‘Gay’ issues cause Anglican split?

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to host a summit next month between to two sides of the American Anglican church to deal with potential problems over homosexuality.

This is to avoid the “nightmare” scenario of a church split due to a decision in 2003 to allow a gay priest to become a bishop in America.

Dr Rowan Williams told Nederlands Dagblad that without immediate attention the rift could cause the disintegration of the Anglican church into separate entities, similar to that of the Orthodox Christian church which split into several parts over disputes.

This rift “would take so much energy from what we’re meant to be doing,” he told the Dutch paper.

The aim of the meeting is to avoid such a situation, forced by the possible split between US conservatives and liberals over allowing homosexuals to become priests and bishops.

The split has highlighted an already developing schism inside the Anglican church between those who oppose same sex unions, and the ordination of homosexuals, and those who have accepted and supported social change over the past several decades.

The Archbishop said he didn’t “want to see in the cities of America the American Anglican Church, the Nigerian Anglican Church, the Egyptian Anglican Church and the English Anglican Church in the same street.”

The current Archbishop has already tried to ordain a gay bishop in 2003, but a strong back lash from the church in the US and the developing world not only highlighted a divide over the issue between Canterbury and the US and developing world, but also forced Dr Jeffrey John to withdraw his application for the post of Bishop of Reading.

The same year, though, the US Anglican church did promote an openly gay priest to the position of Bishop, a move that the Archbishop views as both unilateral and having “pushed the boundaries.”

The Bishops of Africa and Asia wrote a letter to Dr Williams in November 2005, during which they reaffirmed their belief that homosexual sex was a sin, and that the Civil Partnership Act highlighted the “willingness of the Government to override clear Christian teaching in an area of life where the church has a unique role.”

The bishops of Africa and Asia also recognised the limited nature of the Archbishops role in being able to stop the legislation coming into force.

The Anglican church outside of Europe has made its stance over the issue homosexuality clear, though the Archbishop will likely be seeking a compromised solution from both sides in this dispute.

This dispute over homosexuality in the Anglican church is not limited to a split between Europe and the rest of the world.

Earlier this year former Archbishop George Carey was critical of his successor, telling the Sunday Telegraph that he had left the church in “good heart”.

The continuing problem of homosexuality for the Anglican church does not support this appraisal.