Canterbury meeting: Walkout climbdown as Anglican primates hold together

Conservative Anglicans have climbed down from threats to walk out if their demands for harsher sanctions on the Scottish Church were not met.

Tensions were building as leaders from around the worldwide Anglican Communion met this week in Canterbury after traditionalists demanded tougher penalties on the Scottish Episcopal Church for allowing gay marriage.

In a briefing for journalists on Tuesday, Rev Andrew Gross from the Anglican Church in North America, who acts as a spokesman for the conservative grouping GAFCON, said the leaders would not be satisfied unless the punishment was more stringent.

'The GAFCON primates are not sure they can remain in the room if there is not repentance,' he said. He warned Anglicans from Scotland, the US, who also permit gay marriage, and Canada, who are moving in that direction, 'must repent' and if they did not 'the Anglican Communion will no longer be able to gather together'.

He said: 'Only repentance can lead to a seat at the table.'

But a different message came from the primates themselves who seemed happy with the watered down 'consequences' which did not meet Gross' demands, despite the Primus of the Scottish Church, Mark Strange, remaining unrepentant.

The Archbishop of Kenya Jackson Ole Sapit, who is a key member of the GAFCON primates' council, told Christian Today the level of sanctions 'was fine for me'.

'Yes I think I am satisfied because still the doctrine of marriage in the Anglican Communion remains that it is between one woman and one man for life,' he said in an interview with Christian Today.

'That hasn't changed and that makes us happy.'

The Archbishop of South East Asia Moon Hing, who is GAFCON's treasurer, said he was 'very happy and very glad' to be present.

'Even though when we quarrel, we have conflicts, God has never given up on us; and every time we come back to him, he is always there,' he told the Anglican Communion news service. 'And he is ready every moment for us to come back and say "let's walk together again with one another, with our neighbours and with him."'

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the decision to just impose the 'consequences' and nothing more stringent was unanimously approved and no vote was required.

The largely secretive meeting is taking place inside Canterbury Cathedral's grounds but Christian Today understands no concerns were raised about the levels of the sanctions by any primates and there have been no threats to leave prematurely in protest.

But a statement from GAFCON on Thursday seemed to contradict this and said the 'persistent assertions that the Primates of the Anglican Communion are "walking together", do not reflect the reality'.

The statement said GAFCON primates were 'concerned' about divisions and insisted: 'The Primates are not walking together. At best, they say, "they are walking at a distance". At worst, they are walking in different directions.'

The meeting continues until Friday and the primates have been discussing religious persecution, climate change and the refugee crisis as well as divisions over sexuality.