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Williams Apologizes to Gays, Says No to Assisted Suicide, Challenges Infighting

Williams Apologizes to Gays, Says No to Assisted Suicide, Challenges Infighting
ABC warns The Episcopal Church against ordaining lesbian to the Episcopacy

By David W. Virtue in London

In a wide-ranging, historic address to the General Synod in London today, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, issued an apology to the church’s homosexuals, said no to assisted suicide and challenged infighting which threatens to pull the Anglican Communion apart.

Williams issued a “profound apology” to the lesbian and gay Christian community, but did not touch on their behavior, in a speech described by sources as “brilliant”, “clear” and “concise”. He condemned the Ugandan government’s “infamous legislation” that threatened the death penalty for gays, calling it “repugnant”.

Williams said the situation hs not been helped by those who ignored the fact that many regular worshippers are gay, as well as many "sacrificial and exemplary priests".

Williams said schism within the church would represent a "betrayal" of God's mission. He publicly warned The Episcopal Church that if they ordained a partnered a homosexual bishop, it would have a “devastating impact” on Malaysian Christians to proclaim the faith without being cast as an enemy of public morality, risking both credibility and personal safety.

The Archbishop said he regretted recent rhetoric over women bishops and sought to mollify the fears of the traditionalist wing of his church. However the Synod is not prepared to cut Anglo-Catholics any slack over the ordination of women bishops, forcing many to consider the possibility of accepting Rome’s offer of an Anglican ordinariate.

"There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them,” he said. "I have been criticised for doing just this and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression."

Williams called on Anglicans to stop battling over the twin issues of gays and women bishops and hinted at a two-tier system for the communion, if the issues were not resolved. He also said the Covenant could fail to resolve the problems, but he hoped it would not.

“It may be that the Covenant creates a situation in which there are different levels of relationship between those claiming the name of Anglican. I make no apology, though, for pleading that we try, through the Covenant to discover an ecclesial fellowship in which we trust each other to act for our good.”

He made it clear that there is blame on all sides of the argument that has brought the Church to the brink of splitting. He pleaded for Anglicans battling over gays and women bishops to cease fighting, admitting that he and other bishops might have to settle for a two-tier communion if it is to survive at all.

On the ordination of women bishops he commented, "Most hold that the ordination of women as bishops is a good, something that will enhance our faithfulness to Christ and our integrity in mission."

He also said that this good is "jeopardised" in two ways - by the potential loss of those who in good conscience cannot see it as a good, and by the equally conscience-driven concern of traditionalists and some evangelicals who oppose women bishops.

Referring to proposals to give women bishops a lesser level of authority, he said the reform should not happen at all if it is done in such a way that "that will corrupt it or compromise it fatally".

Williams is hopeful that the Anglican Covenant will prove to be a way of keeping the 38 provinces together, but many commentators argue that it fails in its ability to discipline errant provinces like TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. Williams said this was mistaken.

"There is no supreme court envisaged and the constitutional liberties of each province are explicitly safeguarded. But the difficult issue that we cannot simply ignore is this."

On the issue of assisted suicide Williams opined, “The freedom of one person to utilize in full consciousness a legal provision for assisted suicide brings with it a risk to the freedom of others not to be manipulated or harassed or simply demoralized when in a weakened ocndiiton. Once the possibility is there, it will not only be utilized by the smallish number of high-profile hard cases but will also create an ethical framework in which the worthwhileness of some live is undermined by the legal expression of what feels like public impatience with protracted dying and ‘unproductive’ lives.”

A debate scheduled for tomorrow to recognize a new orthodox American province brought this response from Williams, "Certain decisions made by some provinces impact so heavily on the conscience and mission of others that fellowship is strained or shattered and trust destroyed. The present effect of this is chaos - local schisms, outside interventions, all the unedifying stuff you will be hearing about, from both sides, in the debate on Lorna Ashworth's motion."

Outlining a possible way forward to a two-tier communion, he admitted: "It may be that the covenant creates a situation in which there are different levels of relationship between those claiming the name of Anglican. I don't at all want or relish this, but suspect that, without a major change of heart all round, it may be an unavoidable aspect of limiting the damage we are already doing to ourselves."

The Archbishop urged people to listen to one another with a “three dimensionality”. He did not mention the movie “Avatar”.

Whatever else might be said, the Archbishop of Canterbury is fighting to prevent the Anglican Communion from disintegrating. He is expected to support the bishops’ amendment on the private ACNA resolution to recognize the province by kicking it into touch.


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