Defrocked bishops bid to establish rival church

Khartoum, Sudan - Two defrocked bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) have formed a rival Anglican Church with the backing of the Islamic government in Khartoum, claiming the ECS has been corrupted by “gay money” from the United States.

Bishops Gabriel Roric Jur and Peter El-Bersh formed the Reformed Episcopal Church of the Sudan (RECS) on December 28, 2003, after the Sudanese House of Bishops deposed them. In a letter published last month in an English-language Khartoum newspaper, the bishops claim the ECS is rife with “nepotism, tribalism, mal-administration, corruption and supporting homosexuality and using gay money” from America.

The RECS is seeking the assistance of the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum to “divide the assets of the ECS”.

The two further allege Archbishop Joseph Marona of the Sudan connived to murder Bishop Roric Jur and have attacked Archbishop George Carey, saying his trip to the Sudan on behalf of the Tearfund in 2005 was an unjustifiable interference in Sudanese domestic affairs.

The Rev Enock Tombe, the Provincial Secretary of the ECS, denies these charges telling the Church of England Newspaper the two bishops are renegades and are using the gay crisis as a pretext to justify their actions. “On the hot issue of homosexuality, [they] are trying to find external justification for creation of RECS. However, the reason for their breakaway from ECS is more a rebellion than reformation,” Mr Tombe said.

Considered a quisling by many Christians for his service to the NIF government, Bishop Roric served as Deputy Foreign Minister of the Sudan and is presently the chairman of the government’s Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission. Last June Bishop Roric Jur endorsed the Khartoum government’s imposition of Sharia law on Christians in Northern Sudan.

On September 5, 2002, the General Synod of the Sudan changed Church canons, requiring a bishop to be resident in his diocese. If a bishop were absent for more than six months, the see would be declared vacant. On May 31, 2003, Archbishop Marona deposed Bishop Roric from office when he refused to return to Rumbek after an absence of 10 years.

Bishop Roric refused to accept the sentence, saying his ecclesiastical trial in absentia was “a ploy by Joseph Marona, who had wanted to kill” him by compelling him to cross over into the war ravaged Southern Sudan from Khartoum.

“Peter El Bersh was the former Bishop of Kadugli Diocese who was dismissed in August 2001 for failure to comply with church disciplinary actions passed against him,” Mr Tombe told us.

The crisis over homosexuality in North America has been used by Bishop Roric Jur to defend the creation of the RECS. The “ECS” he claims is a “gay community”. Archbishop “Marona is supporting homosexuals because of money” and is “a friend to the gay community in United States”.

The ECS’ Provincial Secretary denies this charge, telling the CEN “Archbishop Marona has been clear in opposing [the gay agenda] together with other Primates in Africa”. The Church’s next General Synod, he expects “will issue a statement condemning homosexuality as unbiblical and contrary to African cultures”.

This is the second time the Episcopal Church in Sudan has fallen into schism. In 1987, wrangles between the late Archbishops Elinana Galamu and Benjamina Yugusuk divided the Church -- a schism resolved only by the intervention of Archbishop George Carey in 1992.