NEW YORK – The most influential Anglican leader in Africa said Thursday that the global Anglican Communion (search) is "broken" over the confirmation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire and may be beyond repair.
Archbishop Peter Akinola (search) of Nigeria also said in an Associated Press interview that he views the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church (search) as an advocate for gays and lesbians and no longer trusts him.
Akinola's comments come less than two weeks before a panel is scheduled to release its report on whether the 77-million-member Communion can bridge its divide over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the Anglican Communion.
"The church worldwide today is no longer what it used to be," Akinola said. "Now, [the Episcopal Church] has intentionally and deliberately given up the faith."
Akinola, head of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, represents one of the fastest-growing Anglican provinces, comprising more than 17 million members. He is also chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, with more than 37 million believers, and has emerged as a leading voice for conservative Anglicans worldwide.
The head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, has said repeatedly that because of the democratic nature of the American denomination, which elects its bishops by popular vote, he could not unilaterally stop last year's consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson (search) of New Hampshire.
Akinola contended that Griswold, who led Robinson's consecration ceremony, could have used the power of his office along with prayer to persuade Episcopalians to reverse course. Instead, "he is the promoter of this whole agenda," Akinola said.
"It is the church leaders who are supposed to lead us in righteousness," he said.
Griswold responded in a statement that he was "deeply saddened" that Akinola feels betrayed. "My love for Archbishop Akinola is undiminished and I pray that one day our friendship in Christ may be restored," Griswold said.
The panel of Anglican leaders, called the Lambeth Commission, is due to release its report in London on Oct. 18. Akinola and other conservative archbishops have demanded that some disciplinary action be taken against the Episcopal Church.