Liverpool and Akure
We linked in the previous article to a statement The Diocese of Liverpool and the Anglican Communion from Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool. He wrote:
…Over a year ago, as part of this walking together, I asked the Suffragan bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Susan Goff, whether she would become one of our honorary assistant bishops (or “assisting bishops” as they call this sort of arrangement in TEC). She kindly accepted this invitation and, again last year, we secured the necessary permissions for her to minister here. As +Susan is an overseas bishop, these permissions do not extend to the conducting of ordinations. I remain delighted that our ministry here will be enriched by what +Susan will bring to us as a teacher, pastor and disciple. She will also be able to hear and to engage with the wide range of views in our Diocese on the way the Gospel is understood in these days.
It seems that this invitation has caused the Diocese of Akure, Nigeria, which has been another of our link dioceses, to issue a statement indicating that they no longer wish to be in a link-relationship with Liverpool. I regret this. I would prefer to walk together with Akure as well as with Virginia, within the one Communion whose life we share.
I have not yet received formal notification directly from the Bishop of Akure, but as and when I do I shall write to him expressing this regret. If our partners choose to close this door, this is a matter of sorrow for us but of course we respect their decision as free partners in a free relationship.
At one time this link was three-way and provided wonderful opportunities for sharing and mutual learning, though my colleagues tell me that five years ago, in 2011, the then Bishop of Akure formally indicated that his Diocese did not feel able to remain in such a three-way relationship…
Ruth Gledhill has now published an article Nigeria diocese severs link with Liverpool over same-sex blessings bishop.
This in turn links to a statement from the Bishop of Akure, Simeon Borokini. In which he says:
…Peace of the Lord be with you and all yours in Jesus name. I received a message from our Primate in Nigeria, who is currently the Chairman of GAFCON today about a partnership that is in the Western news. That there is a three way Diocesan partnership between the Diocese of Liverpool, England, the Diocese of Akure, Nigeria and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in the United States.
Also, that recently, the Diocese of Liverpool made the assisting Bishop of Virginia, Susan Goff, an assisting Bishop in Liverpool. Susan Goff is in favour of blessing same sex unions and this has been a part of the litigation against the orthodox in Virginia.
Therefore, in view of the above and being aware of the fact that Nigeria does not support same sex marriage, we in Akure Diocese cannot have any link with Liverpool Diocese…
There is also a letter from the GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, in which he writes:
…In the beginning, the focus of our concern was North America and we thank God that he has raised up the Anglican Church North America as a new wineskin in that continent. Now our concern is increasingly with the British Isles. A line has been crossed in the Church of England itself with the appointment of Bishop Susan Goff, of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, as an Assisting Bishop of Liverpool. The false teaching of the American Episcopal Church has been normalised in England and this divisive act has meant that the Church of Nigeria’s Akure Diocese has had no alternative but to end its partnership link with Liverpool Diocese.
At our recent Primates Council meeting in Nairobi we reaffirmed our solidarity with the leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and the Anglican Mission in England at this testing time…
This news, provided by Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans, U.K., gives some idea of the recent brouhaha attending the Bishop of Liverpool’s invitation to a TEC Bishop, The Rt. Revd. Susan Goff of the Diocese of Virginia, USA, to act in the capacity of Assisting Bishop in the C.of E. Diocese of Liverpool.
This has set the cat among the pigeons in the GAFCON community – especially in the Nigerian Diocese of Akura, whose Bishop, Simeon Borokini, has announced severance of his diocese from the Companion diocese relationship with Liverpool.
The decampment of one overseas diocese from fellowship with another may not make very big waves in the Anglican world, but in this instance, the Chair of GAFCON, Nicholas Okoh, who also happens to be Archbishop of ALL Nigeria, has declared Gafcon’s displeasure with the Church of England on this matter of its cooperation with TEC, the American Episcopal Church – a matter which Gafcon has already regarded as tantamount to espousing heresy, on account of TEC’s (and now, the C.of E.’s) involvement with Same-Sex Blessings.
This ‘culture of taint’, wherein the Church of England is now considered by the Gafcon Primates to be in cahoots with TEC, by virtue of its association with a Bishop from the American Province (still part of the official Anglican Communion, by the way) is proving to be a rather obvious source of aggravation – not only for the Church of England and TEC, but also for most Western Provinces of the Church that wish to Go Forward with the prospect of outlawing sexism and homophobia from Church of the Anglican Communion.
One does wonder where all of this aggressive warfare being promoted by the GAFCON Prelates is all going to end? Most other Anglican Provinces have progressed beyond the old ‘Sola scriptura’ understanding of what pastoral caring may involve in the Church of today. The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ requires a much more open and loving towards those deemed to be ‘outsiders’ and the marginalised – including those of the LGBTQ community within and outside of the Church, who just want to get on with their lives, without being ostracised by an outdated understanding of gender and sexuality.
It should be remembered that when the Anglican Primates were called to Canterbury recently to discuss the matter of how to get along with one another in our cultural and social differences; they agreed that there was no longer any place for institutional homophobia and sexism within our Anglican Communion Churches. It should also be noted that the local Anglican Churches in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya – all members of the Gafcon group – had openly expressed their support for governmental pogroms against the LGBTQ communities in their territory. As long as such inequities and acts of injustice prevail in parts of the world where Anglicanism exists, there may, sadly, always be points of difference – that we have to acknowledge and try to live with, or reject. The question that is now being asked is: How can we live together with these serious differences? Because, if we cannot, then there should be an orderly and dignified withdrawal of those who cannot go along with the pastoral initiatives being taken, with which they disagree.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand