The traditionalists dealt a serious blow to the Archbishop of Canterbury by claiming he can no longer hold the church together.
They warned that the church is gripped by its most serious crisis since the Reformation, and could only be saved by the repentance of the Americans who triggered the row by ordaining an openly homosexual bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, five years ago.
The formal pronouncement of the schism is contained in an 89-page document titled “The Way, the Truth and the Life”, which has been drawn up by conservative Anglicans ahead of the breakaway Gafcon summit next week and which has been seen by The Telegraph.
It is supported by the heads of key African churches including Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda, who represent almost half of Anglican worshippers.
The Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter AkinolaThe Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, states in one section: “There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion.
“Now we confront a moment of decision.
“If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We want unity, but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.
“We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion, but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.
“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth.’’
He said schism could only be avoided in the unlikely event that churches which tolerate homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings change their ways.
“Repentance and reversal by these North American provinces may yet save our Communion,’’ the archbishop wrote.
He referred to the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops which takes place next month, as effectively a lame duck event because he and other “orthodox” bishops will not attend.
And he called into question the power of Dr Rowan Williams in a fractured church.
“This very Communion has already been broken by the actions of the American and Canadian churches,’’ he wrote.
“The consequence is most serious, for if even a single province chooses not to attend, the Lambeth Conference effectively ceases to be an Instrument of Unity.
“Moreover, the status of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as convenor and as an instrument or focus of unity, also becomes highly questionable.’’
The final section of the booklet, titled “Our Journey Into The Future’’, was written by Canon Vinay Samuel, an Indian-born theologian based at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.
“We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century,’’ he wrote.
“Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing.”
The booklet, written over the past six months, was put together by a group called the Theological Resource Team.
More than 100 of the traditionalists met yesterday at a hotel on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea to agree how it would be made public.
There was some disagreement about whether it was a template for a schism, which could lead to a new “orthodox” wing of the church, or merely a realignment of Anglicanism’s power base away from Canterbury.
Next week about 1,000 senior conservative figures, including Archbishop Akinola and other African and South American leaders, will meet in Jerusalem to discuss the way forward at Gafcon.
The city’s annual gay parade is due to take place at the same time.
June 19, 2008
Tim Butcher in Jordan and Martin Beckford