A deal to avert the break-up of the worldwide Anglican Communion risks collapse amid signals that African churches are reassessing ties with the Church of England over the issue of same-sex marriage.
The new leader of a powerful bloc of traditionalist bishops and archbishops – seen as representing the majority of the world’s estimated 80 million Anglicans – said the Church of England had recently crossed a “line” with a series of decisions seen as endorsing a more liberal stance on homosexuality.
The Most Rev Nicholas Okoh, the Archbishop of Nigeria, said many traditionalists now view the British branches of Anglicanism in a similar light to The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the US which has been accused of “heresy” for ordaining openly gay bishops and endorsing same-sex marriage.
Archbishop Okoh ”“ recently elected as chairman of the influential “Gafcon” (Global Anglican Future Conference) group of clerics ”“ also pointedly gave his backing to a new breakaway network of churches in England, set up outside the control of the Church of England.
His intervention is the clearest sign yet of a renewed threat of schism within Anglicanism.
It follows the decision by one Nigerian diocese last week to break off ties with the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool because of the appointment of an American bishop who supports same-sex marriage to a special role in the area.
Last month there was also anger among traditionalists after a cleric from the Church of England’s Oxford diocese took part in a celebration of Desmond Tutu’s daughter’s same-sex wedding in South Africa.