Thu 14 Jan 2016
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda walked out of the Primates Gathering in Canterbury on Tuesday amid accusations he was being “manipulated”.
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali moved a resolution to ask the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to leave the meeting because of their liberal stance.
He said he had no other option but to leave the meeting after this request was rejected.
“They would not agree to this request nor did it appear that the Archbishop of Canterbury and his facilitators would ensure that this matter be substantively addressed in a timely manner,” he said.
The African Churches have been at odds with the more liberal churches in North America over their stance on homosexuality.
The Primates meeting was designed to stop a break up in the Anglican Communion over the issue.
Archbishop Stanley said: “Sadly, after two long days of discussions, I was concerned that the process set up for this meeting would not permit us to address the unfinished business from the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam.
“In accordance with the resolution of our Provincial Assembly, it was, therefore, necessary for me to withdraw from the meeting, which I did at the end of the second day.
“It seemed that I was being manipulated into participating in a long meeting with the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada without the necessary discipline being upheld. My conscience is at peace.”
He stressed that he was not leaving the Anglican Communion but suggested it did not include the American churches: “Together with our fellow GAFCON [Africa] Provinces and others in the Global South, we are the Anglican Communion; the future is bright.
“The door is open for all those who seek communion on the basis of a common confession of our historic, Biblical faith.
“I have never been more happy and proud to be part of the Church of Uganda.”
The meeting continued without him and is expected to finish tomorrow.
This communique, issued by the Anglican Diocese of Uganda on the early return of its Archbishop Stanley Ntagali after his abrupt departure from the Primates Meeting in Canterbury on the second day of the meetings (while it was still in session), clearly illustrates the Ugandan Primate’s unwillingness to go along with the majority decision of the Primates of the Anglican Communion – not to expel the North American Province of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada from the Communion but, rather, to request these two provinces not take part in any official executive actions on behalf of the Communion for a period of three years.
The statement signalling Ntagali’s refusal to accede to the imposition of a less harsh discipline against the two North American Provinces of the Communion than was his own suggestion, clearly distances him from the majority view that has actively decided to accept the outcome of the Primates’ Meeting. Despite his insistence that Uganda was “not leaving the Anglican Communion”; he alone, amongs the conservative (Gafcon) Primates present, decided to absent himself from any further discussion, on the basis that the meeting had not more roundly condemned TEC and the A.C .of Canada. As far as he is concerned, “The door is open for all those who seek communion on the basis of a common confession of our historic, Biblical faith.”
In this provocative statement, Uganda’s Primate is arrogating to himself what he sees as the whole Anglican Communion’s understanding of “our historical, biblical faith”.
However, despite this walkout from the Primates’ Meeting, the Ugandan Primate’s unilateral action will do little to help the cause of Anglican Unity – which was the basis of the ABC’s invitation to the Primates to meet together, to try to find common ground on a matter that has divided the Communion on issues of gender and sexuality.
Nor will it deter the determination of the more liberal Provinces of the Communion from pursuing further enlightenment on issues that are important to everyone – not only the LGBTI members of the Church, whose minority in Uganda and other Provinces of the Global South constituency has been not only humiliated, but actually persecuted by their local Anglican Churches.
No doubt, the ABC’s strong condemnation of Anglican Churches that still harass and actively condemn the lives of gays and lesbians and their friends and families; aiding and abetting their criminalisation; has touched a nerve in the minds of those Church leaders – like Abp. Ntagali – who remain adamant in their puritanical opposition to the inclusivity of those Western Provinces of the Anglican Communion in their outreach to the LGBTI community. The GAFCON Primates, especially Abp. Ntagali, while keen to rebuke the LGBTI community for its alleged sinfulness, seem unable to be aware of their own culpability in the area of sexism and homophobia – real sins – which the Archbishop of Canterbury sees as needing to be acknowledged and dealt with.
What Archbishop Ntagali’s departure from the consensus arrived at by the Primates’ Meeting signals, is that, despite the determination of the majority of the Primates to stay together – in spite of theological and pastoral differences – Uganda, and maybe others of the GAFCON leadership, remain unwilling to agree to live together with differences on matters of gender and sexuality – believing this to be a denial of biblical faith, based on their conservative view of what the Bible has to say on these important justice issues.
The really odd thing about this, is that, while the GAFCON Primates are very keen for the Western Provinces to allow them to practise, unhindered, their own conservative, moral perception on sexuality and gender issues; they seem to insist that the Western Churches should not be allowed to practise their – more liberal – understanding of the same issues. While this insistence on what they see as the correct, (for them) moral, biblical, perspectives may seem to be the only possible way in which to view human sexual responses; modern science, biology and hermeneutical research does offer an alternative – under the provenance of biblical examples of mercy, grace and love.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand