Mixed Reaction to Atwood Appointment: CEN 6.22.07 p 6. June 20, 2007Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper.
The announcement by the Anglican Church of Kenya that it will consecrate an American bishop to oversee its US-based congregations has drawn mixed responses from across the Anglican Communion.
While American conservative leaders and Primates from the Global South coalition have welcomed the news, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Lambeth Palace have remained silent.
A spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council told The Church of England Newspaper the proposed consecration was inopportune. “The current danger is that if each Province starts to react to the current situation independently of the Instruments of Communion, we are in danger of increased confusion Communion-wide.”
However the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez said the Aug 30 consecration of Canon Bill Atwood could strengthen the Communion by stabilizing the American scene, leading “towards a creation of a viable, stable and orthodox Anglican presence in the United States.”
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola was the first to respond to the June 12 announcement by Kenyan Archbishop Bernard Nzimbi, privately forwarding his congratulations and subsequently posting a statement of support on the Church of Nigeria’s website.
Archbishop Akinola, the patron of the Nigerian-backed US jurisdiction the Convocation of Anglicans in North America [CANA], lauded Canon Atwood’s international work and personal character. The Kenyan decision “demonstrates a growing recognition” by the African churches that the “situation in North America continues to deteriorate because of the intransigence of the leadership of The Episcopal Church,” he stated.
The Nigerian leader pledged his church’s cooperation with Canon Atwood, as did CANA Bishop Martyn Minns, who wrote on June 13 this “development will result in new creative partnerships with CANA” and the other Anglican jurisdictions in the US.
Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi, whose church also exercises jurisdiction over approximately two dozen US parishes, endorsed the Kenyan decision, as did South American primate Gregory Venables.
In a statement given to the CEN, Archbishop Venables welcomed the news, noting the US congregations under his care would work closely with the Kenyan parishes and the other overseas-led jurisdictions in the US. “Collaboration among Provinces working in the States and the Network is helping build a unified future for those who share the historic Biblical faith,” he stated.
Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker stated he also was “delighted with the news”, while Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan stated the Anglican Communion Network was “deeply thankful for this step” by Kenya. Bishop Iker observed the rejection by the US Bishops of the primates’ pastoral care plan for embattled conservatives “will lead to further extraordinary efforts such as this to extend episcopal care to faithful Anglicans who believe they have no alternative but to separate from the church they have loved and served for so many years.”
Archbishop Gomez’ June 18 statement of support, however, was the first by an overseas leader who had criticized overseas primates for establishing jurisdictions in the US. The rejection by the US bishops and the church’s Executive Council of a pastoral council to respond to the plight of conservatives had changed the Communion’s political calculus.
Kenya’s “provision of adequate pastoral care and episcopate oversight constitutes a deliberate and intentional effort to provide stability in an environment in which Anglicanism is being severely tested and challenged,” Archbishop Gomez said.
It signaled a willingness by Kenya “to act responsibly to provide care for persons already under its jurisdiction” he noted and served as a centralizing force within the fragmenting American scene, as “the willingness of the Province of Kenya to collaborate with the other orthodox Anglicans in the United States could serve the point towards a creation of a viable, stable and orthodox Anglican presence in the United States.”
Senior Communion leaders in London told CEN the situation in the US appeared to resemble the late 1970’s when the traditionalist opposition to the ordination of women fragmented into several dozen ‘continuing’ churches, each with its own bishop.
Sources close to the Global South primates stated the cooperation of a half dozen primates in the Atwood consecration belied the analogy. Unlike the 1970’s, where no sitting bishops stepped in to support the recusants, the coordination of action by the primates, and their pledges of cooperation among their US jurisdictions would prevent the normally fissiparous American evangelical community from breaking apart.