Archbishop Says 'Sin' of Division Greater than Heresy

Ireland's top Anglican leader has spoken out against the "sin" of division plaguing what he calls the "tortured" Anglican Communion.

Speaking in his address on Sunday for the Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene, the Most Rev. Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said he had come to believe that "division is a greater sin even than heresy" and appealed to fellow Anglicans to remember the call of Apostle Paul for patient forbearance in his letter to the Ephesians, warning that disunity and "open rupture" were a "sign that the full stature of Christ remains absent from the Body."

The Anglican leader referred to comments made earlier this month by Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who warned the General Synod of the Church of England that, "Unless we can make a fresh statement clearly and basically of what holds us together we are destined to grow apart."

"[A] spirit of arrogance on both sides is causing people of genuine faith and undoubted love for the Lord Jesus to bypass the requirement for patience and for making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," Harper added.

The archbishop went on to express his concerns over an Anglican Covenant, which the Church of England reaffirmed its commitment to during the July Synod.

A Covenant Design Group was appointed earlier in the year by the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, on behalf of the leaders of the Anglican Communion to clarify the foundations of Anglican belief, particularly on the homosexuality issue and how member churches and provinces should manage related disputes.

Harper said that unless it were "open and generous and broad" it may simply turn out to be a "further means of obstruction – a boulder, rather than a lever to remove what obscures and impedes our access to the truth that sets us free."

The motion in the Church of England General Synod supporting the development of the Anglican Covenant received the backing of the majority of Synod members, including one of the Church of England's more conservative leaders, the Bishop of Rochester, the Most Rev. Michael Nazir Ali.