Archbishop Calls for 'Common Convictions' as Episcopalians Meet

The Anglican Communion ''cannot survive'' without ''common convictions'' on life and decisions, the Archbishop of Canterbury said Tuesday, as the U.S. Episcopal Church began a weeklong general convention clouded in controversy over the role of homosexuals in the church.

“As all those involved will be acutely aware, this General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide,” Archbishop Rowan Williams said in a message delivered by his representative Archbishop John Sentamu.

The triennial General Convention opened yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, with the Windsor Report recommendations to halt gay ordinations and blessing of same-sex individuals looming heavy over the delegates.

If the Episcopalians, who elected an openly gay bishop at their last General Convention in 2003, ignore the recommendations this week, they will likely be excommunicated from the mostly conservative Communion already on the brink of falling apart.

“Whether it will end up being two camps that still sit in the same tent, or whether they will finally decide to walk in different paths, I don’t know,” David Steinmetz, a Duke University expert in Christian history, told The Associated Press. “Nobody knows at this moment.”

As the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Williams also faces a tough choice in the way he addresses the Episcopal Church. In the past, the liberal archbishop has been accused of favoring the U.S. church because of his refusal to openly criticize or rebuke its leaders.

His words to this year’s General Convention also came gently, as he assured delegates of his “loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican Communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully.”

Williams also called on delegates to agree to the recommendations in the Windsor Report for the sake of the communion’s future.

“We cannot survive as a Communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ,” he said.

“Windsor is not the end of the story, but it sets out a positive picture of what that might imply as together we strive to serve the mission of God.”

The first business meeting for the General Convention opened discussions on the Windsor Report, the Anglican Communion’s Listening Process, and the Anglican Consultative Council. A public hearing on “the expression of regret, election of bishops, public rites of blessing same-gender unions, and pastoral care” will take place Wednesday evening.