CANTERBURY: Anglican communion a 'train wreck', says bishop
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
The Anglican Communion is like a "slow moving train wreck", according to a senior Church of England bishop who has given an extraordinary insight into the crisis that is engulfing the Church.
The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, has revealed that there is deep unease over the future of the communion and an atmosphere of mutual suspicion among bishops.
His comments come as about 650 bishops meet at the once-a-decade Lambeth conference in Canterbury, with continuing division over the issue of homosexuality.
Bishop Wright, a senior figure in the Church hierarchy, expressed concern that the summit was lacking direction and admitted that the Anglican Church was in a mess. "All sorts of forces have built up over the years in the communion through misunderstanding and people doing things differently without really consulting," he said.
Sooner or later this was all going to meet and hit the buffers. It's been like a slow-moving train wreck."
The bishop, who is highly respected and a close friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, told The Sunday Telegraph that the presence of American bishops involved in the consecration of Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop, was proving divisive.
"A lot of people here have a lot of questions about why the American bishops are here," he said. "Those questions are in the room."
Around 250 bishops, mainly from Africa, have boycotted the conference in protest at Dr Rowan Williams's decision to invite the American bishops, whom they hold responsible for causing the schism. Organisers have drawn up an agenda lacking any major votes or debates in the hope that it will limit conflict.
But Bishop Wright said that there was mistrust between the different factions over who was going to make the next significant move. "It's like a very odd game of cards," he said. "We're all being very civil and talking politely, but people are wondering who is going to play which card next and hence what responses may be possible."
Bishop Wright added that the summit was lacking direction and questioned how effective it would be.
"There's a sense that we're all not quite sure where this is going. That's the mood of the conference. It is gloriously confusing at the moment and slightly worrying in that one has no idea what's actually going on."
The bishops will spend the majority of the next two weeks in private "indaba" groups - modelled on the consultations held between Zulus.
"It's impossible to see how this is likely to play out," said Bishop Wright. "It'll be 40 people around a table for two hours. Three minutes each and that's your two hours gone."
Dr Williams has admitted that the crises in the "wounded" Church are not likely to be resolved by the conference, but he is keen to gain support for an "Anglican covenant" which could act as a rule book of beliefs that can unify the Church.
Bishop Wright stressed that the adoption of the covenant would be a "hugely important" breakthrough. However, the chances of its succeeding look bleak after leaders of the Global Anglican Future conference - a breakaway movement - attacked the role of Dr Williams yesterday.
They expressed concern at recent comments by the archbishop, complained that discipline in the Anglican Church was "long overdue" and backed a statement that described plans for the covenant as "seriously limited and severely flawed".
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