Anglican divide set to deepen as gay debate rages
A REPORT aimed at healing splits in the Anglican Church could deepen the divide over homosexuality, it is feared.
Both liberals and conservatives remain entrenched on the controversial issue, sparking fears that the Lambeth Commissionís Windsor Report, to be published today, may only fuel the row.
The Commission was set up last year to tackle the crisis of unification among the 70 million members of Anglican Communion around the world.
Although the body, announced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has addressed unity in general, the gay debate is set to dominate the fallout of its findings.
And rumours the report may call for a series of "core covenants" for churches to sign up to and follow in a bid to unite them has heightened the concerns.
The Reverend Martin Reynolds, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "We are not in crisis. It is those people who find homosexuality unacceptable who are in crisis.
"We hope this report is the beginning of a long discussion not the last word."
But conservatives have called for the report to take tough action on those dioceses who support homosexuality.
The Reverend David Phillips, general secretary of the Church Society, said: "Every organisation needs rules. The Anglican Communion is being asked to decide what to do when some members deliberately break the agreed rules."
The row has hit boiling point after the diocese of New Westminster in Canada allowed same-sex blessings and the Episcopal Church of the USA backed the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a relationship, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
The debate reached the UK last year with the nomination of Dr Jeffrey John, a gay but celibate clergyman, as Bishop of Reading. The decision sparked huge controversy and led to Dr John swiftly withdrawing his acceptance of the post and becoming the Dean of St Albans instead.
African Anglicans, traditionally strong conservatives, have threatened to leave the Communion if action is not taken against the US and Canadian dioceses.
Such a split would end centuries of work to unite Anglicans around the globe.
It has been widely rumoured that todayís report may recommend covenants for churches to voluntarily accept.
The LGCM fears such a move could narrow the diversity of Anglicans and prevent the development of homosexuals in the church.
Rev Reynolds said: "We hope whatever comes out will keep all of us in the Anglican church. We do not want anyone to leave, even our detractors. We need them and they need us, we can live together."
Rev Phillips said the Communion was already split and some would leave no matter what the report recommends.
He said the best option was to call for action against the US and Canadian dioceses.
He said: "They have gone well beyond what the rest of the Communion thinks.
"The Church is already split and it is their actions that have split it. We need a body which can assess when people have gone beyond the boundaries."
A statement from the Church Society said action was long overdue," he said.
"Without such action the Communion has no future because, as the Anglican Homilies assert, discipline is a mark of the true Church."
The Lambeth Commission was set up following a summit of the Anglican primates at Lambeth Palace last October.
It is chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Robin Eames, and includes liberals and conservatives.
Announcing the members at the time, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said its main task would be to offer advice on finding a way through the situation.
In July this year, Dr Eames told the Commissionís website: "I would not be putting it too strongly to say that there is a sense of betrayal in parts of the Communion about the actions in North America."
But he has always stressed the Commissionís task was not to find answers to the questions of sexuality, but with assisting the Communion to respond to the developments and maintaining its unity.