Cox News Service, Aug. 9, 2003
Don Melvin – Cox International Correspondent
London — The archbishop of Canterbury on Friday summoned the world’s Anglican leaders to an unprecedented emergency meeting as he sought to prevent the church from fragmenting over the issue of homosexuality.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, who is known to support gay clergy but fears a split in the church, issued his call three days after the U.S. Episcopal Church confirmed the election of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
Church leaders in Asia and Africa have condemned Robinson’s appointment and are planning to meet to discuss cutting ties with the U.S. church because of it.
”It is my hope that the church in America and the rest of the Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in response,” Williams said.
He will send formal invitations next week to leaders of the church’s 38 ”provinces.” The archbishop is the spiritual leader of the church, but he has no authority to impose discipline on the provinces.
Williams’ meeting of world church leaders will take place in London in mid-October. It could coincide with the planned publication of a church discussion document on human sexuality.
The issue is explosive. In July, Williams barely managed to avert a split in the church by persuading a celibate gay priest in England to withdraw from consideration for appointment as bishop of Reading.
Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola had threatened to withdraw his 17 million-member group from the church if the priest, Jeffery John, were named to the post.
New threats of a schism are being made in response to Robinson’s appointment. Akinola has condemned it as ”a satanic attack on God’s church.” And the Very Rev. Pewter Karanja, provost of All Saints Church in Nairobi, Kenya, said the issue could force him to sever ties with the U.S. church.
”We cannot be in fellowship with them when they violate the explicit Scripture that the Anglican Church subscribes to,” he said.
Bishop Lim Cheng Ean, leader of the Anglican Church of West Malaysia, expressed opposition as well. ”Practicing homosexuality is culturally and legally not acceptable here,” he said.
Meanwhile, gay Christians said they should be involved in the discussion.
Otherwise, said Rev. Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, ”it would be like a conference on racism without any black people involved.”
Robinson, the man at the center of the storm, was reported to be delighted that the archbishop had called the meeting to discuss the issue and pray about it.
Robinson ”thinks it’s great,” said a spokesman.
This article was supplemented with information from news services and the BBC.