Hasan Suroor

LONDON: The 77-million strong world-wide Anglican Communion is facing a historic split over the Church’s liberal approach to homosexuality and women priests with a conservative faction, led mostly by Asian, African and South American clergy, announcing the formation of a parallel group in protest against what they described as the “forces of militant secularism and pluralism” within the Church.

The announcement, made at a conference of 300 bishops in Jerusalem last week, is seen as a serious challenge to the authority of the Archbhishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England from which the global Anglican Communion derives its roots.

The proposed breakaway “church,” called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (Foca), would offer an alternative to all those who are opposed to appointment of gay priests, same-sex marriages, and ordination of women clergy.

The strongest opposition to the current policy on these issues has come from Asian and African evangelists who believe it is a “betrayal” of biblical teachings.

The move, seen as marking the end of colonial domination of the Anglican Communion, questions the historic supremacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury but stops short of a formal split. In a statement, the dissenters said the move was “unusual” but justified it saying “the times we live in are [also] unusual.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Williams warned the decision to set up a breakaway church was fraught with dangers and urged the rebels to “think very carefully about the risks entailed.”