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ALEXANDRIA 2009: Williams sensitive to limits of his authority, archbishop say

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: Williams sensitive to limits of his authority, archbishop says

By Riazat Butt
The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/02/anglican-archbishop-rowan-williams-church
February 2, 2009

The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is "sensitive" to the limits of his authority and role in the affairs of Anglican provinces, according the archbishop of Brisbane.

Speaking at a press conference in Alexandria today, the scene for a meeting between the world's most senior Anglican clerics, the Most Rev Philip Aspinall responded to a question about whether the assembled primates had discussed the role of the archbishop of Canterbury, who has caused resentment among traditionalists who believe he is too lenient with liberals in North America.

As a sign of protest, the Church of Nigeria deleted references to Canterbury from its constitution in 2005 and, last year, the Global Anglican Future Conference, a parallel network for conservative evangelicals, downgraded Williams' status, saying they did not accept that Anglican identity was necessarily determined through recognition by the archbishop of Canterbury.

Aspinall, who has been appointed spokesman for a meeting that will address divisive as well as less contentious issues, said: "The archbishop of Canterbury is trying to deal flexibly, creatively and responsively to the situation [affecting the communion]. He is very sensitive to the limits of his authority and role in provinces outside his own, [but] the see of Canterbury is pivotal."

Williams, the titular head of the communion,has yet to make public remarks about the nature or progress of the discussions, but he is expected to do so later in the week as the meeting draws to a close.

One of the matters discussed was the Anglican covenant, a set of guidelines providing guidance and mediation for provinces grappling with wayward churches. Many in the conservative wing had previously complained that it would not enforce doctrinal order, while others felt it was too punitive of liberals and contradicted Anglicanism's traditional national autonomy and diversity of practice.

Aspinall, however, indicated that the primates, at least, were softening their position and recognising the disadvantages to a strident covenant.

"There is a pulling back from the language about sanction and teeth and a growing appreciation for the covenant as a framework for communion and reconciliation. It's not about hitting people over the head with sticks."

He admitted that the covenant would have no legal basis, saying instead that it should be viewed as a moral obligation.

"Each church is making a gift to the other participating church by agreeing to self-limit its autonomy and not proceed with divisive issues without consulting or entering into a conversation with a member church."

The only sanction that could be applied was not being invited to a meeting, he added.

On Tuesday the primates will receive a report from the group charged with proposing solutions to disagreements over same-sex blessings, cross-border interventions and ordination of homosexuals to the episcopate. The archbishop of Canterbury has asked for the report to remain confidential until the end of the week.

END

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