Conservative Archbishop's snub: Why I won't be attending Justin Welby's Anglican summit
The influential Archbishop of Nigeria is rejecting an invitation to the forthcoming summit of Anglican leaders hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in October.
Nicholas Okoh rebuked Justin Welby in a letter explaining his refusal to attend, saying he had overseen a 'repeated failure to preserve' conservative teaching on sexuality.
Okoh is head of the traditionalist network GAFCON which claims to represent the majority of Anglicans globally. Different factions of the Anglican Communion were brought by Welby to Canterbury for their second meeting in two years this October in an attempt to resolve deep differences around sexuality.
But Okoh's snub comes as a challenge to Justin Welby's authority as the head of 85 million Anglicans around the world and could fuel a de facto separation between conservative Churches in Africa and the global south and more liberal leaning ones in the US and the West.
'Everything else is the same or worse,' Okoh wrote comparing Welby's tenure to that of his predecessor Rowan Williams. 'There is endless debate, the will of the orthodox Primates is frustrated and misrepresented, false teaching is not being corrected, and nothing is being done to halt orthodox Anglicans in North America (and maybe soon elsewhere) being stripped of the churches that have helped form their spiritual lives.
'In these circumstances, I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity.'
Pointing to deep divides over sexuality Okoh said 'we are living in the midst of the next great Reformation' in a reference to the great split between Protestants and Catholics in the 16th century.
'In our day also there is broken fellowship, over homosexual practice, same sex marriage and the blurring of gender identity, none of which are mentioned in the Creeds, but all of which contradict fundamental biblical understandings of marriage and human identity,' he wrote.
It comes after another influential Anglican leader, Stanley Ntagali, the Archbishop of Uganda, said he also would not attend.
He and other conservative primates who are part of the GAFCON group had called for 'discipline' to be administered to the US Episcopal Church, in the light of the 2003 consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, a gay man with a partner.
Tensions over the fissure on sexuality are reaching a climax after the Church of England's General Synod, which Welby presides over, voted in July to condemn so-called gay 'conversion therapy' and to consider liturgical support to Christians who 'transition' from one gender to another.
The meeting will take place in Canterbury from October 2-6 and will be the first time all the leaders of the different Anglican provinces have met since January 2016.