LAMBETH: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams: Traditionalists 'alienated' by women bishops
The decision to press ahead with the introduction of women bishops has left many in the Church of England feeling "alienated and grieved", the Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted.
By Martin Beckford Religious Affairs Correspondent
July 22, 2008
In his first public comments on the contentious decision by the church's governing body to introduce female bishops without compromise measures that would have satisfied traditionalists, Dr Rowan Williams said it had resulted in a "huge amount of unfinished business".
But he denied the divisions meant the church was now like a "bleeding, hunted animal" as it entered the critical Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world which is taking place in Canterbury.
The meeting is being boycotted by one in four of the worldwide Communion's leaders in protest at liberal American and Canadian churches who support homosexual clergy and same-sex unions in defiance of church teaching.
Leaders of Forward in Faith, a group representing more than 8,000 Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, announced they were "appalled" by the outcome of the Synod vote and vowed to work on the creation of separate dioceses for parishes who do not want to be led by a woman bishop.
Stephen Parkinson, the group's director, said there was no "cast-iron guarantee" that this would mean his members would stay within the existing Church.
However, Dr Williams said he hopes the meeting will lead to progress on the creation of a set of rules to govern the church, known as a Covenant, which could also involve the creation of new "clearing houses" to settle disputes.
He reaffirmed the view taken at the last Lambeth Conference that homosexuality goes against scripture, and added that sex outside marriage is wrong.
Asked at a press conference if he thought the 80-million-strong church was heading for schism, Dr Williams replied: "Well, let's see. If this is the end of the Anglican Communion I don't think anyone has told most of the people here."
He said he would continue to argue and "make the case" with orthodox Anglicans who want a tougher line on sexuality, who have vowed to create a new movement for those who oppose the direction some liberal churches are taking.
But Dr Williams conceded that great hurt had been caused by the vote in the General Synod earlier this month not to allow special concessions for Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals who believe it goes against scripture and tradition for women to be bishops.
He said: "I think there's certainly a huge bit of unfinished business for the Church of England after the General Synod, in the sense that pastorally as many people feel alienated or grieved as were elated by the decision that was taken.
"But I don't think it's meant we enter this conference as a bleeding, hunted animal with arrows in its side."
Asked for his views on unacceptable sexual behaviour, the archbishop replied: "Any relationship which is outside the public covenant of mutual support and love in the presence of God. I do not believe that sex outside marriage is as God purposes it.
"On the question of same-sex relationships, the Anglican Communion has made its position corporately clear through the Lambeth Conference and by all the things we've gone through in recent years. As archbishop that's the position I'm committed to."
Dr Williams said he hoped a Covenant would be agreed on "not by coercion but by consent" which may lead to "further international bodies that could act as clearing houses for debate and as sources of clear advice to myself or the primates".
But he admitted those who are boycotting Lambeth may not feel any agreement reached at the conference is legitimate, and said he had tried to convince those who are staying away that their views are needed.
Meanwhile it has emerged that the Anglican Communion still needs to raise £1 million to pay for the Lambeth Conference .
Organisers say they are receiving donations from delegates to help cover the costs of the meeting, which total £5.6m.
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