Today’s Guardian carries yet another piece about the Anglican Communion. This time it is editorial opinion, and is entitled Divine divisions.
The concluding part:
…Lambeth’s gamble is that, faced with the enormity of allowing the next 10 years to be dominated not by ministry but by schism, with all that implies by way of painful, wasteful rows and expensive lawyers, the US conservatives will have to face up to the fact that they cannot sustain themselves apart. With the prospect of meaningful negotiation, the liberals will back off too. At that point the two sides may finally begin to engage with one another, and try seriously to find a common way through their difficulties. If the US church calms down (the Canadians are cited as the model of temperate conduct), there is a chance at least for a world-wide lowering of the temperature. But it could all too easily go the other way. Here, the Church of England is already dangerously divided and open to ideas of parallel jurisdictions. Its traditionalists certainly appear ready to seize the opportunity, in tandem with the African churches and other conservatives, of capturing the heart of Anglicanism. It’s not surprising, then that liberals are already talking of making common cause with the North American churches and warning that division could sever the church from the very top down to the humblest parish.
The best hope for avoiding the schism of which Dr Williams warned lies in redefining the argument. Lambeth would like the rival factions to understand that the row between two fundamentally opposing points of view is superficial. What happens next is not about gay bishops, nor same-sex weddings, nor polygamy. Rather it is about the church’s architecture and the degree of autonomy enjoyed by its constituent parts. Faced with the terrifying idea of first establishing and then policing the doctrinal purity for the core churches implicit in the twin-track approach, the rival factions are being challenged to stop it happening. In the end, though, Dr Williams will have to choose between unity – and bigotry.