By Kate Kelland
LONDON- The leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has said the worldwide church may have to break up amid a bitter row over the consecration of gay bishops.
In a lengthy stateme
nt issued by his Lambeth Palace office on Tuesday, Williams proposed churches should be asked to sign a formal covenant, allowing some to be fuller members of the Anglican communion than others.
“Those churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness: some might not be willing to do this,” Williams said.
“We could arrive at a situation where there were “constituent” Churches in the Anglican Communion and other “churches in association”, which were bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion and not sharing the same constitutional structures.”
A row has been running between liberals and conservatives among the world’s Anglicans since the consecration of an openly gay American bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. Anglicans in Africa, in particular, condemned the move, saying homosexuality is un-biblical, un-African and morally wrong.
In a bid to appease an increasingly alienated worldwide Anglican community, the U.S. Episcopal Church last week agreed to try and avoid the consecration of more gay bishops, but commentators said this was not enough to heal the schism.
In his proposal, which he stressed was not meant as any kind of decree and should be discussed in detail over the coming years, Williams said the church had to change to survive.
“What our communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety,” he said.
“The tacit conventions between us need spelling out — not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we’re still talking the same language.”
Some commentators said Williams’ move was a “schism in all but name”. The Times newspaper’s editorial said on Wednesday that the plan would effectively expel the Americans from the worldwide Anglican church and warned: “The repercussions within the American Church will be profound.” — Reuter