Archbishop Rowan Williams strives to preserve the communion
By JOHN WILKINS
On Sept. 3 Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams came back from study leave to face the music. The primate of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion does not want to go down in history as the archbishop who presided over the disintegration of that communion. So far, against the odds, he has held together this worldwide grouping of 38 self-governing provinces counting more than 70 million Christians. He has sought to make space for all contending parties to be heard: notably the “inclusive” liberals led by the American Anglicans of the Episcopal church, who in 2003 ordained as bishop a divorced man, Gene Robinson, now living with a gay partner, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the conservative evangelicals, especially those of the “Global South” -- the expanding Anglican churches of the Third World, above all in Africa -- who have accused the North Americans of “following another religion.” A crunch is approaching at the end of September, when the Episcopal church has been asked to declare that it will no longer bring forward candidates for the episcopate who are living in same-sex unions, and that no bishop will authorize same-sex blessings.
Virtually no one thinks the church will comply. Even Williams, who will address the House of Bishops of the Episcopal church later this month when it meets in New Orleans to decide its position, and who will then find it harder to avert open schism. the rest