Consecration of gay clergy must stop to end Anglican crisis, says Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury blamed liberal North American churches yesterday for causing turmoil in the Anglican communion by blessing same-sex unions and consecrating gay clergy as he attempted to chart a way out of the crisis that has been engulfing the church.
On the final day of the Lambeth conference, a 10-yearly gathering of the world’s Anglican bishops, Rowan Williams said practices in certain US and Canadian dioceses were threatening the unity of the Anglican communion.
“If North American churches do not accept the need for a moratoria [on same sex blessings and the consecration of gay clergy] we are no further forward. We continue to be in grave peril,” he said.
He was speaking as 670 bishops prepared to leave the University of Kent campus after 18 days of reflection, prayers, conversations and efforts to hold a divided communion together.
Making his third and final presidential address Williams said the “pieces are on the board” to resolve the wrangling over homosexuality. He put forward the idea of a “covenanted future” involving a “global church of interdependent communities”. But even as he was speaking disaffected primates from developing countries expressed regrets about the conference. A statement signed by more than a quarter of the world’s Anglican archbishops said theological voices outside the west had been missing from some key sessions. “We are concerned with the continuing patronising attitude of the west towards the rest of the churches,” they said.
Williams also faced disenchantment at home, with some English bishops questioning the nature of the conference. Michael Scott-Joynt, the bishop of Winchester and the fifth most senior churchman in England, said: “The Lambeth Conference is required to do something rather than live down to the worst expectations of the bishops who stayed away.”
The bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, also said there was an “inexorable logic” that there should be one core communion with the more liberal churches at the margins. Conflicting views over homosexuality have pushed liberals and conservatives apart, with 230 boycotting Lambeth and realigning themselves with a breakaway movement, the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).
Throughout the conference there have been pleas for churches in the US and Canada to refrain from progressive agendas.
One statement earlier in the conference, from the Episcopal Church of Sudan, said the actions of the American and Canadian churches had “seriously harmed the Church” in Africa and elsewhere, opening it up to ridicule.
The African primate Daniel Deng was the first church leader to issue a position statement on homosexuality. He was followed by the presiding bishop of Egypt and Jerusalem, Mouneer Anis, and several primates from south Asia, all voicing their pain at the fractures caused by the issue.
Williams announced that he would convene a meeting with all the Anglican primates, to take place early next year, and that the objectives and composition of the pastoral forum would be unveiled within three months. In addition, he said, the Gafcon bishops absent from Lambeth would be involved in policy shaping.
Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angles, was clear that calls to stop blessing same-sex relationships would be received with “fear and trepidation” in his diocese. “I can only say that inclusion is a reality,” he said. “For people who think that this is going to lead us to disenfranchise any gay or lesbian person, they are sadly mistaken.”
Susan Russell, president of the US campaign group Integrity, was angry with Williams’ remarks, which she called an “11th-hour sucker punch”. She said: “It sends the wrong message – that gays and lesbians are still strangers at the gate. It’s not going to change anything on the ground.”