Though U.S. media often downplay foreign news, astute religion writers will be closely watching London next week and Moscow in the longer term.
London: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called a Jan. 11–16 meeting with 37 fellow “primates” who head the national branches in the Anglican Communion.
Some analysts consider it a make-or-break moment on whether this global body of as many as 85 million adherents can hang together. Most stateside journalists won’t make the trek to England but will want to develop Yankee angles with the assistance of The AP, Reuters, YouTube, British news dailies and Anglican websites, official and otherwise.
This is the latest and possibly the culminating event after years -- decades really -- of wrangling over biblical authority and interpretation, especially whether to accept partnered same-sex priests and bishops, and gay marriages. The fight pits the liberal Episcopal Church in the U.S., led by brand-new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz’s Anglican Church in Canada, over against large and growing national churches in Africa and the “Global South.” Welby’s own Church of England is stuck somewhere in between.
Welby hopes he can maintain some titular leadership as the “Communion” evolves into a looser federation to allow leeway on faith disputes. But doctrinal conservatives seem prepared to reject such schemes and walk away. Already they have formed the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (“GAFCON”) as an alternative international body that claims to represent the majority of world Anglicanism’s membership, especially in terms of believers currently active in pews.
GAFCON is chaired by the archbishop of Kenya along with primates from the provinces of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, South America, Sudan, and Uganda, plus Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America -- a schism from the U.S. and Canadian denominations -- who’s supposed to be present for at least some of the London discussions.