.- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head cleric in the Church of England, has responded to the Episcopal Churchâs decision to allow the ordination of homosexual bishops. Saying that a change in Anglican teaching, if necessary, would require broader agreement, he proposed a âtwo-trackâ church structure which recognizes âtwo ways of being Anglican.â
On July 14, the Episcopal Churchâs General Convention voted to approve homosexual bishops. It was seen as a rejection of the Archbishop of Canterburyâs and the Anglican Communionâs call for a moratorium on the practice.
Writing in a July 27 document titled âCommunion, Covenant and our Anglican Future,â Archbishop Williams said the wording of the resolution showed that it did not want to âcut its moorings from other parts of the Anglican family.â The two most controversial resolutions, he said, do not have the âautomatic effectâ of overturning the moratoria on homosexual clergy.
However, he said the resolutions do not suggest the General Convention will ârepair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provincesâ and have led to the expression of âvery serious anxieties.â
He said the issue is not simply about civil liberties, human dignity, or the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences.
âIt is about whether the Church is free to recognize same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage,â he said.
Based on the Christian Churchâs consistent reading of the Bible for two millennia, the archbishop said, an innovation would require âthe most painstaking biblical exegesisâ and âa wide acceptance of the results within the Communion.â
âThis is not our situation in the Communion,â he said, noting that persons living in homosexual unions cannot represent the Anglican Church without âserious incongruity.â
He also counseled Anglicans to recall how a local church decides on a âsensitive and controversial matterâ so as not to be âcompletely trapped in the particularly bitter and unpleasant atmosphere of the debate over sexuality, in which unexamined prejudice is still so much in evidence and accusations of bad faith and bigotry are so readily thrown around.â
Noting past Christian errors, he also warned about the danger of a local church simply becoming âisolated and imprisoned in its own cultural environment.â
He suggested the possibility of a âtwofold ecclesial reality,â with a âcovenantedâ Anglican global body fully sharing a vision of how the Church should be. To this would be joined âin less formal waysâ associated local churches in âvarious kinds of mutual partnership.â
Rather than a âtwo-tierâ system, he suggested, this is a âtwo-track modelâ with two ways of âwitnessing to the Anglican heritage.â
âThe ideal is that both 'tracks' should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency,â he continued.
âIt helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication,â he said, stating that they are âtwo styles of being Anglican.â
âAll of this is to do with becoming the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ,â the Archbishop of Canterburyâs document concluded. He said the present situation should be seen not as âan unhappy sent of tensionsâ but rather âan opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one anotherâ and with God.
The Archbishop of Canterburyâs conciliatory statement contrasts with the response of prominent biblical scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright, who said the Episcopal Churchâs recent decision formalized a âschismâ and marked a âclear breakâ with the Anglican Communion. Bishop Wright also criticized those Episcopalians who have âlong embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.â