June 19, 2006

Anglicans face gloomy prediction of schism

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Anglicans faced stark divisions on
Monday after a woman radical took over the U.S. branch and an
English Bishop warned that Anglicanism was in danger of
splitting into "two religions."

Three years of deepening differences between liberals and
conservatives among the world's 77 million Anglicans were
sparked by the consecration of openly gay American bishop Gene
Robinson and the blessing of same sex marriages in Canada.

Now the broad church, which prides itself on governing by
consensus, is braced for fresh turmoil after the U.S. Episcopal
Church chose Katherine Jefferts Schori as its first female

"It will be a great adventure," she promised after her
election at the weekend -- but the already battered and bruised
Anglican community was not so sure.

"Having a woman primate is an exciting complication," said
Church Times Editor Paul Handley.

"The problem is her views. She is quite permissive toward
local churches giving blessing to same sex couples and she
supported the ordination of Robinson," he told Reuters.

But he felt talk of a definitive split -- African Anglicans
are particularly outspoken on homosexuality -- was premature.

"The genius of Anglicanism is that it has been able to cope
with huge variations in doctrine and practice. Talk of schism
is exaggerated," he said.

But Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said it may
already be too late to prevent a division.

"Nobody wants a split but if you think you have virtually
two religions in a single Church, something has got to give
sometime," he told The Daily Telegraph.

Nazir-Ali felt that divisions were now so profound that a
compromise was no longer possible.

The issue of a so-called "stained glass ceiling" stopping
women rising up the hierarchy ranks alongside the ordination of
gay clergy as one of the most disruptive in the Anglican

Anglicans in Canada, the United States and New Zealand
already have women bishops.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams won backing in
February for the ordination of women bishops in the Church of
England but theological and legal hurdles remain to be cleared.

One in six of England's parish priests is a woman and, a
decade after they were first ordained, liberals say it is
insulting not to let them hold positions of power.

But traditionalists argue that as Jesus Christ's apostles
were men, there is no precedent in the Bible for women bishops.