In hopes of preventing a total schism in the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has proposed a new group with the power to punish Anglican churches that break rules on ordaining homosexual clergy and blessing same-sex “marriages.” The group, called the Pastoral Forum, will also have the power to discipline traditionalist churches that cross provincial borders to ordain bishops in other provinces.
The Windsor Continuation Group, which was formed to consider questions of Anglican unity, proposed the Pastoral Forum in a document released on Monday.
The document, which characterized itself as a collection of “preliminary observations,” said there has been a “breakdown of trust” within the Anglican Communion, where many fear wider issues are not being addressed. The group charged that “active fear-mongering, deliberate distortion, and demonizing” have been spread through modern technology.
These and other problems in the communion, the document said, has led to a “diminishing sense of communion” that must be addressed by Anglicans recognizing “the Church in one another” and also recovering a common understanding of both the meaning of a global communion and the role of bishops within it.
Prominent clerics in the Anglican Communion have reacted to the group’s document and the proposed Pastoral Forum.
“We believe this will help us pull back, draw breath and take stock,” said Bishop Clive Handford, chair of the Windsor Continuation Group, according to The Telegraph.
The bishop said the forum could respond quickly to problem areas within the Anglican Communion. It will also “offer guidance” on whether disobedient provinces should be punished with “diminishment of standing,” that is, whether the heads of the disobedient churches should be barred from Primates Meetings or the Lambeth Conference.
Under the forum rules, parishes which have defected from their national churches will have special “holding bay” status until they return.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will be the forum president, will decide which bishop will head the forum and which bishops from across the Anglican Communion will be forum members.
Bishop Sergio Carranza, Assistant Bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, responded skeptically to the proposal, saying “If it's something that will punish or discipline then I don't think it will work.
"We don't want to have a tribunal and we don't want to have a group that defines doctrine," he said, according to the Telegraph.