being on the dominant side (race) in others. Being part of the Church Universal, Anglicans have to be aware of EVERY kind of abuse of power . . . and "respecting the dignity of every human being" (BCP, 1979) work to overcome them ALL.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.