The issue in the Anglican Communion right now has nothing to do at all with the place of the Bible, the head archbishop of the denomination said.
The current divide in the 77-million member church body is rather due to "the fact that some people in the church, a minority, especially in the United States, have chosen to read the Bible in a new, very controversial way," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told UK's The Guardian newspaper.
Theological differences, particularly on the issue of homosexuality, have divided the majority of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, which consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003 an action that most Anglican leaders call a departure from Scripture and from Anglican teaching. As the U.S. Anglican wing faces a deadline to clarify their stance on homosexual ordination and blessing same-sex unions, Williams made it clear that the Communion has always stood against the ordination of active homosexuals.
"The stance of the Anglican Communion is clear: It has never said anything other than that. The ordination of active homosexuals is not acceptable," Williams said in the interview. "It has never said anything other than that the marriage of same-sex couples is not to be admitted."
Coming out of a five-day global Primates meeting in Tanzania, the Anglican Communion released a communiqué at the meeting's conclusion last Monday reaffirming the 1998 Lambeth resolution, which states that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture and that the Communion does not advise the blessing of same-sex unions. It also gave the Episcopal Church until Sept. 30 to clarify its stance on the issues, which could determine its continued communion or break from the worldwide body.
Over the past several decades of conversation over homosexuality and especially since the controversial 2003 consecration in the United States, the Anglican Communion has tried to avoid schism and agreed in 2004 on a moratorium on those who consecrate gays or bless homosexual unions. The Tanzania agenda was dominated by the issue with the Episcopal Church as Williams gave the U.S. head Katharine Jefferts Schori and three other U.S. bishops, some conservative, a chance to present their views.
"We have worked very hard to avoid it (schism) this week [in Tanzania] by saying to the America church what the condition might be ... that we can mend the broken relations; and between them and other churches; and I think that the Primates Meeting has come out with a very clear statement that if that relationship is to be restored, there are certain things that we need to hear from them (the American Church)," said Williams.
Since the meeting's conclusion, some Episcopal bishops have indicated that they prefer leaving the Communion over banning homosexuals from ordination and same-sex unions. Jefferts Schori commented on the demand of the Anglican Communion saying, "It's an enormous cost and price that's being asked of us and I don't think we can or should pay that price."
Williams, who said he feared schism even before heading into the Primates meeting, expressed his efforts of encouraging understanding between debating parties in the Communion. "I have tried to help people understand each other in this controversy. I have tried to challenge people to put some of their private views and convictions in the second place to the need to work together. That's what I have tried to do."
Meanwhile, in his travel back to Buenos Aires, Gregory J. Venables, presiding bishop of the Southern Cone of South America, clarified that what the Anglican Communion had presented in its communiqué was not "the answer" but "a way forward."