Via Google News, by Rachel Zoll
Over the last three weeks, Anglican bishops attending their once-a-decade global assembly wrestled with how they could keep their fellowship from breaking apart.
On Sunday, they leave Canterbury, England, and return to their dioceses, hoping their talks at the Lambeth Conference have held off a permanent split over the Bible and homosexuality.
“We seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life,” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told the 650 bishops at the event. “We need to speak life to each other and that means change.”
Long-simmering differences over what Anglicans should believe erupted in 2003, when the Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S., consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Anglican theological conservatives recently formed their own worldwide network within the communion that challenges Williams’ authority but stops short of schism.
No one expected the conference to definitively resolve the conflict.
More than 200 traditionalist bishops boycotted Lambeth. Williams, the Anglican spiritual leader, planned the event with no resolutions or votes, focusing instead on rebuilding frayed relationships. In place of an official end-of-meeting statement, the bishops Sunday will release their “reflections” on the event.
Still, the gathering was closely watched by other religious groups.
The 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which traces its roots to the missionary work of the Church of England, is the third-largest religious group in the world, behind Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. Many Protestant churches are also struggling with how they should interpret what Scripture says about gay relationships and other issues.
Anglican internal problems are also hurting their ties with other Christians.
Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke at Lambeth, urging the bishops to maintain Christian tradition. What is at stake “is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ himself,” Kasper said.
Vatican and Anglican officials have been in talks for years about reunifying — an effort complicated by the Church of England’s recent move to accept women bishops. Anglicans split from Rome when English King Henry VIII bolted in 1534 after he was refused a marriage annulment.
The bishops at Lambeth did discuss specifics of proposals meant to unify the Anglican family, including a global covenant that would set some requirements for membership in the loosely governed communion. But it will likely be years before any such agreement is reached.
The drafters latest recommendations include a moratorium on blessing same-sex unions and on consecrating any more partnered gay bishops. They also suggest that archbishops stop intervening in each other’s provinces.
Since Robinson was consecrated, conservative Anglican leaders from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere have taken oversight of breakaway Episcopal parishes in the U.S.
One full diocese, the Diocese of San Joaquin, in Fresno, Calif., has seceded and aligned with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America. Episcopal leaders have sued to retain the diocese. Two other dioceses — Pittsburgh, Pa., and Fort Worth, Texas, — are poised to withdraw this fall, likely sparking more litigation.
The Anglican Church of Canada has similar troubles with breakaway parishes.
Robinson traveled to Canterbury even though he wasn’t invited, trying to meet with overseas bishops and be what he called a “constant and friendly” reminder of gays in the church.
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