LONDON - In reaction to the homosexual developments made in the Episcopal Church, the archbishop of Canterbury announced plans for an international conference to restore the unity in the Anglican community, August 8. Archbishop Rowan Williams said the invitations for the October meeting would be sent out this week.
``I am clear that the anxieties caused by recent developments have reached the point where we will need to sit down and discuss their consequences,'' Williams said.
Williams is the leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion – an agglomeration of 38 independent churches around the world. Williams has neither the authority nor the power to impose discipline on the provinces; each district has a unique view on the ordination of women as priests and the appointment of women as bishops.
This week, the U.S. Anglican Church – the Episcopal Church, confirmed the election of the gay clergyman Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire, provoking outrage in the Anglican Communion.
``I hope that in our deliberations we will find that there are ways forward in this situation which can preserve our respect for one another and for the bonds that unite us,'' Williams said in a statement issued by his office.
``I hope we can use the time between now and then to reflect, to pray, to consult and to take counsel,'' the archbishop added.
On Thursday, following Robinson’s confirmation, the Episcopal Church decided not to approve a liturgy for the blessing of homosexual union during its convention in Minneapolis. The diocese of New Westminster in western Canada approved such a blessing ceremony, wreaking havoc within the Anglican Community.
Delegates to the Episcopal convention on Thursday affirmed the ceremonies as ``an acceptable practice in the church.'' However, they did not prescribe a form for such a service to be used throughout the church.
Jim Solheim, a national spokeman for the Episcopal Church in the United States, said he was just learning of Williams' invitation Friday morning.
He said that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church, had spoken with Williams after Robinson was confirmed Tuesday. But Solheim said he did not know details of their conversation.
``They've been in phone contact,'' Solheim said. ``I don't know whether it's once or more.''
The Rev. Frank Wade, head of the liturgical committee that wrote the document, said he interpreted the measure to mean that dioceses conducting same-sex blessings ``are operating within the parameters of the understanding of this church and its doctrine and discipline.''