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LAMBETH: Bishops back ABC Williams and still see value in being in Communion

LAMBETH: Bishops back Archbishop Rowan Williams and still see value in being in Communion

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Times Online
August 2, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury has the overwhelming support of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, according to a survey for The Times.

However, one quarter of Anglican bishops at the meeting in Canterbury, Kent, are unsure that he is providing the leadership needed to save the Church from schism.

Few bishops support the idea of solving the church's differences by changing the Anglican Communion to a looser federation.

Three-quarters of those at the conference are happy with Dr Rowan Williams' leadership.

The survey is published today as Dr Rowan Williams defended himself against the charge of being a relic of colonialism made by Uganda Primate, Archbishop Henry Orombi, in The Times.

Dr Williams said in an interview that most Africans had more important things on their mind than gay sex.

"The overwhelming concern of most Africans is clean water, food, employment, transparent governance."

Dr Williams will tomorrow give more details of the proposed new Pastoral Forum, a body that act as a clearing house for future disputes in the Anglican Communion.

Religious Intelligence surveyed 100 of the 670 bishops at the conference for The Times. More than nine in 10 bishops at the conference feel there is still value in being in the Communion, despite its current difficulties.

Nearly one in four believes there would be value in being in a looser federation of churches instead, but the vast majority wants to remain in the more structured communion.

The survey does not reflect the views of the 230 bishops and archbishops, mainly from Africa, who have boycotted the conference, which ends tomorrow.

But of those present, it shows that three-quarters believe that Dr Williams is providing the leadership that is needed and nine out of 10 believe there is much to be learned from dialogue with different faiths.

Just one-third cannot remember a worse time for the church in their lifetime, athough four in 10 believe the church has been through a worse time in living memory.

One quarter support the recent declaration from the rival conservative Global Anglican Conference in Jerusalem. A similar number also believe there is no hope of a 'via media' solution for Anglicans, two findings which give possible indications of troubled times for Dr Williams in the months ahead.

The survey showed confusion among delegates about whether people are born gay or not. More than four in 10 said they were, a third said they were not and a quarter did not know.

More than half those surveyed were also critical of the Church's efforts in Zimbabwe, with 58 per cent saying the Church had not done enough to help the people there.

The bishops were equally divided over the founding doctrines of Anglicanism, summarised in the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Four in 10 said they did provide a test of Anglican orthodoxy, but a similar number said they did not.

In an interview with Ecumenical News International, Dr Williams rejected Archbishop Orombi's claims that his position in the worldwide Anglican Communion is a left-over from British colonialism.

Archbishop Orombi wrote in The Times yesterday that the "spiritual leadership of a global communion should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government".

Dr Williams said: "Archbishop Orombi isn't the first person who has used this language of colonial relics about the Canterbury relationship. I think it's a misunderstanding really. It would be fair only if Canterbury governed. Now, I don't govern the communion."

He said that to accuse him of colonialism was a "red herring".

He criticised the obsession with sex and said it was being confused with morality. "In the Bible, morality means justice, compassion, the defence of the needy. It means humility, realism, self-questioning, repentance and generosity. That's quite a lot to be going on with."

He said the consecration of the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 meant little to Africans living in far-flung parts of the continent.

"Day by day, it means very little, even if they've heard about it. The only point in which it does impact on Mr and Mrs Average in Africa is when they have unsympathetic neighbours, Christians or non-Christians, who'd say - ' Oh, you're from the gay church, aren't you?'"

He conceded that Mugabe in Zimbabwe was hostile to gays.

"I think you'd find other cases of gay people being attacked - not only in Africa - but throughout the world. It's not just a local problem. But the overwhelming concern of most Africans is clean water, food, employment, transparent governance."

He said that he and other Anglican leaders were aware of growing frustration among young Africans about unfulfilled Western promises to help them climb out of poverty.



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