June 28, 2006

Anglican leader sees church split over gay bishops

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of the world's 77 million
Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has said
the worldwide church may have to break up amid a bitter row
over the consecration of gay bishops.

In a lengthy statement issued by his Lambeth Palace office
on Tuesday, Williams proposed churches should be asked to sign
a formal covenant, allowing some to be fuller members of the
Anglican communion than others.

"Those churches that were prepared to take this on as an
expression of their responsibility to each other would limit
their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness: some
might not be willing to do this," Williams said.

"We could arrive at a situation where there were
"constituent" Churches in the Anglican Communion and other
"churches in association," which were bound by historic and
perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources but
not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion
and not sharing the same constitutional structures."

A row has been running between liberals and conservatives
among the world's Anglicans since the consecration of an openly
gay American bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. Anglicans in
Africa, in particular, condemned the move, saying homosexuality
is un-biblical, un-African and morally wrong.

In a bid to appease an increasingly alienated worldwide
Anglican community, the U.S. Episcopal Church last week agreed
to try and avoid the consecration of more gay bishops, but
commentators said this was not enough to heal the schism.

In his proposal, which he stressed was not meant as any
kind of decree and should be discussed in detail over the
coming years, Williams said the church had to change to

"What our communion lacks is a set of adequately developed
structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views
that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global
communication and huge cultural variety," he said.

"The tacit conventions between us need spelling out -- not
for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that
we have ways of being sure we're still talking the same

Some commentators said Williams' move was a "schism in all
but name." The Times newspaper's editorial said on Wednesday
that the plan would effectively expel the Americans from the
worldwide Anglican church and warned: "The repercussions within
the American Church will be profound."