KENYA: Boycotting primate wants Lambeth Conference to continue

August 5, 2008

Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, who boycotted the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world, has said the archbishop of Canterbury should continue to convene the once-every-10-years gathering but underlined his view that homosexuality needs to be seen as sinful.


Nzimbi's remarks follow an article in The Times newspaper of London by his counterpart in Uganda, Archbishop Henry Orombi. The Ugandan Anglican leader wrote that the office of the archbishop of Canterbury had become "a remnant of British colonialism, and it is not serving us well."

Nzimbi and Orombi were among 200 or so Anglican bishops who boycotted the Lambeth Conference, which ended on August 3. They were protesting at the presence of leaders of the Episcopal Church, which in 2003 elected and consecrated openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson himself was not invited to attend the Lambeth Conference.

Orombi accused Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams of "betrayal" for having invited the U.S. church leaders to the Lambeth Conference.

Asked about Orombi's statements, Nzimbi told Ecumenical News International, "I don't want to comment on that but what I know is the Anglican Communion surrounds the see of Canterbury, and the Canterbury see is respected by all of us, and we would like the Anglican Communion to continue."

He said, "The archbishop of Canterbury should continue calling [the] Lambeth [Conference] but let us go back to what it used to be." This was understood to mean that there should be a common understanding that homosexuality is sinful and homosexuals should not be in positions of leadership in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Nzimbi said Anglican leaders who took part in a gathering in June in Jerusalem of the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON as it is known, will meet shortly to map a way forward after the Lambeth Conference. GAFCON is widely seen as having been an "alternative" Lambeth Conference that brought together opponents of openly gay bishops and same-sex blessings.

The Kenyan archbishop took issue with remarks by Robinson, according to whom leaders such as Nzimbi are calling for the exclusion from the Anglican Communion of those churches that support the greater inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

Nzimbi said the current problem within the Anglican Communion was not based on who should stay or go, but on compliance to the word of God.

"When you obey the Scriptures you repent of your sins. What is ... bringing problems is the interpretation of the Scriptures," he said. "If we all obey the Scriptures, and what they tell us, I know that inner oneness will make us have the outer form of the Anglican Communion that which we want."

Nzimbi also questioned a statement in a document issued at the end of the Lambeth Conference that stated that the way the Anglican Communion has been perceived to handle polygamy has complicated the issue of how it deals with homosexuality. "Polygamy," the document noted, "has been part of the history and of the present of some provinces [member churches] of the communion."

However, stated Nzimbi, "Nobody sanctions polygamy. It should be one man, one woman. When it comes to homosexuality, it is sinful, just as polygamy is."

The Lambeth Conference ended with a call by the archbishop of Canterbury for "moratoria" on the consecration of bishops in openly gay relationships and on the authorization of rites of blessing for same-sex relationships.

At the same time, bishops from Africa and South America, such as Nzimbi, who have offered "cross boundary" ministry to breakaway congregations and dioceses in other parts of the world, were told they must desist from such actions.

Nzimbi had previously rejected a call for a halt to such cross-border "interventions."