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Anglican Communion could rupture over gay clergy, says Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has warned in a television interview that the worldwide Anglican Communion may "rupture" over the issue of homosexuality.

Anglicans have been riven with division since the election in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson, who lives openly in a same-sex relationship, as a bishop in the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church, and the introduction by a diocese in Canada of a rite for blessing same-sex unions.

Many Anglican churches, particularly in Africa, condemned Robinson’s election and several have cut ties with the US church.

Interviewed by veteran broadcaster David Frost for the BBC in Sudan, where he is visiting aid projects, Williams was asked if he could imagine the Anglican Communion becoming a looser federation to accommodate Anglican churches with widely differing stances on homosexuality.

"If there is a rupture, it’s going to be a more visible rupture, it is not going to settle down quietly to being a federation," said Williams, the leader of the more than 70-million strong Anglican grouping. "My anxiety about it is that if the communion is broken we may be left with even less than a federation."

In 2004, the "Windsor Report", produced by an Anglican commission set up after Robinson’s election, requested the US church to adopt a moratorium on any candidate for bishop in a same-sex union until a consensus had emerged in the communion. It also urged the US and Canadian churches to apologise to other believers within the Anglican communion who they had offended by their actions.

Still, among five nominees to become the new bishop of the Episcopal diocese of California are a lesbian and a gay man, US media have reported. Both homosexual candidates, Bonnie Perry of Chicago and Robert Taylor of Seattle, are in same-sex relationships, the reports stated.

The diocese will vote on the candidates in May, with the bishop-elect requiring ratification at the Episcopal Church’s general convention in Columbus, Ohio, the following month. The Episcopal convention is also scheduled to elect a successor to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. Three of the nominees are reported to have voted in favour of Robinson’s consecration as a bishop. One opposed it.

Meanwhile, in an article in the Washington Post, the Episcopal bishop of Washington DC, John Bryson Chane, struck out at Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a prominent opponent of the election of Robinson.

Akinola, wrote Chane, "is perhaps the most powerful member of a global alliance of conservative bishops and theologians, generously supported by foundations and individual donors in the United States, who seek to dominate the Anglican Communion and expel those who oppose them, particularly the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada".

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams