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YORK: Archbishop warns Anglican conservatives

YORK: Archbishop warns Anglican conservatives

By Jonathan Petre
The Telegraph

The Archbishop of York has warned conservative Anglican leaders that they will effectively expel themselves from the worldwide Church if they boycott next year's Lambeth Conference.

Dr John Sentamu said the conservatives risked severing themselves from the Anglican Communion.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr John Sentamu pleaded with them to attend the conference despite their war with liberals over homosexuality.

But he told them that if they "voted with their feet" they risked severing their links with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with historic Anglicanism, a breach that could take centuries to heal.

"Anglicanism has its roots through Canterbury," he said. "If you sever that link you are severing yourself from the Communion. There is no doubt about it."

The archbishop's outspoken comments will dismay conservatives, who blame the liberals for bringing the Church to the brink of schism by consecrating Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop in 2003.

A handful of archbishops and hundreds of bishops from Africa and Asia, representing well over a third of the 70 million strong worldwide Church, are threatening to boycott the Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly gathering of all Anglican bishops in Canterbury. They are angry that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has invited liberal American bishops.

Conservative leaders are now planning an alternative summit, which would destroy Dr Williams's efforts to hold the factions together.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Dr Sentamu told the conservatives that there could not be a meaningful alternative to the official conference.

He said that the primates - the archbishops and senior bishops who head the 38 self-governing provinces that make up the Anglican Communion - had always seen the Archbishop of Canterbury as "a primate among equals but nonetheless as primus inter pares [first among equals]".

"If that goes and they think they can then say they are Anglicans, that is very questionable," he said. "Whatever you set up, I don't think it could ever be called the Anglican Communion.

"So I am hoping that my brothers and sisters, whatever they are trying to set out, will come to the Lambeth Conference."

Dr Sentamu, a close ally of Dr Williams, said that as long as Anglican bishops did not deny the basic Christian doctrines they should all be able to remain within the same Church.

While liberal north Americans disagreed with conservatives over sexual ethics, these were not core issues, he said.

If the conservatives boycotted Lambeth "they would be the ones voting with their feet and saying, as far as we are concerned, we are the true Anglicans".

He added: "Whenever we break there is a lot of pain and the healing of it is very difficult. I want to warn people, don't spend the next century trying to find a way back."

But he also warned the American bishops that Dr Williams reserved the right to withdraw their invitations if they were not prepared to engage in the decision-making processes of the Communion in the future.

Dr Sentamu, a former judge in Uganda who was forced to flee the regime of Idi Amin, also criticised the Government for passing too much legislation, which he warned was eroding freedom.

"The more you write down your laws and have more of them, my view is that you are becoming less and less of a free society," he said.

He was concerned at the wealth gap, urging those on a big salary to put some of it back into the community. He said more needed to be done to combat poverty.


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