Reuters – ++Rowan Addresses the South-South Meeting

Anglican head urges split church to keep talking
Reuters

AIN SUKHNA, Egypt – The spiritual leader of the Anglican church on Friday called for traditionalist and liberal camps to keep talking despite deep divisions over gay rights that have threatened to split the 450-year-old church.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams also told Reuters he had urged traditionalist church leaders from developing states meeting in Egypt not to create new church structures even though existing arrangements might have left many feeling ignored.

“I am concerned that we keep lines of communication open, that we don’t hurry to new structures, but that of course we have to ask the question, ‘Do we have the structures to serve us properly’, and that will take time work out,” Williams said after addressing the meeting on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

The 77 million-strong Anglican church has been divided since 2003 when the U.S. Episcopal Church ordained a gay bishop and Canadian Anglicans began blessing same-sex marriages.

The move outraged traditionalists who dominate the Anglican church in Africa, Asia and Latin American, a grouping known as the Global South. They say the Bible condemns homosexuality.

As the increasingly acrimonious debate has rumbled on, the Nigerian church, home to a quarter of the world’s Anglicans and a vociferous conservative voice, said in September it had deleted references to Canterbury in its constitution.

“The divisions are quite deep, if I am honest, and there is now quite a reservoir of ill-feeling on both sides,” he said.

“Whatever happens in the long run — and I wouldn’t want to predict — I think there are things we can do at least to address that sense of not being listened to,” Williams added.

Williams has sought to mediate, but analysts say the Anglican church structure, unlike the Catholic church with its powerful Vatican, gives the See of Canterbury few tools to impose a solution beyond the powers of persuasion and pressure.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

“We don’t have any kind of central executive in the Anglican communion, and in many ways that’s a good thing. I don’t think people are asking for that,” Williams said, adding that he did not want more powers for Canterbury.

But he said the Global South wanted “a more obvious convergence in our canons, our rules of engagement.” He said such a demand might be met through implementing a proposal to set up a “covenant” between member churches.

An Anglican official said the “covenant” proposal, made in the Windsor Report that was drawn up to mediate in the dispute, would involve member churches agreeing not to act independently of other churches in certain mutually agreed areas.

The Windsor Report also called for steps to be taken by the U.S. and Canadian churches, including expressing regret for their actions.

Archbishop Robin Eames, who headed the Windsor task force, has said he believes the demands were broadly met.

But Global South leaders dispute that assessment. They say, for example, the U.S. and Canadian expressions of regret only show sorrow for the causing hurt to other churches and not an acknowledgement that they were wrong to act as they did.

Officials say a final position will only emerge when the U.S. and Canadian churches hold conventions in 2006 and 2007.

“As I said to them this morning, the process that the Windsor report requested is still incomplete and I think it is premature to offer an assessment,” Williams said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

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