ENGLAND: Schism 'inevitable' after US bishops approve gay ordination
Dr Williams's tenure has been dominated by the fall-out from the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
July 14, 2009
A worldwide Anglican schism now seems inevitable after Episcopal bishops in the United States today backed the consecration of gay bishops.
Episcopal bishops approved a resolution passed earlier this week by the laity and clergy that allows "partnered gays" full access to ordination.
The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed "regret" over a decision by Anglicans in the US that represents a blow to his hopes for Church unity.
They took the step towards schism in spite of a plea by Dr Rowan Williams, who addressed the General Convention in Anaheim, California, last week.
The new resolution effectively overturns the moratoria on same-sex blessings and gay consecrations agreed by the last General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2006.
It means that it is only a matter of time before another partnered gay bishop is elected, following in the footsteps of gay-rights pioneer Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire.
Dr Williams has found his time as Archbishop dominated by having to deal with the fallout from the consecration of the openly gay Bishop Robinson in 2003. Only last month conservative Episcopalians set up a new province, the Anglican Church in North America, which is seeking recognition from Dr Williams and the General Synod of the Church of England.
Anglican leaders requested the moratorium five years ago in an attempt to prevent schism. The Episcopal Church General Convention three years ago urged "restraint" over the election of bishops whose "manner of life" would cause offence to the wider Anglican Communion.
But Dr Williams's hopes of maintaining unity seemed increasingly futile as the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, warned the Church of England that it should not recognise the new province, arguing that "schism is not a Christian act".
About a quarter of General Synod members, including four diocesan and two suffragan bishops, back a private member's motion calling on the Church of England to declare itself "in communion" with the American conservatives.
Earlier Bishop Jefferts Schori "threw a hand grenade" into proceedings, as USA Today's Faith and Reason blog put it, when she said that the tendency to focus on individual salvation in the debate over sexual ethics was "heresy" and "idolatry".
The Anglican church in the United States is now facing calls for its representatives to be kicked off the bodies that run the Anglican Communion.
Bishop of Sherborne Dr Graham Kings said: "The Episcopal Church has clearly signalled, against the specific plea of the Archbishop of Canterbury on this very issue, its choice of autonomy over interdependence in the Anglican Communion. Questions will now have to be asked about the full continued participation of Episcopal Church representatives in Anglican Communion meetings."
Dr Kings's comments are particularly significant because, as a founder of the open or moderate evangelical forum Fulcrum, he has been one of the strongest advocates in the Church for maintaining bonds between evangelicals and liberals.
The decision will strengthen support for the breakaway conservative rebels from the evangelical provinces of Africa and Asia.
It also strengthens the hand of the newly formed Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK, making schism within the Church of England more likely.
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