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The Anglican Communion failed at a recent meeting of its hierarchy, known as the Lambeth Conference, to resolve a controversy that has stemmed from the ordination of homosexual clergy and performing of same-sex unions in the church. The disagreement has divided the church into two distinct ideologies, leading further speculation that the 77 million member church may soon split.
Led by Archbishop Rowan Williams, known for his intelligence and liberal theological outlook, the conference sought to define the church’s stance on these divisive issues. While the conference does not hold power to change doctrine, its rulings are the standard for Anglican congregations worldwide.
The acceptance of homosexuality has mostly been favored by Western clergy. It has been bolstered by William’s past assertions, in letters quoted by The Times of London, that homosexuality was not forbidden by the Bible. “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if only it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness,” he said.
Because of their dissatisfaction with the church's stance, many congregations in Africa (where some countries view homosexuality as a criminal act punishable by prison or death) and some more conservative North American and British bishops are considering breaking away from the Anglican Communion. Some even went as far as staging their own conference in Jerusalem in lieu of attending the Lambeth conference.
At the end of the Lambeth Conference, attendees agreed to place a moratorium upon further gay ordinations until they could collectively give the issue more thought. However, the final resolution left unclear the objectives of the Anglican churches and how they will resolve practices regarding homosexuality in the future.
Archbishop Williams gave little indication to reporters what his plans are for the church’s future, other than a desire for it to conform to agreed practices and exercise a higher level of discipline than has been recently exhibited.
“I hope that a little bit more mutual responsibility and accountability, a bit more willingness to walk in step, will make us more like a church,” he said.
In addition, Archbishop Williams said that all Anglicans should work against “the tendency of local churches to get trapped in their local context at the cost of shared spiritual ideals.”