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Survival of Anglican Communion is at High Risk, Archbishop Says

( [email protected] ) Jun 01, 2004 08:09 PM EDT

The survival of the Anglican Communion is now at high risk. Even if there is not a complete split in the communion, it will come at a high cost to keep it together, according to Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The trouble first started with America Episcopal Church when the first gay bishop was consecrated last summer. Later, the Canadian diocese authorized gay blessings. The crisis over homosexuality has led to a split between conservatives and liberals in the Anglican Communion.

The crisis of the division in the Anglican Communion was intensified by the Church of England’s ordination of an openly gay canon, Jeffery John as the Dean of St Albans earlier in April.

To resolve different attitudes towards homosexuality, a proposal has been drafted about forming a confederation that allows some Anglican Communion members to adopt almost any practice or doctrine they wish while keeping looser ties between the national provinces in the Church. As a result, it creates a stronger central force close to the Anglican Mainstream, but those “unqualified” gay bishops or priests can remain in the loose international Anglican confederation connecting to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This week, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams comments that a looser federation may have practical attractions, but he supports the form of communion as it “goes closer to the heart of the New Testament than just a slightly shoulder-shrugging coexistence”.

“I think it’s worth trying our very best to maintain the Communion in terms of interchangeability, interrelation between local communities, and all the regular structures that keep it going.”

Moreover, keeping a communion will encourage the traditionalists because it has strong levels of mutual accountability.

Since a letter from the West Indian Archbishop Most Rev Drexel Gomez’s letter to Chairman of the Lambeth Commission Archbishop Robin Eames last week, the relationship in the heart of the Anglican Communion has become even uneasier.

Rev Gomez is one of the members of the 18 Primates from the Global South. The letter called for a definite separation from the America Episcopal Church if it does not repent in three months. It also criticized the Archbishop for the restraint shown in the gay clergy issue.

The Irish Primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, signaled his understanding of the grievances of the Primates from the Global South in respond to this letter. He agreed with the Global South’s complaint that they are not being properly heard or understood.

Eames commented, “Too often the Western Church seemed to believe that the former third world would always accept Western liberalism as the only alternative to the collapse of communism.”

He continued to explain that a new dynamic theology for the 21st century is emerging in Africa, Latin America and Asia to challenge and find independence from the Enlightenment. Therefore, people from these countries are already resisting the wrong and unilateral decision made by the Western Church.

Indeed, the letter has encouraged the passive conservative evangelicals in St Albans, where the gay canon was ordained as Dean, to fight against the false appointment. They released a statement calling upon the Bishop to reconsider the appointment, and criticized the lack of “appropriate consultation”.