World Anglicans Gather, Brace for Homosexuality Debate

The world’s Anglican leaders on Sunday gathered in Nottingham, England, for a critical 10-day meeting on the unity, future and direction of the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), held every two or three years, has historically served to develop common policies, ecumenical decisions, and co-operative work within the international communion.

The setting for this year’s ACC, however, is marked with unbridled divisions that stem from the U.S. Episcopal Church’s ordination of an active homosexual bishop and the Canadian church’s blessing of same-sex unions.

“We can’t ignore the seriousness of what divides us,” said Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, during his opening remarks at the ACC. “We can't guarantee anything at this point.”

Earlier in the year, the representatives from the two North American denominations were asked to “voluntarily withdraw” from the ACC because of the theological divide. They were also given time to “reflect” on their theology and were urged to apologize for taking actions contrary to historic Anglican teaching on sexuality.

While the two churches agreed to temporarily withdraw their membership from the ACC, they decided to send their representatives as “observers” to the conference. These representatives are scheduled to give a theological justification for their views on homosexuality tomorrow.

The head of the US Episcopal Church, Rev. Frank Griswold, will address why his church felt the openly gay Gene Robinson should become Bishop of New Hampshire. The Canadian leader, Rev Andrew Hutchison, will explain why the New Westminster Diocese authorized same-sex blessings.

Williams said he hopes these reflections and explanations on “the immediate problem” could lead the communion “back to the fundamental question” about living biblically in the modern culture.

“Many issues are involved here, not only the presenting question about homosexuality,” said Williams, the head of the 77-million-member communion. “Perhaps the most difficult is how we make a moral assessment of modern culture in the developed world.

“The question is how far the concern for reaching an understanding with the world about sexual ethics is based on uncritical acceptance of the values of a culture like this.”