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Archbishop believes in keeping Communion together

From The Church of England Newspaper

Attempts to hold the Anglican Communion together will come at a high cost, and inflict much pain on people, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned this week.

The crisis over homosexuality has led to a split between conservative Churches in Africa, Asia and South America and the liberals in America and Canada, but the Archbishop wants the Eames Commission to look to keep a closely tied Communion, despite the risks.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Williams concedes that a looser federation may have practical attractions, but argues for a communion with strong reciprocal relationships. “I think it’s worth trying our very best to maintain the Communion in terms of interchangeability, interrelation between local communities, and all the regular structures that keep it going.”

The Archbishop said that this “high-risk enterprise goes closer to the heart of the New Testament than just a slightly shoulder-shrugging coexistence”, but warned that the final solution would have a cost. He said that it would not be about whether anyone gets hurt, but whom: “Whatever shape the unity takes, there’s going to be cost.”

His comments will hearten the traditionalists who favour keeping a Communion that has strong levels of mutual accountability.

They have been upset by the unilateral decisions taken by America, where the Anglican Church’s first gay bishop was consecrated, and the Canadian diocese that authorised gay blessings.

The Irish Primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, has also come to the side of the conservatives in the Communion after a plea last week from the West Indian Archbishop, Drexel Gomez, for the liberals to be restrained. In an address he made in New York, he said that the Christian Church in the West is in danger of failing to understand the changes taking place in the ‘Global South’.

Too often the Western Church seemed to believe that the former third world would always accept Western liberalism as the only alternative to the collapse of communism, Dr Eames commented.

He said that a new dynamic theology for the 21st century is emerging in Africa, Latin America and Asia to challenge and find independence from the Enlightenment.

Archbishop Eames agreed with the Global South’s complaint that they are not being properly heard or understood.

In the interview, Dr Williams also signalled his understanding of their grievances: “The feeling of being compromised by someone else’s decision is a hugely important factor in the reaction of, let’s say, the Church in Africa. If you do this, we’re part of the same Church family, so we are held responsible for what you have decided.”

Evangelicals in St Albans welcomed last week’s appeal by the Archbishop of the West Indies, who has three dioceses linked with their diocese, where Jeffrey John has been chosen to be Dean. They released a statement calling upon the Bishop to reconsider the appointment, and criticising the lack of “appropriate consultation.”

Posted at 12:00 am 5.27.2004 | Permalink