Attempt to expel US Anglicans at summit

Originally from The Daily Telegraph"

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 29/08/2003)

Conservative archbishops are increasingly confident that they can force the expulsion of the American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion over its liberal line on homosexuality.

In fresh evidence that the battle lines are hardening, evangelical primates yesterday disclosed plans to use an emergency meeting called by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in October to urge the immediate suspension of the Americans.

They will then demand that Dr Williams declare that, if the Episcopal Church fails to reverse its policies on actively homosexual clergy and gay "marriages", it is no longer Anglican.

A number of the conservatives believe that between a third and a half of the primates will back this hardline position, diminishing Dr Williams's chances of brokering a middle way in which both sides could co-exist within the same communion.

Insiders said that the primates' meeting, which is to take place at Lambeth Palace in London, would be a "showdown" which looked increasingly likely to end in a formal split.

They fear that the Episcopal Church, which enraged conservatives by confirming Canon Gene Robinson as Anglicanism's first actively homosexual bishop earlier this month, could vote to quit the Communion if suspended.

One leading conservative, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the Primate of the West Indies, said that the Episcopal Church could "choose whether it wishes to remain with us or not" by reversing its decisions.

He said that he would be "very disappointed" if he did not have the support of at least 14 primates out of the total of 38, and he had not yet begun lobbying waverers. Conservative strategists believe the final figure will be 20 or more.

Another conservative, Archbishop Gregory Venables, the Primate of the Southern Cone [in South America], said: "The mind of many is that this is a crisis which cannot be fudged."

The conservative position is expected to be bolstered at a gathering of "global south" primates to be held in Africa a few weeks before the Lambeth Palace meeting.

They are taking as their blueprint Mending the Net, a document prepared by conservative archbishops, which proposed ways to manage crises provoked by parts of the Church introducing controversial unilateral actions.

The document says: "When, in the judgement of at least a significant minority of the primates, these contemplated changes exceed the limits of Anglican diversity, then the meeting should ask the province to refrain from implementing them."

If a "Godly admonition", a rebuke and call for repentance, fails, the erring province could be reduced to observer status at international meetings such as the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference. Expulsion could follow.

Conservative dioceses and parishes within the expelled province could then ally themselves with the bulk of the Communion, which would remain under the aegis of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Previous disagreements have largely been solved by the moral and personal authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time.

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