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COLUMBUS, OH: Williams appeals for gay compromise as US dioceses plan split

COLUMBUS, OH: Williams appeals for gay compromise as US dioceses plan split

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent for The Telegraph, in Columbus, Ohio

A number of conservative Anglican dioceses are poised to break-away from the liberal American Church over the issue of homosexuality, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

In a development that will dismay the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, several American dioceses have held secret discussions about leaving the Episcopal Church and realigning themselves to a sympathetic conservative province.

So far only individual parishes have split from their mother Church because they reject its liberal stance, but entire dioceses would represent a huge escalation in the fracturing of the 70 million-strong global Anglican communion.

Insiders said that up to three dioceses were advancing with their plans and others were exploring the possibility, but they faced complex legal and practical hurdles.

The disclosure came at the start of a critical few days for the worldwide communion, during which the Episcopal Church's General Convention, its General Synod, will decide whether to rein back its liberal agenda or risk schism.

Dr Williams yesterday issued a thinly veiled appeal to the convention to adopt compromise resolutions that could keep the communion from shattering.

In a statement read by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who is attending the meeting in Columbus, Ohio, Dr Williams made clear the importance of the event.

"This General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide," said Dr Williams. "Please be assured of our loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully."

Dr Williams urged delegates to take seriously the 2004 Windsor Report, which was drawn up by a committee he appointed in an effort to resolve the crisis created by the consecration of Gene Robinson as Anglicanism's first openly homosexual bishop.

The report, which has been backed by the primates, imposed three conditions on the Episcopal Church if it was not to "walk apart" from the rest of the communion.

The 2.2 million-member Church has been told to express regret for acting unilaterally in consecrating Bishop Robinson, and to impose moratoria on appointing more homosexual bishops and on blessing homosexual "marriages".

In response, the deputies and bishops at the convention will consider a series of resolutions which conservatives say fall short of the Windsor requirements, but which might be sufficient for Dr Williams to avert schism.

While the resolutions offer "repentance" and a moratorium on "public rites" of same-sex blessings, they only oblige the Episcopal Church to exercise "considerable caution" in appointing bishops, which leaves the door open to homosexuals being chosen.

However, conservative leaders from Africa and Asia, who have previously called for the American Church to be expelled from the communion, may be prepared to place it "on probation" as long as no more homosexuals are actually appointed.


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