Two formal statements were issued on 7 April 2005 by Archbishop Peter Akinola the Primate of All Nigeria.
In the first of these he says:
I now write to you in response to the recent Covenant statement from ECUSA’s House of Bishops during their spring meeting in Camp Allen, Texas and also because there have been a number of misleading reports about the recent Primates’ meeting in Northern Ireland.
While the statement issued by ECUSA’s House of Bishops expressed a desire to remain in the life and mission of the Anglican Communion, I was disappointed that the only regret offered was for their failure to consult and the effect of their actions instead of an admission that what they have done has offended God and His Church. As was pointed out in the Primates Communiqué issued in February ‘the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured, and the effectiveness of our common mission severely hindered.” ECUSA has yet to grasp this reality and still appears to be chasing shadows. Until this is recognized there can be no hope of meaningful reconciliation.
The statement answered the call for a moratorium with regard to the ordinations of non-celibate homosexuals with a pledge to withhold consent to the consecration of any bishop until 2006 – I find this response to be disingenuous since it holds the entire church to ransom for the sin of a few. While they have claimed to answer the call for moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions we know that there are Dioceses where the clergy are still continuing the practice of blessing same-sex partnerships with the Bishops’ explicit permission. I find this duplicitous and I would point out that the underlying issue is not a temporary cessation of these practices but a decision to renounce them and demonstrate a willing embrace of the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted throughout the Communion and described in Lambeth Resolution 1.10.
With regard to the Primates meeting in Ireland I find it highly offensive to hear claims that a group of us were influenced by external forces into taking stands that we would not otherwise have taken. There is absolutely no merit to these claims and I am saddened that there are those who wish to perpetuate this malevolent falsehood. Our actions and agreements were the result of prayerful deliberation and principled conviction. The idea that orthodox Americans manipulated us is an insult – in truth we in the Global South have been challenging them to stand firm. And there were a number of us who felt that the recommendations did not go far enough but out of respect for the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury we were willing to leave space for serious reflection and genuine repentance.
I was appalled by statements claiming that the devil was wandering the halls of the Dromantine Retreat Center – perhaps those who make such observations should first look within themselves before they accuse others. Many of us believe that what we achieved in our time together was due to the work of God’s Holy Spirit and to claim otherwise is blasphemous.
I have noted with disappointment that there are those in ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada who are suggesting that these Provinces should defy the Primates’ request that they voluntarily withdraw their members from the next meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council. I would urge the appointed leadership of these Provinces to weigh seriously the consequences of such actions if indeed there is to be any hope of the reconciliation and healing that we all seek. Moreover I believe that it is an accurate sense of our meeting to say that the Primates do not expect ECUSA and the Canadian church to participate in ANY of the structures of the Communion until they have chosen to respect the mind of the Communion. Until they decide to return – something for which we earnestly pray – the sad truth is that they have walked away from the Communion.
Finally, I need to address the important matter of provincial and diocesan boundaries. As I have repeatedly reaffirmed maintaining good order is important for the work of the Gospel but it can never be used to silence those who are standing for the Faith and resisting doctrinal error. It was our common understanding in Newry that the extraordinary pastoral relationships and initiatives now underway would be maintained until this crisis is resolved. If, however, the measures proposed in our Communiqué to protect the legitimate needs of groups in serious theological disputes prove to be ineffectual, and if acts of oppression against those who seek to uphold our common faith persist, then we will have no choice but to offer safe harbour for those in distress.
In the second document he says this:
It has been my privilege to meet Nigerian Anglicans in places across America including Washington D.C., New York City, Houston, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and Chicago. I have witnessed your faithfulness and seen what a blessing you are, both to those who share our love for the Lord Jesus and also those who have yet to hear the good news of His love.
I have also become aware of the challenging circumstances in which many of you find yourselves because of the actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. By their recent decisions, they have torn the fabric of our common life and have jeopardized your lives and ministries. This is a tragic reality that cannot be ignored. While it remains my prayer that ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada will repent and embrace the teaching of the Communion, their actions have placed an obligation upon me to provide for the proper and continuing pastoral and episcopal oversight for Nigerian churches in North America.
It is well known that many Nigerian Anglicans who live in the North America are no longer able to worship in an Anglican church, some have drifted to other churches, and others have even given up the faith. I well remember one woman coming to me during one of my visits and, with tears, saying she could no longer worship in an ECUSA church and that her whole family no longer had a church home, yet they would prefer to remain faithful Anglicans. In saying this she spoke for many others.
Several of our Nigerian clergy in America have been informed they can no longer work in an Episcopal diocese or have had their funding cut. Finally, the unilateral dismissal by the Presiding Bishop of the Chaplain we had jointly appointed to minister to Nigerian congregations illustrates the extent of the brokenness of our relationship and underlines the need to provide alternative structures for episcopal and pastoral care.
After much prayer and careful discernment with appropriate colleagues and advisors over the last two years, and in full consultation with the Nigerian congregations in America, together with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Episcopal Synod and the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) we announce the formation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.
This Convocation will function as a ministry of the Church of Nigeria in America. Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches. While it will initially operate under our Constitution and Canons, it will have its own legal and ecclesial structure and local suffragan episcopate. I will be asking the next General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, which will meet in September 2005, to make the necessary constitutional amendments.
During the intervening months, in cooperation with our friends in the Anglican Communion Network, I will be appointing episcopal visitors from among already consecrated bishops to provide pastoral and episcopal oversight for those congregations already in operation and in formation. I am excited by the possibilities before us and look forward to seeing this ministry grow.
We ask that all people will join us in prayer for the fullness of God’s blessing upon the Convocation and the growth of its witness to all who would hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.