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The future of the Anglican Church
The worldwide Anglican communion faces a very real prospect of disintegration, as a result of growing divisions over the ordination of homosexual bishops, recognition of same sex marriages, and adoption of Being Human, a new document by the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England, which critics have said equates unmarried relationships with marriage, and suggests that a "good" divorce is better than a "bad" marriage.
Last June, Archbishop Peter Akinola from Nigeria said he would sever ties with the Diocese of Oxford if Canon Jeffrey John, a gay but celibate priest, was appointed Bishop of Reading. The gravity of the issue arises from the fact that there are more practising Anglicans in Nigeria than in the United Kingdom.
The divisions were averted when Canon John, at the request of Archbishop Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, declined the post. But the issue will not go away.
Since then, the Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA, a member of the Anglican communion, has voted overwhelmingly to appoint an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and is considering a move to recognise same-sex marriages.
As the Anglican Church has defined itself as being faithful to the Scriptures and Tradition, these differences are becoming increasingly difficult to paper over, and represent perhaps the greatest threat to its continued existence since Henry VIII's separation from Rome in 1534.
Although these developments would appear to make the ecumenical endeavour almost impossible, they actually confirm the common ground which continues to exist between the majority of Anglicans (in the developing world), Catholics and the Orthodox. This will be the Church's growth point in the 21st Century.
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 16 No 8 (September 2003), p. 2
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