Rowan Williams, the head of the Church
of England, warned liberal churches considering the ordination of gay
clergy and authorizing gay unions of being isolated from the
mainstream Anglican Communion.
Earlier this month at their General
Convention in Anaheim, California, the Episcopal Church – the
Anglican Church in America – voted to give dioceses the option to
consider the ordination of gay clergy and bless gay unions,
especially in states where gay unions are legally recognized.
In his opening remarks to the
convention, Williams warned: “I hope and pray that there won't be
decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart.”
On Monday, he reiterated his feelings,
saying that the church's decision to include gay men and lesbians in
such roles was unlikely to “repair the broken bridges in the life
of the other Anglican provinces” and that “very serious anxieties
had already been expressed” among Anglicans.
Williams said the answer might be a
two-tier church where Episcopal dioceses who do not repudiate the
gay resolutions would be relegated to a lesser unofficial role.
“It 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 but plainly as what they are – two styles of being
Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but
which would not exclude cooperation in mission and service of the
kind now shared in the communion,” Williams said.
As the head of the Church of England,
Williams serves as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion but
does not have the authority to impose his will, yet remains one of
the most influential voices among the world's 80 million Anglican
In a statement, Rev. Susan Russell,
president of the pro-gay Episcopal group Integrity
USA, responded to Williams' warning of being cast aside. “And
as we continue to move forward in mission and ministry with those who
embrace historic Anglican comprehensiveness, we believe those 'outer
darkness' threats are going to ring more and more hollow until they
fade away altogether.”
The Los Angeles-based ministry is
expected to be the next diocese to consider a gay or lesbian
candidate for clergy later this year. Leaders have also expressed
loud opposition to California's gay marriage ban passed by voters
The Episcopal Church first opened the
row with its decision to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Rev.
Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003. Robinson, 61, lives in
Weare, New Hampshire with his husband. The church retreated a bit by
imposing a moratorium on the ordination of gay clergy, which has now
been effectively lifted.
Several mostly African churches have
broken off over the issue. And while few U.S. dioceses have joined
in the defection, their protests have grown increasingly louder over