The Times of London on the Primates' Meeting
"Anglican world leaders face walk-out at summit on gaysBy Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
THE 38 bishops and archbishops who head the worldwide Anglican Church began a week-long meeting in Northern Ireland last night to try to resolve the argument over gay clergymen.
The meeting — closed to press and public — at the Dromantine Conference Centre near Newry is expected to be tense and at times explosive, with the walkout of one or more primates a possibility if not a probability.
More than half the primates are conservative evangelical or traditional. At a secret preliminary meeting at a hotel near Heathrow on Saturday, the conservatives voted to demand the suspension and then expulsion of the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada if they do not signify a change of heart over their stance. The New Westminster Diocese in Canada has authorised blessings for same-sex couples and the US Episcopal Church has consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay divorced father of two with a lover, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
The meeting is being chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is “primus inter pares” or first among equals. It will debate the Windsor report of the Lambeth Commission, set up by Dr Williams in an attempt to hold the Church together.
It is Dr Williams’s toughest challenge to date. With both sides refusing to budge, few observers can see how the communion will be held together in the long term. One scenario is that the Anglican Communion will evolve into a loose federation of Anglican churches. Another is a complete split between the liberal churches of the West, which will remain in communion with Canterbury, and the evangelical and Anglo-Catholic provinces of the “global South”, chiefly Africa and Asia, which will find another archbishop to lead them, such as Dr Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, or Dr Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney.
Dr Williams’s sympathies are on the liberal side. He is a long-standing friend of Bishop Frank Griswold, the Primate of the US Church, but has taken the conservative side for the sake of unity.
Last week he described to the General Synod of the Church of England the “burden” of trying to reconcile the warring parties when they no longer spoke a common language. The synod gave overwhelming backing to Dr Williams and called for the primates “to secure unity” in the light of the recommendations of the Windsor report, which calls on the US Church “to express its regrets” and to give a theological explanation for what it did.
Bishop Griswold — he does not have a diocese or the status of archbishop — has expressed regret for the consequences of his actions but has made it clear that he does not repentthe actions themselves.
One source, from the churches of the global South, said: “We will be demanding the suspension and exclusion of those who are either ordaining practising gays or blessing same-sex marriages. If the US Church did repent, it would give us good ground for dialogue to find out how we are going to move ahead together.
“The Windsor report, weak as it is, is going to have to be the basis on which we try to move ahead.”