Anglican angst

Is communion possible?

When the U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) decided in November to consecrate an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire, it was a given that splits in the worldwide Anglican Communion would follow, and that they would go deep. Indeed the Ugandan Church has already declared itself out of communion with ECUSA and in communion with dissident Episcopalians who have formed a new network of parishes and dioceses. Most Anglican churches are waiting on the results of the new commission convened by Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, before deciding on their action. The commission, chaired by Ireland’s primate, Robin Eames, begins meeting this month to examine how the Anglican Communion can bridge the chasms that have opened up between and within its member churches over homosexuality. The solution lies either in developing new boundaries of doctrine and discipline-a new venture for the Communion-or in further loosening the bonds among churches. Whatever the commission members decide, their report in September is certain to point to a new shape for the Anglican Church.

Until now the Anglican Communion-a fairly recent historical entity-has had virtually no juridical expression, and certainly no international body of doctrine or common law comparable to those of the Catholic Church. The archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Communion, but nothing more; the Primates’ Meeting (which occurs at least...

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About the Author

Austen Ivereigh is deputy editor of the Tablet of London.