ST: Anglican leader calls for moratorium on gay bishops (Aug 5)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aug 5, 2008
Anglican leader calls for moratorium on gay bishops

LONDON - ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury Rowan Williams, struggling to hold
together the troubled global Anglican family, has urged church leaders
not to consecrate another gay bishop, saying the fellowship will be in
'grave peril' without a moratorium.

In his final speech at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference on Sunday,
Dr Williams said Anglicans needed 'space for study and free discussion
without pressure' about whether to accept changes in traditional
biblical understanding of same-sex relationships.

He also asked churches to refrain from adopting official prayers for
blessing same-gender unions.

'If the North American churches don't accept the need for moratorium,
then, to say the least, we are no further forward,' he said at a news
conference ending the 20-day assembly in Canterbury. 'That means, as a
communion, we continue to be in grave peril.'

The 77 million-strong Anglican Communion has been splintering since
2003, when the United States Episcopal Church consecrated the first
openly gay bishop, the Reverend Canon Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Dr Williams barred Rev Robinson and a few other bishops from the
meeting and designed the event without legislation or votes, instead
focusing on rebuilding frayed relationships.

Still, more than 200 theologically conservative bishops boycotted the
gathering, upset that Dr Williams had invited Episcopal leaders who
consecrated Rev Robinson.

In June, just before Lambeth began, those same conservative bishops
formed a new global network within the communion that challenged Dr
Williams' authority but stopped short of a permanent split.

Dr Williams does not have the authority to force an agreement among
the conflicting groups.

The 38 Anglican national churches, including the US Episcopal Church,
are self-governed and loosely connected by shared roots in the
missionary work of the Church of England.

The 650 bishops at Lambeth said in a statement, however, that 'there
is widespread support across the communion' for an extended moratorium
on gay bishops and on blessing ceremonies for same-gender couples.

'A fellow Christian may believe they have a profound fresh insight,'
Dr Williams said in his final address. 'But the Christian with the new
insight can't claim straight away that this is now what the Church of
God believes or intends.'

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a brief
statement that did not address the requested bans. She said the
communion 'is suffering the birth pangs of something new' and urged
patience in the church.

The communion 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 the Holy Scriptures say about gay relationships and
other issues.

Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke at Lambeth, urging the bishops to
maintain Christian tradition.

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 female bishops.