Statement issued by Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane on the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire

November 2003

It should be noted that:

1. The Anglican Communion has no system of centralised government. We are a federation of 38 autonomous ecclesiastical provinces bound together by bonds of affection. This has been the position since 1867 when the first Lambeth Conference was called to deliberate, among other things, a dispute that had arisen between Bishop Gray, the first bishop of Cape Town, and Bishop Colenso, the first bishop of Natal.

Archboshop Ndungane2. The election and subsequent consecration of Gene Robinson was done in accordance with the constitution and canons of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the USA (ECUSA) . As such, he is lawfully a bishop in the church of God. It is normal procedure for churches in communion to congratulate and welcome a new bishop and to offer prayerful support.

I must add that the procedures governing the election of an ECUSA bishop are among the most transparent and most democratic in the world. It begins at diocesan level, then goes to a general convention which involves public hearings, the house of deputies and the house of bishops. (Gene gained the majority of votes in secret ballots throughout the process)

3. The controversy that has arisen in the Anglican Communion is based on the fact that the Lambeth Conference 1998 passed a resolution that said no to same-sex unions. The question now is why did ECUSA go against that decision? The answer is that Lambeth and other instruments of unity within the communion have moral force but they do not lay down Anglican laws and regulations. It is the prerogative of each province to lay down laws and regulations for its governance.

Our position in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA) is that decisions of Lambeth and the other instruments need to be given the highest respect. We deeply regret it when they are disregarded. But that does not say when it happens that a province has acted un-canonically.

4. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no judicial authority over provinces. By virtue of his office he is 'first among equals', a focus of unity. It was in that capacity that he called a special meeting of archbishops last month. We agreed to stay together. There is more that unites us than divides us.

We have an ongoing study of Human Sexuality established after Lambeth 1998 and, more recently, an international committee has been established to help handle the crisis that has arisen.

5. One of the greatest strengths of Anglicanism is creative diversity. A good example was how we remained together despite fierce debate regarding the ordination of women. Within the CPSA we have differences of culture, race, language, ecclesiology, theology and churchmanship.

Those of you who attended our pre-1994 synods will remember the deep divisions that arose over issues like economic sanctions, racism in the church and military chaplains. Those who supported the apartheid machine and those who supported the liberation movement had very different views on 'just war' and 'just rebellion' But we held on together. We agreed on fundamentals. Perhaps that is a model we can offer to the Anglican Communion -- how to live together with difference and otherness.