LAMBETH: Archbishop of Canterbury to create group to punish rule-breaking Anglican churches
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to set up a new group with the power to punish Anglican churches that break rules on ordaining gay clergy and blessing same-sex "marriages".
By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
July 28, 2008
The Pastoral Forum to be headed by Dr Rowan Williams is a last-ditch attempt to bring rebel Anglican provinces into line and prevent a total split in the 80 million-strong Communion.
It is designed to provide a rapid response to crises, by offering guidance either to liberal churches that break guidelines by ordaining gay clergy or blessing same-sex unions, and also traditionalist churches that cross borders to ordain bishops in other provinces. A halt to all these practices has been demanded.
The forum will allow parishes that have defected from their national churches to be looked after in a "holding bay" until they can be returned to their previous home.
But it will also have the power to "diminish the standing" of rebel churches, which could mean their heads being thrown off the Primates Meeting of worldwide Anglican leaders, or being barred from the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of bishops that is taking place in Canterbury this week.
However even as the forum was being proposed yesterday, there were fears that it may not get off the ground.
The rescue plan has been put forward to resolve the crisis over sexuality which was triggered in 2003 when the Episcopal Church of the USA elected the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
The Anglican church in Canada later authorised the blessing of same-sex unions, while some conservative American clergy have been made bishops in Anglican provinces in Africa and South America in protest at the Episcopal church's liberal agenda.
Bishop Clive Handford, chair of the Windsor Continuation Group that proposed the forum and moratoria on gay clergy, same-sex blessings and border-crossing yesterday (mon), said: "We believe this will help us pull back, draw breath and take stock."
He said the Pastoral Forum's President will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will pick a bishop as its head and its members from across the Communion. It is likely to be established as part of the Anglican Covenant, a set of rules to be worked on this week.
Bishop Handford went on: "This could well be a body that might be able to respond quickly where there is a pressure point in the communion."
It will "offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion" is required if the moratoria are broken.
Bishop Handford said parishes in America that have come under the wing of orthodox churches in Africa and South America should be placed in a new "safe space" in the hope that they can eventually be returned to their national churches.
"They will be held in a kid of holding bay and can be held in trust until the day when through dialogue they can return to their parent bodies."
But Bishop Handford denied this step of churches retreating on border-crossing would also mean that Bishop Robinson must step down.
The idea of the forum will be discussed at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, a body of clergy and lay people, next May.
The Windsor Group said the Communion is "likely to fracture" unless the conservatives and liberals change their ways.
But some claim its demands will be ignored as the liberal churches want to retain their independence, while conservatives are already wedded to the idea of the new movement formed at last month's Gafcon summit.
The Rt Rev Sergio Carranza, the Assistant Bishop of Los Angeles, said: "If it's something that will punish or discipline then I don't think it will work.
"We don't want to have a tribunal and we don't want to have a group that defines doctrine."
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