Officials from the Church of England are worried that the denomination will split in two over the issue of gay rights. The Archbishop of Canterbury has called a week-long summit for Anglican church leaders to discuss the issue of homosexuality, but leaders from six African countries are expected to walk out in protest.
The 85 million member church has been grappling with the issue since 2003 when the US Episcopal Church consecrated gay priest Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. The African church officials want the United States church sanctioned for elevating a gay man to a leadership position within the denomination.
Archbishops from conservative churches in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and Congo have all threatened to leave if their demands aren’t met. Sources inside the church say there it is “90% likely that the six will walk out,” according to The Guardian.
Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, who backed a controversial law in the country that criminalized homosexuality and allowed judges to impose the death penalty on those convicted, told supporters he would leave if “discipline and godly order is not restored.” The Ugandan law was overturned after international outcry.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called the summit after years of internal division over the issue of gay rights. He visited all 38 Anglican provinces after his elevation to the Archbishop position and the summit will provide an opportunity for Welby to propose a solution to the divide.
According to sources, Welby will suggest that the denomination reshape itself as a loose confederacy of churches instead of “adherents to a single doctrine.” The new communion would link all of the provinces to the archbishop, but not to each other.
Only eight provinces support changing church doctrine to accept same-sex marriages and gay clergy. The United States, Canada, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, South India, South Africa and Brazil have all indicated their willingness to embrace LGBT rights, but the other 30 have not.
All of the church’s leaders have accepted the invitation, but a couple will likely miss the meeting due to ill health.