The Church of England’s governing general synod has agreed to support the drawing up of draft code for endorsement by all 38 churches that belong to the worldwide Anglican Communion, as an attempt to provide a way of settling internal rows.
The code, called a "covenant", would set out the shared beliefs of Anglican churches and a process for dealing with disputes between members of the worldwide Anglican grouping.
The Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez, told the synod meeting in York, in northern England, that a covenant was needed because of rifts between Anglican churches, mainly over homosexuality.
"While some feel that there will be inevitable separation, others are trying to deny that there is a crisis at all. That is hardly a meeting of minds," Gomez said. He added, "Unless we can make a fresh statement clearly and basically of what holds us together, we are destined to grow apart."
The twice-yearly meeting of the Church of England’s general synod voted by an estimated two-thirds majority on 8 July to give its backing to the drawing up of such a covenant.
The plans for a covenant follow a standoff in the Anglican Communion triggered in 2003 when the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church consecrated as a bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship.
Many Anglican leaders from Africa, Asia and Latin America are strongly opposed to the views of what they say is a minority from the West who are tolerant of homosexuality in the church.
The Rev. Miranda Thelfall-Holmes of Durham University, and a member of the synod, is among those opposed to the measure on the grounds, they assert, that it would lead to exclusions and undermine the Anglican tradition of tolerance. Thelfall-Holmes said that history was littered with pieces of paper that had no effect on the subsequent behaviour of those who signed them.
The Rev. John Plant of Leicester also disagreed with the measure and asserted that doctrinal certainty was not always a virtue.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who is chairing the synod in the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is on study leave, said, "Rowan and I will not sign a document that betrays our church life in this country."
(c) Ecumenical News International
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