The issue of homosexuality and its place in the churches of the Anglican Communion has created a good deal of turmoil in recent months, especially following the decision made last June by the diocese of New Westminster (British Columbia) to allow blessings of homosexual partnerships.
But there might still be more problems to come in 2003. The Australian newspaper The Age (Jan. 4) reports that “influential opponents” of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, plan to bring up to 150 English parishes under the spiritual leadership of the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen.
Two conservative groups, Reform and Church Society, have been upset by the choice of the new Archbishop whom they consider as representing the liberal wing; moreover, Williams admitted he had ordained a practicing gay man. In a news release from the Church Society (http://www.churchsociety.org/press.html) dated Oct. 3, 2002, following “a candid exchange” between Williams and representatives of the group, it was made clear that Archbishop had an understanding of different issues “which evangelical Christians cannot accept” and urged him not to take the post — otherwise “his unscriptural views would compel conservative evangelicals to repudiate his oversight as Archbishop.”
A few days later, the society called him “to change or go.” Regarding Reform, in a press release dated Dec. 2, 2002, it called Williams “a false teacher” according to Biblical standards (http://www.reform.org.uk/).
Since Williams didn’t go, Reform and the Church Society are now attempting to find ways which would allow parishes to remain members of the Anglican Communion while coming under the oversight of a non-liberal bishop. The system of “flying bishops,” previously introduced for those parishes in the British Isles who didn’t accept female ordinations, set a precedent for such attempts to seek pastoral oversight on a non territorial basis. However, while Jensen expressed sympathy for members of Reform and Church Society, he considers it as another matter to become involved in Church of England affairs, but doesn’t rule out the possibility.
If Archbishop Jensen accepts the oversight of English congregations, “it could take the Anglican Church a significant step closer to self-destruction”, comments The Age. The Australian daily assumes that, being aware of this fact, Jensen might follow a conciliatory solution. But deep divisions within the Anglican Communion will make it increasingly difficult for it to keep its unity.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer