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Jeff WaltonDecember 16, 2011
Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) officials have withdrawn an invitation for a visit by the head of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church (TEC) because of TEC’s liberal stances on sexual issues. It is a stinging rebuke of the official American branch of the global Anglican Communion. Equally striking, the Sudanese have recognized the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the Episcopal Church’s conservative American rival.
With about 4.5 million members, the growing church in Sudan outnumbers the declining U.S. based denomination, which has fewer than 2 million. Overwhelmingly poor and besieged for years by war and persecution, mostly from the Islamist regime in Khartoum, ECS is strongly theologically conservative, like most African churches. Many Anglican churches in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South have distanced themselves from TEC even as they remain in the global Anglican Communion of about 80 million believers.
The statement of recognition is a significant move for the Sudanese bishops, who, unlike other Anglican provinces in Africa, had been reluctant to distance themselves from TEC, even as they openly criticized TEC moves. Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak briefly visited the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention in Anaheim, California.
In a letter dated December 15 and addressed to TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Sudanese Archbishop Deng Bul Yak wrote of the decision of the Sudanese House of Bishops to withdraw the invitation, citing Episcopal Church disregard for biblical teaching on human sexuality.
“We acknowledge your personal efforts to spearhead prayer and support campaigns on behalf of the ECS and remain very grateful for this attention you and your church have paid to Sudan and South Sudan,” the Archbishop wrote. “However, it remains difficult for us to invite you when elements of your church continue to flagrantly disregard biblical teaching on human sexuality.”
In an attached statement dated December 12 further explaining the Sudanese province’s position, the Sudanese House of Bishops reaffirmed their opposition to homosexual practices that they originally issued at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Britain, which brings together Anglican bishops every 10 years.
“We reject homosexual practice as contrary to Biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS,” the December 12 statement read. “We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships.” The December statement was ratified at a meeting of the Sudanese House of Bishops in November.
Adding to their 2008 statement, the Sudanese bishops in their latest declaration shared how they were “deeply disappointed” by the Episcopal Church’s refusal to “abide by Biblical teaching on human sexuality and their refusal to listen to fellow Anglicans.” Specifically citing the 2010 consecration of Suffragan Bishop Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles, the bishops protested against the continued ordination of homosexual priests and bishops as well as blessing same sex relations.
“[The Episcopal Church] has pushed itself away from God’s Word and from Anglican Communion,” the Sudanese determined. “TEC is not concerned for the unity of the Communion.”
“The Episcopal Church of Sudan is recognizing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) fully as true faithful Orthodox Church and we will work with them to expand the Kingdom of God in the world,” the statement announced. The bishops wrote that they would also work with those parishes and dioceses in TEC “who are Evangelical Orthodox Churches and faithful to God.”
“We will not compromise our faith on this and we will not give TEC advice anymore, because TEC ignored and refused our advices,” the Sudanese bishops concluded.
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