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.
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
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