Friday, June 23, 2006
Pressure is growing on Williams to take action over schism
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent, in Columbus, Ohio
Anglicanism's most powerful conservative leaders paved the way for schism yesterday by attacking the failure of the liberal American Church to come into line over homosexuality.
In the first major statement by international conservative Primates since the end of the American Episcopal Church's General Convention, a dozen African archbishops indicated that they are preparing for a formal split.
Their reaction, issued in a statement from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, adds to the pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to take decisive action against the American Episcopal Church.
American conservatives have already dismissed an 11th-hour compromise forced through the Episcopal Church's General Convention in Columbus as "inadequate".
The Episcopal Church was given until the end of its governing convention on Wednesday to toe the conservative line on homosexuality of the majority of the worldwide Communion or face expulsion.
It was asked to express regret for breaching official Church policy by consecrating Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop in 2003, and to impose moratoria on the election of other gay bishops and on rites for blessing gay unions.
After an often chaotic nine-day meeting, however, it approved resolutions that fell short of what had been asked and elected a liberal as its first female head.
Dr Williams, who is preparing a "reflection" on the crisis that could be released as early as today, may plead for more time to try to broker a peace deal.
But he will be aware that, if he fails, he may find his own authority undermined by the powerful Global South conservatives, who are primarily based in Africa and Asia.
The African Primates said that they were "saddened" that the Episcopal Church had been "unable to embrace the essential recommendations".
In a statement, issued from their council meeting in Uganda, they said: "We have observed the commitment shown by your Church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership.
"We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion."
The primates said that they would study the actions of the General Convention, including its election of the liberal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Presiding bishop-elect Jefferts Schori voted for the consecration of Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop, supports same-sex blessing ceremonies and used a sermon on Wednesday to refer to "mother Jesus".
The African Primates indicated in their statement that they will offer a new home for American conservatives disenchanted by the direction their Church is taking, a move that would tear the worldwide Communion in two.