September 01, 2003
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has predicted that the traditional structure of the Anglican Chuch will break down in the row over homosexual bishops and gay blessings.
Dr Rowan Williams has forecast "new alignments" in the Church and a "weakening of territorial jurisdiction" in the 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
In an article published today he says: "I don't expect the next few years to be anything other than messy as far as all this is concerned."
His article on the future of Anglicanism is published in the tenth anniversary edition of New Directions, a journal read by Anglican Catholics throughout the Communion.
It has been published before the 38 primates meet in London next month to debate the crisis caused by the election of the divorced gay father of two Canon Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.
More than half of the primates believe that the appointment of Canon Robinson was wrong and want the US Episcopal Church thrown out of the Anglican Communion. At least two thirds of the 38 primates would have to vote for this if the Episcopal Church were to be expelled from the Anglican Consultative Council, the British-registered charity that is the legal expression of the Communion.
Although written just before the appointment was finalised, the article gives the first indications of how Dr Williams is intending to deal with his Church's impending schism. It shows that he is fully aware of the peril the Anglican Church is facing over the gay issue as well as other equally controversial issues such as the ordination of women bishops.
He says: "The current controversies over sexuality are only one cluster of issues where fault lines are spreading."
Dr Williams's article and his reference to "new alignments" indicate that the solution for which he might argue when the primates meet in London is a new province that crosses national boundaries that would act as a haven for traditionalists and evangelicals who oppose Western liberal developments such as the election of non-celibate gay bishops. However, most evangelicals are unlikely to support this solution as they do not want to be officially sidelined into a sectarian wing within the wider Church, and would prefer to work on transforming structures from within.
The Archbishop says: "I suspect that those who speak of new alignments and new patterns, of the weakening of territorial jurisdiction and the like, are seeing the situation pretty accurately."
"But what then becomes the danger to avoid is an entirely modern or post-modern map of church identity in which non-communicating and competing entities simply eradicate the very idea of a 'communion' of Churches."
Meanwhile, the liberals are fighting back. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement is calling on the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to bar the Nigerian primate, the Most Rev Peter Akinola, who is the leading opponent of Canon Robinson, from entering the country on the ground that he might incite the hatred of gay people
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