LAMBETH: Archbishop of Canterbury to spell out new rules for Anglicans
By George Pitcher and Martin Beckford
The Archbishop of Canterbury will today spell out how he hopes a new set of rules can solve "one of the most severe challenges" in the history of the Anglican church.
In an impassioned opening speech last night to the 600 bishops gathered for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, Dr Rowan Williams criticised both conservatives and liberals for their actions in the crisis over sexuality.
He said the "new doctrine" on homosexuality being adopted by progressive churches in America and Canada, who have elected an openly gay bishop and blessed same-sex unions in defiance of guidelines, was causing "pain and perplexity".
But Dr Williams claimed the reaction by traditionalists, some of whom have defected from their national churches and who are now planning to create a new church-within-a-church, had also created "pressures".
He said both sides must get past the "impatience" of assuming that "the other is not actually listening to Jesus."
The archbishop said Anglicans should now concentrate on working a new set of rules to guide the church and its followers - known as a Covenant - which are to be discussed at the meeting.
Dr Williams will give more details of what the rules might be and how they will be enforced at a press conference this lunchtime.
"I want to say very clearly that the case for an Anglican Covenant is essentially about what we need in order to give [our] vision some clearer definition," he said last night.
"It implies some obvious and simple things - being clear about how we recognise and accept each other's ministries in the conviction that we are ordaining men and women to one ministry in one body."
Some 230 bishops of the total 880 in the worldwide Anglican Communion have boycotted Lambeth, in protest at the consecration by the Episcopal Church in the US of the openly homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson.
Dr Williams addressed the threat of schism from the rebels, some of whom have formed an alternative authority based on traditionalist biblical teaching.
"Whatever the popular perception, the options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation," he said.
The archbishop claimed divisions in the church are not new and "there never was a golden age".
But he admitted: "We stand in the middle of one of the most severe challenges to have faced the Anglican family in its history."
In a reference to Anglican rebels who are seeking to set up their own authority within the Communion, he said: "A central and homogenised Communion could be at the mercy of powerfully motivated groups from left or right who wanted to redefine the basic terms of belonging, so that Anglicanism becomes a confessional church in a way it never has been before.
"It is not an option to hope that we can somehow just carry on as we always have: the rival bids to give Anglicanism a new shape are too strong, and we need to have a vision that is at least as compelling and as theologically deep as any other in the discussion."
Dr Williams added, however, that despite the need for progress on the Covenant he did not want "weighty reports" and "scores of resolutions" to come out of Lambeth, as had happened in previous years. Instead, there will be a "reflection" from the conference on what should happen next.
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