The biggest news from the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa is the election of a theological moderate, the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean, to succeed the decidedly un-moderate Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria as chair. CAPA released two statements, one on Africa, and another from the CAPA Primates, on the crisis in the Anglican Communion.
The communiqué on the Communion urges the following:
6. In our considered opinion, however, there is a possible way forward. The Anglican Communion Covenant is the one way for us to uphold our common heritage of faith while at the same time holding each one of us accountable to those teachings that have defined our life together and also guide us into the future. We therefore propose the following actions:
a. Call a special session of the Primates Meeting. We believe that meeting together is essential if we are prayerfully to allow the Holy Spirit to work through our interactions and bring us to a common mind. We would need to:
i. Review the actual response made by The Episcopal Church – both their words and their actions.
ii. Finalize the Covenant proposal and set a timetable for ratification by individual provinces.
b. Postpone current plans for the Lambeth Conference. We recognize that such an action will be costly, however, we believe that the alternative – a divided conference with several provinces unable to participate and hundreds of bishops absent would be much more costly to our life and witness. It would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it. Postponement will accomplish the following:
i. Allow the current tensions to subside and leave room for the hard work of reconciliation that must be done.
ii. Ensure that those invited to the Lambeth Conference have already endorsed the Covenant and so can come together as witness to our common faith.
Readers who recall that Archbishop Ernest is actually a member of the Lambeth Conference Design Group will scratch their heads over this. The newly elected Primate of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, is also a member of the design team.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has declined several times to postpone the Lambeth Conference, and seems unlikely to change his mind. It is worth noting that many African bishops have already accepted their invitations to Lambeth, including some whose primates claim to be out of communion with the Episcopal Church. So it is unclear how much support the commmuniqué has among the bishops for whom it purports to speak.
Archbishop Ernest was a Proctor Scholar at the Episcopal Divinity School in the fall term, 2005. During the time he was interviewed by Episcopal News Service:
Having spent a month visiting dioceses and seminaries in the Episcopal Church in an effort to forge closer relationships between the two provinces, Ernest said, "Many of us don't want to leave the Anglican Communion or put it at risk. We need to have all hands together ... with mutual respect.".
Ernest, a member of the 2008 Lambeth Conference Design Group Committee, said that he felt privileged to be visiting the Episcopal Church and was happy to bring greetings from his brother bishops from Africa "because most of them think like me -- we want to maintain communion and we want to foster partnerships and a spirit of community..."
Find a photograph of the archbishop here.