SOUTH AFRICA: Ndungane calls for 'united front' as Primates Meeting approaches

January 10, 2007

The Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, has responded to a recent threat made by some African Primates who say that they will not attend the forthcoming Primates Meeting in Tanzania in February because of the presence of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Anglican Church of Uganda said in a December pastoral letter to his church that he and other Global South Primates had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, that they "cannot sit together with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February," citing her position on the Bible's teachings about "faith and morality."

In a January 11 statement, Ndungane decried the reports of a boycott "because of the presence of a woman, who has been legitimately elected by the church in her country," saying it "is like fiddling while Rome burns."

Most importantly, he added, "it goes against God's fundamental call for unity and reconciliation."

"I hope it is not the case that Bishop Jefferts Schori's presence is objectionable to some because she is a woman," he said. "Women have always been the backbone of Africa and, as an African, I am honored to welcome her to our great continent."

Jefferts Schori will be the first woman ever to sit among the leaders, or Primates, of the Anglican Communion when they next convene in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, but in his pastoral letter Orombi insisted that his "problem" with the Episcopal Church is "not that they have enthroned a woman as their Presiding Bishop."

In his statement, Ndungane noted that "Africa is on fire with conflict in places like Darfur and Somalia" and cited the "life and death struggle against HIV and AIDS, malaria, famine and unimaginable poverty, all of which are creating a continent of orphans."

"There is also climate change which threatens to bring untold devastation to our continent," he added. "What we need is a united front to bring the needs of the people of Africa to center stage at every international forum."