Worldwide Anglican Meeting Brings Spotlight Back to Tensions in Communion

With delegates from across the Anglican Communion gathering in Egypt this week, analysts are expecting conservative opposition to liberal trends developing throughout the western provinces of the Communion to come out stronger than ever before.

|TOP|The 77-million strong Anglican Church has faced the threat of a split since the U.S. Episcopal Church ordained gay Gene Robinson and Canadian Anglicans began blessing same-sex marriages.

The developments have been met with hostility mainly from southern hemisphere churches in Africa, particularly Nigeria, as well as parts of Latin America.

The traditionalist clerics, mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America, however, assured that the homosexual debate and a possible split from the more liberal Western churches would not overshadow the meeting in Alexandria, near the Red Sea, reports Reuters.

“It’s a big challenge – how, with all the differences we have, we can continue to become one,” said Rev. Mouneer Anis, bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Rev. Anis gave the assurance that, although the issue of unity will be discussed at one of the sessions during the gathering, "We are not going to allow this issue to kidnap the most important discussion of the Global South (of) how we can be strengthened as churches."

In an effort to avoid fuelling divisions, liberals were not invited to attend the meeting, although the liberal Archbishop of Canterbury will give an address at the Friday meeting, in what appears to be a deliberate move to calm dissent led by the outspoken Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.

“The establishment is desperate to keep together the communion,” said George Curry, chairman of the Church Society, a conservative lay and clergy Anglican group. “But the liberals are unwilling to revisit or invalidate the movements that the conservatives find intolerable. This tolerance has been stretched to the breaking point.”

|QUOTE|The conservative dominated meeting has caused concern among analysts who fear it will do nothing to dissipate the homosexual debate.

“The greater danger is that all these people will agree with each other, which doesn’t take us any further to a resolution of the international disagreement,” said Paul Handley, editor Church Times.

“If they decide to create some sort of Global South structure in some way parallel or in opposition to the existing Anglican structure then that would be a worrying move,” he said.

Williams, lacking the extensive powers of the Vatican over the Catholic church, has attempted to exert pressure on the African churches to maintain unity.

“He has used this pressure on the Americans with some degree of success, and he has made exactly the same point the other way round to the Africans. The argument in both cases is that if you push this too hard there will be no Anglican community for you to belong to,” said religious commentator Clifford Longley.

Longley said the southern churches may be talking tough to bargain for more concessions from Western churches.

“Whether there is a deal to be done remains to be seen, and if there isn’t then obviously the Anglican Church will splinter,” he added.