A document reprimanding the Episcopal Church for its advocacy of gay clergy and leadership has been held up as an attempt to keep the worldwide Anglican communion intact, but observers doubt the report can exert such a unifying force.
The document, called the Windsor Report 2004, was called for by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as a way to prevent schism in the 77 million-member communion as the result of the decision of the Episcopal Church to consecrate an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as the bishop of New Hampshire. Immediately after that event, conservative Anglicans around the world, particularly in the Third World, threatened schism and isolating of the American church for its actions.
The document criticizes both the American denomination (and Canadian Anglicans) for its unilateral actions that failed to consult other Anglican bodies, as well as conservative bishops who have disregarded church boundaries to generate new conservative support networks.
In the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 22), church historian David Steinmetz writes that liberals receive the strongest criticism, even suggesting that they apologize to other Anglicans and sign a covenant agree to ground rules in the communion. But Steinmetz adds that while liberals may regret the divisive consequences of their actions, they are unlikely to apologize, believing that to do so would “be a sin against conscience.”
He doubts that the report will end the “Anglican civil war,” largely because it relies “far too heavily on voluntary compliance with its recommendations. Such compliance works in an atmosphere of mutual trust. But mutual trust is currently in short supply.”