The Archbishop of Canterbury last week blamed liberal North American churches for causing turmoil in the Anglican communion by blessing same-sex unions and consecrating gay clergy.
On the final day of the Lambeth conference, a 10-yearly gathering of the world’s Anglican bishops, Williams said practices in certain United States and Canadian dioceses were threatening the unity of the Anglican communion.
”If North American churches do not accept the need for a moratorium [on same-sex blessings and the consecration of gay clergy] we are no further forward. We continue to be in grave peril,” he said.
He was speaking as 670 bishops prepared to leave the conference, held in the British town of Canterbury, after 18 days of reflection, prayer, conversation and effort to hold a divided communion together.
Making his final presidential address Williams said the ”pieces are on the board” to resolve the wrangling over homosexuality. He put forward the idea of a ”covenanted future” involving a ”global church of interdependent communities”.
But even as he spoke disaffected primates from developing countries expressed regrets about the conference. A statement signed by more than a quarter of the world’s Anglican archbishops said theological voices from outside the West had been missing from some key sessions. ”We are concerned with the continuing patronising attitude of the West towards the rest of the churches,” they said.
Williams also faced disenchantment at home. Michael Scott-Joynt, the bishop of Winchester, in England, said: ”The Lambeth conference is required to do something rather than live down to the worst expectations of the bishops who stayed away.”
The bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, also said there was an ”inexorable logic” that there should be one core communion with the more liberal churches at the margins.
Conflicting views over homosexuality have pushed liberals and conservatives apart, with 230 bishops boycotting Lambeth and realigning themselves with a breakaway movement, the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).
Throughout the conference there were pleas for churches in the US and Canada to refrain from ”progressive” agendas.
One statement early in the conference, from the Episcopal Church of Sudan, said the actions of the American and Canadian churches had ”seriously harmed the church” in Africa and elsewhere, opening it up to ridicule.
The Sudanese church’s primate, Daniel Deng, was the first church leader to issue a position statement on homosexuality. He was followed by the presiding bishop of Egypt and Jerusalem, Mouneer Anis, and several primates from south Asia, all voicing their pain at the fractures caused by the issue.
Williams announced that he would convene a meeting with all Anglican primates, to take place early next year, and that the objectives and composition of the pastoral forum would be unveiled within three months. In addition, he said, the Gafcon bishops absent from Lambeth would be involved in policy shaping.
Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angeles, said calls to stop blessing same-sex relationships would be received with ”fear and trepidation” in his diocese. ”I can only say that inclusion is a reality,” he said. ”For people who think that this is going to lead us to disenfranchise any gay or lesbian person, they are sadly mistaken.”
Susan Russell, president of the US gay Christian campaign group Integrity, was angry with Williams’ remarks, which she called an ”11th-hour sucker punch”. She said: ”It sends the wrong message — that gays and lesbians are still strangers at the gate. It’s not going to change anything on the ground.” —