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Anglican leader under pressure to repudiate gay-friendly moves in the US


October 15, 2003

LONDON — The global Anglican Communion's leader faces enormous pressure to repudiate recent moves in North America toward greater acceptance of gay relationships as world Anglican leaders gathered here Wednesday to search for reconciliation.

Thirty-eight Anglican leaders - called primates - were meeting behind closed doors Wednesday and Thursday in Lambeth Palace, the historic London building where the Anglican Communion was formed, after conservative leaders threatened to leave the communion over the issue of homosexuality.

The communion's spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, called the unprecedented meeting in August after a decision by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglicans, to ratify the election of its first openly gay bishop, which sparked the crisis.

An announcement of the closed meeting's outcome was not expected until late Thursday, but Anglican leaders from both sides of the debate have been meeting in London all week to lobby for support.

At a worship service Tuesday night organized by pro-gay British Anglicans, the Rev. Daniel Webster of the Diocese of Utah in the United States said the conservatives are sending a wrong message: "Conform or you're not welcome."

"That is not the traditional Anglican way," he said.

The American Anglican Council, which represents U.S.

conservatives, contends the liberals are the ones who have departed from the communion by accepting non-celibate gays.

The council's leaders are in London and will petition the primates to "guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America." They have not said what form that would take, but some council supporters have said they want Williams to expel the Episcopal Church and recognize conservatives as the true Anglicans in North America.

The Episcopalians in August also acknowledged that some of its bishops allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions. Separately, the Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver, British Columbia, also voted to permit the ceremonies in its parishes.

The conservative Church of Nigeria, home to 17.5 million Anglicans and the communion's second-largest province, has severed ties with the diocese in Vancouver, and parishioners there who oppose homosexual relationships have been fasting and praying.

Williams' options are limited. Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no centralized authority in Anglicanism. Each province is autonomous and Williams cannot settle issues of doctrine. The primates also have no collective legislative authority and cannot vote to punish a member.

But Williams does have the right to decide whether a denomination can affiliate with the communion, and the primates can band together to influence him.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa has suggested forming a high-level commission to study how the communion can live with differences over homosexuality.

"I think inclusivity is at the very heart of the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ," Ndungane told British Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday. "We need to find a way of living in this creative diversity which is reflected in the nature of our God." Conservatives, however, say such a commission would be the equivalent of doing nothing. The

head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, has been trying to reach out to conservatives leading up to the summit. He has insisted his vote to approve Robinson "wasn't settling questions of sexuality. I was affirming the choice of a diocese." –Sapa-AP


Related stories
British Anglicans support gay clergy: poll
Aus Anglicans want expulsion of liberal Americansover gay marriages

 

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