Divisions Lead Up to Key Anglican Meeting

Weeks away from the Anglican Primates meeting, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams intends to send out invitations to representatives of the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church.

Williams has already extended the invitation to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to attend the February gathering in Tanzania and said he intends to invite two or three others from the United States, according to communications director Suzanne Gill of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The separate invitations come out of deep divisions in the American church over homosexual issues that erupted in 2003 with the consecration of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Several conservative parishes have since split from the U.S. Anglican body, including two of the largest and most prominent Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Virginia in December 2006.

As heads of the 38 Anglican provinces are scheduled to meet mid-February, some Anglican leaders had expressed that they would not be able to recognize Jefferts Schori, who supports homosexual ordination and marriage, as a Primate and as a representative of the Episcopal Church.

Some conservative leaders from the Global South Primates had proposed for another bishop to be present at the upcoming meeting in a September 2006 communiqué.

The recent investiture of Jefferts Schori also stirred conservative U.S. congregations to reject her oversight and seek a new overseer from the Anglican Communion. Responses to parishes and diocese seeking alternative oversight were addressed in a meeting at Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center last week.

A group of Episcopal Church bishops convened at Camp Allen to continue discussion on the church's relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion's provinces.

"We are approaching a critical junction in the life of our church and the life of our Communion," said Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Forth Worth, quoting Texas Bishop Don Wimberly. "Our discussions are both timely and of extraordinary importance."

No public statements were made at the conclusion of the Camp Allen conference leading up to the Primates gathering where provincial leaders will discuss whether they can resolve their differences.