December 10, 2008
(RNS) -- Five Anglican archbishops have backed the introduction of a new Anglican province in North America, significant, though unsurprising boost for the conservative-led initiative.
"We fully support this development with our prayer and blessing," said the archbishops, who are called primates because they lead regional branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. "It demonstrates the determination of these faithful Christians to remain authentic Anglicans."
Last Wednesday (Dec. 3), a group of conservative dissidents announced that they were starting a branch of the Anglican Communion called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The group claims 100,000 members, including most of four dioceses that have split with the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the communion, in the last year.
The new province faces several obstacles before it is officially admitted to the Anglican Communion, however, including the approval of two-thirds of the communion's 38 primates.
Released on Dec. 6, the primates' statement was signed by: Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South America), and Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.
All of the archbishops are members of the Global Anglican Future Conference, a conservative group that disparages the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada as preaching the "false gospel" of gay rights.
Last July, GAFCON, as the group is known, met in Jerusalem and encouraged North American conservatives to create the new province.
In recent years, both the U.S. and Canadian churches have separately moved leftward on sexual orientation issues, including the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 and the approval of same-sex blessings in some dioceses.
The conservatives' statement was released after the five primates met on Friday with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
Williams has not commented publicly on ACNA. A spokesman has said it will "take years" for ACNA to gain approval as a province.
The GAFCON primates said: "A new province will draw together in unity many of those who wish to remain faithful to the teaching of God's word, and also create the highest level of fellowship possible with the wider Anglican Communion."
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