The Gaping Divide in Anglicanism

August 12, 2022
Lambeth Conference in 2008

The latest meeting of the prelates of the Anglican Communion which has just ended in Canterbury, United Kingdom, has brought to light a fracture which seems difficult to bridge. At issue, the question of unions between people of the same sex, and their possibility of being integrated into the clergy.

We were aware of the - insoluble - problem of squaring the circle, but there is nothing to envy about the unity of the Anglican communion. This is, moreover, what was highlighted by the fifteenth Lambeth conference which ended in Canterbury on August 7, 2022.

Indeed, every ten years, since 1867, the “bishops” of the Anglican faith have had the habit of meeting in order to demonstrate a facade of unity, which has largely fractured this year.

Let us judge a little: the primates of the communities of Rwanda, Uganda, and Nigeria – which alone claims eighteen million faithful – refused to participate in the meeting. Worse, several of the 650 prelates who responded refused to receive communion during the opening ceremony on July 31.

The reason for the anger? The green light given by the Anglican authorities, in 1998, to unions between people of the same sex, and the possibility for homosexuals to be fully integrated into the clergy and the hierarchy.

If a majority of Anglicans - from secularized, less practicing Western countries - accept the reform, the group of “Churches of the South,” located on the African continent, and where the living forces of Anglicanism are concentrated, refuse what they consider to be an unacceptable development, seeing in it a questioning of the Scriptures, which are rather clear on the subject of homosexuality.

“If we want to stay united, let us beware of the existing gaps,” warned Maimbo Mndolwa, Anglican Primate of Tanzania.

For his part, justifying his refusal to take communion at the opening of the summit, the South Sudanese primate Zechariah Manyok Bia wanted to be even more clear: “the Eucharist comes after the sign of peace and taking communion alongside one's brother means being reconciled with him. It would have been hypocritical to commune side by side.”

To avoid a schism which seems more and more inexorable, Justin Welby, appointed by the British crown as primate of the entire Anglican confession, fired his last cartridge: that of proposing to recognize that communion between “Churches” can exist, even if divisions on a subject such as same-sex unions exist.

Moreover James Wong, Anglican Primate of the Indian Ocean was not mistaken, decrying a “fractured” communion in his own words.

Is Anglicanism living its swan song, and will it be able to survive the disappearance of the British monarch who is perhaps still its ultimate guarantee, crowned with her seventy years of reign over the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and undeniably popular? It is certainly the dream – or rather, the nightmare – which must haunt the summer nights of Archbishop Justin Welby.