His male partner and two daughters from a failed marriage offered Gene Robinson his golden mitre before 3,000 people in a hockey arena at the University of New Hampshire. But the Nov. 2 consecration of the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican communion was not without protest and is causing shock waves throughout the communion.
When presiding Bishop Frank Griswold asked the congregation if anyone “knows of any reason why we should not proceed,” Bishop David Bena of Albany stepped forward and read a statement signed by 36 Canadian and American bishops.
Denouncing Robinson’s consecration as a “schismatic act,” he concluded: “This consecration poses a dramatic contradiction to the historic faith and discipline of the church. We join with the majority of bishops in the communion and will not recognize it.”
The 10 Canadian signatories were Wm. Anderson (Caledonia), Andrew Atagotaaluk, Benjamin Arreak, Paul Idlout, Barry Robinson (all of the Arctic) Charles Arthurson, Anthony Burton (both of Saskatchewan), Terence Buckle (Yukon), Ronald Ferris (Algoma) and Don Harvey (Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador).
However, two Canadian bishops, Michael Ingham of New Westminster and Bruce Stavert of Quebec, participated in the rite. But other prelates around the world denounced Robinson’s appointment, which has plunged the 450-year-old, 77-million-member church into its worst crisis yet.
“The devil has clearly entered the church. God cannot be mocked,” said Kenya’s Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, who cut all ties with the Episcopal Church of the U.S. (ECUSA). Archbishop Peter Akinola, head of the 20-million-member Nigerian church, denounced the American church for choosing “the path of deviation from the historic faith.” Akinola also spoke on behalf of the primates of the Global South, who represent over 50 million Anglicans. He said the consecration had left the worldwide church in “a state of impaired communion.”
“The consecration of a bishop who divorced his wife and separated from his children now living as a non-celibate homosexual, clearly demonstrates that authorities within ECUSA consider that their cultural-based agenda is of far greater importance than obedience to the Word of God.”
Akinola continued, “The overwhelming majority of the primates of the Global South cannot and will not recognize the office or ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as bishop.”
The Global South primates urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to provide “adequate episcopal oversight for parishes and clergy within ECUSA dioceses and the Diocese of New Westminster (Vancouver) with whom we remain in fellowship.”
The only African prelate who endorsed Robinson’s consecration was Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa.
The Anglican communion’s spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, issued a statement saying, “The divisions that are arising are a matter of deep regret; they will be all too visible in the fact that it will not be possible for Gene Robinson’s ministry as a bishop to be accepted in every province in the communion.”
Peter Jensen, archbishop of Sydney, was critical of Williams. “I myself would have preferred if the archbishop had spoken more clearly about the fact that this is against the Bible and should not have gone ahead because it is against God’s Word.”
Nor did the Archbishop of Canterbury rebuke Griswold, the chief consecrator, who has said, “Unity is more important than doctrine.” Jack Iker, bishop of Fort Worth, said, “Today’s consecration of a practising homosexual as a bishop in New Hampshire has broken the unity of the Episcopal church and of the worldwide Anglican communion. It is essentially a schismatic act, and as such, has created a breach of our communion with the Diocese of New Hampshire and with those bishops who participated in the consecration.”
In mid-October, 37 prelates who had met with the Archbishop of Canterbury in an emergency meeting in London warned, “This (consecration) will tear the fabric of our communion at its deepest level and may lead to further divisions as provinces have to decide whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Epsicopal Church (U.S.A.).”