The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has urged Anglicans not to give up on the Anglican Communion as it gears up for a week of intensive discussion on divisive issues including human sexuality and a document on unity.
"What I hope will have emerged from this week is a sense that it is worth working and staying together, that relationships confirmed and deepened during this week will have made people see that the unity and cooperation of the Communion is not a small thing and its loss is not to be taken lightly," Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, told reporters at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference on Friday.
He responded to an address earlier in the Conference by the Roman Catholic Church's top official on evangelization, Cardinal Ivan Dias, who likened letting go of apostolic traditions to suffering from "spiritual Alzheimer's."
Williams said the Cardinal's comments were a "timely" reminder that the Church cannot do without the past.
"Our past is not an embarrassment we have to put behind us. It is a resource out of which we grow."
The Archbishop also revealed that some of the ecumenical partners present at Lambeth, including representatives of The Salvation Army and the Roman Catholic Church, had come forward to reassure him that they were grappling with the same issues as the Anglican Communion.
"Your issues, they say, are everyone's issues," the Archbishop said of the partners. "It has been helpful and encouraging for some of us to hear."
The Anglican Communion has been wracked with division, particularly since the 2003 consecration of the openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Friday marked the end of the first week of official business at Lambeth, which is being held at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Williams said that a reflection group would work over the weekend to process feedback from the "indaba" groups – based on a Zulu term meaning purposeful discussion.
Williams said that the reflection group would present its findings on Monday before the indaba groups tackle the "sensitive" issues of human sexuality and the draft Anglican Covenant.