An email petition, said by organisers to contain 13 million electronic signatures of those opposed to gay clergy in the Anglican Church, has been handed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.
The petition calls on the Archbishop of Canterbury not to recognise the ministry of any bishop who attended the consecration of Gene Robinson in November as Bishop on New Hampshire in USA. This is the latest development in what many see as a split in the worldwide Anglican Church, which is said to have 70 million members world-wide.
The petition, organised by Anglican Mainstream, based in Oxford, England, at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), which has received funding from the Californian fundamentalist billionaire Howard F Ahmanson, was delivered to Lambeth Place yesterday (December 30) by. Philip Giddings (Convenor of Anglican Mainstream UK), Peter Ould (webmaster of Anglican Mainstream), Canon Chris Sugden (executive director of OCMS), and Prebendary Richard Bewes, Rector of All Souls Langham Place.
“A clear signal was sent today to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, that a majority of Anglicans worldwide oppose the consecration of a practising homosexual and support moves by mainstream Anglicans in America to refuse to accept the actions of the Episcopal Church of the USA,” a spokesman for Anglican Mainstream said in a prepared statement.
“In just over one month, Anglican Mainstream gained the backing of over 13 million Anglicans to an online petition which was signed by five Archbishops of the Anglican Communion and their provinces and a further two Archbishops.”
But there is considerable doubt as to the validity of the numbers claimed. “There was some doubt about how many of those who had allegedly signed up either knew of the petition or supported it, since heads of families, clergy, bishops and archbishops were allowed to sign on behalf of all their family members, parishes, dioceses and provinces,” wrote Steven Bates, the religious correspondent of the Guardian.
“Support for the document rose from about 500,000 to 13 million in the last few days,” he pointed out.
On their website, http://www.anglican-mainstream.net, Anglican Mainstream claims support for the e-petition was 13,628,200. Yet only 4,013 individuals actually ‘signed’ the petition. The remaining 13,624,187 comes as a result of “block voting”. Five archbishops had signed the e-petition delivering a staggering 13,334,000 “signatories” by Anglican Mainstream’s counting.
Anglican Mainstream was set-up last summer following the successful campaign to block the appointment of openly gay, but celibate, Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop suffragan of Reading. Dr. Williams had backed the appointment, but under pressure from the evangelical arm of the Anglican Church he forced Canon John to resign.