Anglican Head: No Ultimatum for Episcopal Church

If the Anglican Communion resolves its differences enough to avoid schism, "it will have done something for the entire Christian community," the top leader of the Anglican Communion told reporters on Friday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, who leads the worldwide church body as "first among equals," has been engaged in key talks in New Orleans with U.S. Episcopal bishops since Thursday, addressing in particular divisions over homosexuality.

"The need we have for each other is very deep, it came across yesterday in much of the discussion in our first session," he said at Friday's news conference, according to the Episcopal News Service.

"Many bishops spoke of their awareness of the need for Christian community elsewhere in the world …, [of] the need to understand something not just about the experience of poverty and privation in those areas but also of young churches, finding their way in mission," the Anglican leader said.

During the press conference, Williams also made clear that the communiqué issued earlier this year was not an ultimatum. Primates, or Anglican leaders, meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in February had asked The Episcopal Church to respond to their request that they put a stop to ordaining homosexual bishops and blessing same-sex marriages by Sept. 30. Controversy had heightened within the 77 million-member communion when The Episcopal Church, the U.S. arm of Anglicanism, consecrated its first openly gay bishop – V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire – in 2003.

"Despite what has been claimed, there is no ultimatum involved," Williams said in a statement.

"The primates asked for a response by September 30 simply because we were aware that this was the meeting of the House likely to be formulating such a response," he said, referring to the semi-annual gathering of the Episcopal House of Bishops being held Sept. 20-25 in New Orleans. "The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the Bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week."

The communiqué is "a place to start", Williams continued. "Some primates would give a more robust interpretation of the demands, some less. It has been presented as a set of demands and indeed intrusions and impositions; I don't think that's what the primates had in mind and that means we are inevitably in the business of compromise. What is brought before us will be scrutinized, thought about, reflected, digested."

He added: "I hope these days will result in a constructive and fresh way forward for all of us."

A formal response to the Dar es Salaam communiqué is now expected to be made by February.

During his U.S. visit, Williams also made several pastoral visits to areas of New Orleans still recovering from 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

At a Thursday night service, the archbishop preached about "gratitude" and encouraged listeners to re-build New Orleans into a God-fearing city.

"In the work that is done for the reconstruction of this city's life, for the renewal and restoration and recentering in God for the life of these people of this great city, let's pray that gratitude will be a part of it," he said.

While the House of Bishops' semi-annual gathering concludes this coming Tuesday, meetings with the Anglican head reportedly concluded Friday morning.