To Bishop David James and colleagues
We have received your letter encouraging us to attend the Lambeth Conference with you. We trust that we are united in faithful obedience to the Scriptures and also to the Anglican Formularies. We understand your desire to continue to support the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As GAFCON Bishops and primates, we share with you a commitment to the communion and its future. We ask you to understand that we have reached a different conclusion and request you to understand our decision.
We think it is important to let you know our reasons for not acceding to your request, and also to make them public since your letter is public. We have a number of concerns.
First, the Lambeth Conference is not a two hour seminar discussing a contentious issue. It is three weeks in which we bishops and our wives are called to share together our lives, our prayer, our bible study, our meals, our worship and the Lord’s Supper, to be a family together.
You will know that some of us have not been able to take communion with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church since February 2005, - a period of about three years. The reason is that TEC took an action to consecrate Gene Robinson as Bishop in 2003 contrary to the resolution of the Lambeth Conference, an action of which they have not repented. The consecrators of Gene Robinson have all been invited to Lambeth, contrary to the statement of the Windsor Report (para 134) that members of the Episcopal Church should “consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion”.
You will know that some of those who objected to this consecration in the United States and have made arrangements for orthodox oversight from other provinces including ours have been charged with abandonment of communion. Their congregations have either forfeited or are being sued for their properties by the very bishops with whom you wish us to share Christian family fellowship for three weeks.
To do this is an assault on our consciences and our hearts. Further, how can we explain to our church members, that while we and they are formally out of communion with TEC, and provide oversight to these orthodox colleagues, we at the same time live with them at the Lambeth Conference as though nothing had happened? This would be hypocrisy.
We are also concerned that the invitation list reflects a great imbalance. It fails to address fundamental departures from historic faith that have triggered this crisis and yet excludes bishops of our own provinces, of Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda who teach and practice Biblical faith. As constituted, the invitations suggest that institutional structures are superior to the content of the faith itself.
We are also mindful of the press interest in the Conference, and in the presence in some form or other of Gene Robinson and his male partner, and of 30 gay activists. We would be the continual target of activist campaigners and media intrusion. In these circumstances we could not feel at home.
All of us have attended Lambeth before. As far as we are aware, only a few of you have been to a Lambeth Conference. In 1998, we had great difficulty in making our case heard in the face of the process of the conference. At that conference we were blessed with the leadership of Archbishop George Carey who has always been a champion of orthodox biblical teaching on sexuality. We have come to the conclusion, from the failure of the instruments of the Communion to take action either to discipline the Episcopal Church or to protect those who have asked the Communion for protection, that there is no serious space for those of an orthodox persuasion in the councils of the Communion to be themselves or to be taken seriously.
We are therefore not persuaded by your arguments to attend. We have looked at all the facts for some time. To find a solution we have proposed the postponement of the conference, the calling of a Primates’ meeting and work towards the conclusion and endorsement of the Anglican Covenant by individual provinces. Our request has not been heeded. We must attend to the care of our bishops, clergy and people.
We must address the issue of the Anglican Communion Covenant, particularly as a revised version has just been published. Many of you are concerned about the need to attend Lambeth to contribute to and influence the debate on the Anglican Communion Covenant to help the working of our Communion for future reference. Currently the prospects do not seem good for what is proposed in any way to engage with our current difficulties or relate to the facts on the ground. The state of our broken Communion is not mended by the Covenant. The Lambeth Conference will only be a place to offer reflections on it. That is why some of us recommended that Lambeth be postponed in order to give space for the reconciling process to take place, a Covenant to be agreed, and Lambeth to be held for those who signed up to the Covenant. This proposal was rejected.
Even if you have decided to go to the Lambeth Conference, we hope that you will respond positively to our invitation to attend GAFCON. You will bring your rich experience of mission and we believe that you will also be enriched by the experience of Anglican bishops and Christians from around the world who are keen to share what God is doing in their midst and what He is teaching them.
We emphasise that this action is not intended to signal that we are walking out of the Communion. We are responding to a need of people committed to and continuing in the apostolic faith to meet and consider how they will walk together in mission and mutual support, and to meet in the one place which is spiritually significant for all of us.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop Peter Akinola (Nigeria)
Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda)
Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya)
Archbishop Henry Orombi (Uganda)
Archbishop Gregory Venables (Southern Cone)