(RNS) A handful of Anglican archbishops are boycotting a high-level meeting in Ireland this week (Jan. 25-30) to protest the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of openly gay and lesbian bishops.
The Rev. Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, which includes the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, said that “seven or possibly eight” archbishops are boycotting the meeting near Dublin.
Two more archbishops—known in the church as primates—will not attend for health reasons, and several more are unsure whether they will attend, Kearon told the BBC on Sunday.
“Those primates who said they’re not coming as part of an objection to the Episcopal Church and other developments have reiterated their commitment to the communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury in their writing to me,” Kearon told the BBC.
The global Anglican Communion has 38 primates who lead regional churches, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The primates will determine the agenda for the meeting when they arrive in Ireland, according to Kearon. The annual meeting has no binding power, but “a lot of moral authority,” he said.
In recent years, Anglican archbishops, particularly in Africa, have refused to meet with Jefferts Schori because her church has consecrated a gay man and a lesbian as bishops.
The Episcopal Church is the only Anglican province with openly gay bishops, exacerbating tensions in the 77-million member communion and driving a wedge between liberals and conservatives.
“For the sake of Christ and of his gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy, and so we join with other primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present at the next primates’ meeting to be held in Ireland,” the archbishops of West Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and an Argentina-based diocese said in a statement last November.
Jefferts Schori said in a statement she is looking forward to the meeting.
“I am deeply grateful that we may begin to focus on issues that are highly significant in local contexts as well as across the breadth of the Anglican Communion,” she said. Those issues include preaching the gospel, rebuilding Haiti and protecting the environment, Jefferts Schori said.