The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was rebuked yesterday for snubbing an international conference for homosexual clergy at which Anglicanism‘s first openly active gay bishop is a speaker.
In fresh evidence of the acrimony over the issue, organisers claimed that Dr Williams gave a clear commitment to attend the conference in Manchester, but pulled out “under pressure” from advisers.
Coming only a week after the emergency primates’ meeting over homosexuality at Lambeth Palace, and a week before the consecration of the Bishop-elect Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, the conference was always certain to be controversial.
Liberals are furious that Dr Williams, whom they regarded as their champion, opposes the consecration because it threatens to tear the Church apart. Some are talking of civil disobedience.
Bishop-elect Robinson, who is due to speak at the event today via a satellite link from America, is expected to confirm that the ceremony will go ahead on Nov 2.
The Rev Richard Kirker, the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said Dr Williams had undermined his credibility with homosexuals by reversing his decision over attending this weekend’s conference.
“He was put under pressure, there is no doubt about that,” said Mr Kirker.
“It is unfortunate that he could not set an example by honouring the commitment of the Lambeth Conference.”
Lambeth Palace disputed Mr Kirker’s account, saying that it was far from clear that Dr Williams had ever made a firm commitment to attend.
The Rev Jonathan Jennings, the Archbishop’s spokesman, also expressed “puzzlement” at reports that Dr Williams is to be given sweeping powers over the worldwide Church, making him an “Anglican pope”.
“No structure modelled on papal authority will ever work in the Anglican Communion,” said Mr Jennings.