Revd Akinola's Response to Church of England Civil Partnerships Stance

Last week a huge divide seemed to engulf the Anglican Communion as the Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Akinola publicly condemned the Church of England's statement on civil partnerships.

The Church of England House of Bishops had agreed that clergy could enter into homosexual partnerships, but only if they first assured their leading bishops that they would abide strictly by Church teaching that sexual relations should be confined only to heterosexual marriage.

In response to this, a large outcry has been heard across the Anglican Communion worldwide, and in particular Rev Akinola has spoken out against the decision by the Church of England to open the way so positively for homosexual clergy in the UK.

A statement made by Archbishop Akinola, who leads the largest Anglican congregation in the Anglican world, can be seen in full below:

"I read with utter dismay the pastoral statement recently issued by the Church of England House of Bishops with regard to the Civil Partnership Act scheduled to come into force on 5 December 2005.

While I was pleased to note the reaffirmation of the Church’s historic teaching on both marriage and sexual intercourse, I was sorely distressed that these words are not matched by corresponding actions.

The language of the Civil Partnerships Act makes it plain that what is being proposed is same-sex marriage in everything but name. This is even acknowledged in the statement. I find it incomprehensible therefore that the House of Bishops would not find open participation in such ‘marriages’ to be repugnant to Holy Scriptures and incompatible with Holy Orders.

The proposal that the bishops will extract a promise from clergy who register that there will be no sexual intimacy in these relationships is the height of hypocrisy. It is totally unworkable and it invites deception and ridicule. How on earth can this be honoured? For the Church of England to promote such a departure from historic teaching is outrageous.

I also note with alarm that the statement encourages the church to ask nothing of lay people who become registered same-sex partners before they are admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. This not only dishonours the laity and the sacraments of the Church - it also makes it obvious that the bishops of the Church of England are proposing a deliberate change in the discipline of the church.

It seems clear the House of Bishops is determined to chart a course for the Church of England that brings further division at a time when we are still struggling with fragmentation and disunity within the Communion. Let it be known that it is not a path that we can follow. It is also a path that is clearly at odds with the mind of the rest of the Anglican Communion.

May I remind the Bishops of the Church of England that, when faced with similar decisions on the part of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, discipline was imposed. While I have great affection and respect for the historic role that the Church of England has played in all of our lives, no church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity and no church is beyond discipline.

I call on the House of Bishops of the Church of England to renounce their statement and declare their unqualified commitment to the historic faith, teaching and practice of the Church. Failure to do so will only add to our current crisis.

I am, by this statement, asking my brother Primates, their bishops and all the faithful in our Communion to remain calm in the face of this new provocation as we look forward to our next meeting. I also call on all those who cherish and uphold the integrity and sanctity of the Word of God to pray for our beloved Church."

The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria