While the recent Anglican meeting that ended Tuesday did not produce any ultimate solutions to the problems wracking the global church body, Anglicans came out of the gathering with a sense of hope that they will remain unified.
"We believe that whatever has happened in the course of our decisions, from this point forward God has a perfect plan for his Church to remain the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church," said delegates from the Global South in a statement. "Our hope for the future is based on the fact that God has raised Jesus to be Lord and Christ and given Him as the head of the Church and commissioned us to proclaim Him as Lord and Savior to all peoples."
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams says the 12-day Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, deepened their sense of obligation to one another as it revealed the participants' willingness to act as one body.
"[W]e have not in this meeting given evidence of any belief that we have no future together," Williams said Monday. "The question is of course what that future will look like."
The 77 million-member Anglican Communion has been threatened with a split over differences on scriptural authority and particularly homosexuality. Rifts were widened in 2003 when The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – consecrated the first openly gay bishop.
Williams, considered the Anglican spiritual leader, noted this week that many in the communion believe the credibility of Christianity is at stake.
Some say that "Christian credibility is shattered by the sense of rejection and scapegoating which they experience, and that includes a great many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ," Williams outlined. "The cost they feel is often they cannot commend the Christianity that they long to believe in because they feel that they are bound up in a system and a community where scapegoating and rejection are very deeply ingrained."
On the other side of the debate are those who argue that the "the decisions that others have made in other parts of the world have put them in a position where they cannot commend the Christianity they long to share with their neighbors with any ease or confidence because they feel that fellow Christians have somehow undermined their witness," Williams continued.
The big challenge, he said, is bringing those two sides together "to recognize the cost that the other bears" and also to "recognize the deep seriousness about Jesus and his Gospel that they share."
That may not be the once-and-for-all solution, Williams acknowledged, but they must deal with the problems "in a Christian way."
Williams did not rule out the possibility of division and the "real possibility" of the Anglican Communion turning into a "federation," which would constitute a more dispersed association.
Still, the Archbishop of Canterbury encouraged Anglicans to engage in "life-giving" exchange rather than one of "fear or competition, rivalry and resentment."
"[W]e ought to behave together as Anglicans as hopefully and respectfully as if we were dealing with other kinds of Christians, because we are nine times out of ten a great deal more polite about other Christians than we are about each other in the Communion these days!" he noted.
During the May 2-12 meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, a decision-making body of bishops, clergy and laity, reaffirmed the moratoria on the consecration of partnered gay bishops and the authorization of public rites blessing same-sex unions. The council also voted to delay the release of the Anglican covenant – a document seeking to uphold the autonomy of the Communion’s 38 provinces while asking for their voluntary commitment to a process of joined-up deliberation to solve disputes over contentious issues – in order to make more revisions.