March 6, 2014

Is the Primate of the Church of Uganda Threatening the Church of England?

Three days ago, several news stories appeared indicating that the Church of Uganda’s Archbishop Stanley Ntangali (or Ntagali, by most accounts) had threatened that his church would somehow distance itself from the Church of England (or perhaps even the Anglican Communion) if its condemnatory attitude toward homosexuality was not respected. Kampala’s Daily Monitor led a story provocatively titled “Church ready to split from England on homosexuals” with this:
The Archbishop of Church of Uganda (CoU) has responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, saying Uganda is ready to break away from the Church of England if its views on homosexuality are not respected.
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali
The same day, The Telegraph ran an Agence France-Presse story with the headline “Uganda church warns of Anglican split over gay law” and the subhead “The Anglican Church of Uganda said Monday it may consider breaking away from their mother church in England if it puts Uganda under pressure over a tough new anti-homosexuality law.” That story began with a direct quote, but one less pointed than suggested by the headlines:
“The issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us. We shall consider being on our own,” Uganda's top Anglican, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, told AFP.
Since the Church of Uganda has already broken communion with The Episcopal Church and declared itself to be in full communion with the Anglican Church in North America, a non-member of the Anglican Communion, a threat to break communion with the Church of England is certainly credible. Effecting such a break would be quite serious, however, as it could be construed as a withdrawal from the Anglican Communion. (It would be a particularly embarrassing affront the the Archbishop of York, who is from Uganda.)

Yesterday, a “clarification” to the Daily Monitor story was posted to the Church of Uganda Web site. “Clarification on the COU’s Relationship with the Church of England” began as follows:
Archbishop Stanley issued a very important clarification today about the erroneous information printed in the Monday, 3rd March 2014, edition of the Daily Monitor about the Church of Uganda’s relationship with the Church of England. He said,

“The Church of Uganda has had no discussions about breaking away from the Church of England or the Anglican Communion. …”
Ntagali repeats the mantra that “the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn at its deepest level” by the consecration of Gene Robinson, and he asserts “that the Church of England seems to be drifting rapidly in the same direction” as The Episcopal Church. The statement ends with
“We can read and interpret the Bible for ourselves, and we know what it says about sexual behaviour belonging between one man and one woman in holy matrimony.”
I don’t know how much of a “clarification” Ntagali’s statement really is. I suspect he wanted to tone down his threat a bit, and he may even have had second thoughts about the consequences of resigning from the Anglican Communion or, more likely, about the wisdom of telegraphing such a move. In fact, Ntagali has not actually denied the possibility of his church’s walking away from its relationship with Canterbury. He did not say with whom there have been no discussions. Has a break not been discussed within the Church of Uganda? This seems rather unlikely, as I’m sure it has been discussed at least informally and perhaps over an extended period. My first impression was that he was referring to discussions between the Church of Uganda and the Church of England, which would be unsurprising.

In any case, the press interpretation of whatever Ntagali said earlier this week is consistent with his comments of January 30, particularly with regard to this paragraph:
It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.
That certainly sounds like a threat, and one for which the good archbishop has offered no “clarification.”

2 comments:

  1. Lionel, I see this as the last step of GS brinksmanship, the last challenge: do something now about TEC and Canada or we're out of here. I may be wrong, as there have been other lines in the sand, but this seems fairly clear: have the next Primates Meeting the way we want it -- and without TEC and Canada -- and lets reform the WWAC, or that's the end. It will be telling to see if +Justin blinks on this one. I hope he doesn't, but I'm not optimistic.

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  2. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby seems nervous (he visited Guatemala) to me...very nervous. In person he was almost twiching but settled for a darting eye approach. English diction so crisp he could have cut the coffee hour tamales with it...oh well, just my observation but I don't have much trust in him or in the progressive/inclusive department at Lambeth Palace (or York). Cowards at Church.

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