Pope Benedict XVI reached out to Anglicans who were disturbed about efforts of some in their religion who wanted to allow gays and women to not only be part of their religion, but able to become members of its clergy. The Pope offered to allow Anglicans to return to Catholicism, maintain some of their religious practices, and even offer an opportunity for Anglican priests to become Catholic priests even though they were married –but never to become a Bishop which, remains the province of single men. Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, expressed displeasure with the Pope for failing to discuss his ideas with leaders of the Anglican Church. He urged Archbishop Rowan Williams to make known the anger of Anglicans concerning the manner in which the Pope made his outreach.
Williams is much calmer and notes his church has weathered other storms and is still around. Anglicans do share many ideas with Catholics although while agreeing on the evil of divorce, they accept laws of the country allowing it. We can assume some Anglicans will become Catholic. Too bad, some Catholic clergy can’t get married and become Anglican priests.
The Church of England has a problem even though they believe the problem stems from attempts to allow gay and lesbians to become members of the clergy. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church, noted: “I think gay clergy in the Church of England are thought of as a problem to be solved or at least lived with rather than a gift from God.” There are reports of a two track model for dealing with gay clergy. Robinson said the Church of England “led the way in the ordination of women,” and now it was time for those who truly believe in a Christian church that opens its arms to all will accept the concept of gay clergy.
Perhaps, there is a two track system in heaven for gays and straights, but so far there is no mention from Christ as to whether this actually exists. If one believes God welcomes all humans, there can not be two or three or multiple tracks.
A last ditch attempt to undermine the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury became apparent with the leak of a letter he wrote eight years ago in which he compared homosexual relationships to marriage. At the recent Lambeth conference which brought together Anglican bishops, Dr. Rowan Williams emerged as a moderate who endeavored to placate both sides on the issue of gay marriage and gay bishops. He came across as a liberal on gay issues who was willing to surrender some rights in order to maintain the unity of the Anglican church.
Release of the letters which were written in 2000 and 2001 were an attempt to undermine his position in the church. He had written: “by the end of the 1980s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognize as homosexual by nature. 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.”
The letters will in no way deal with the fundamental issue the Anglican church is split between liberals who welcome gays and lesbians and conservatives who would rather leave the church than accept such a position.
Conservatives forces in the Anglican church rebelled and are determined to form a new Anglican church that will combat changes being made such as consecration of gays, lesbians, and women as priests in the church. They are upset with the Archbishop of Canterbury who they believe is supporting these attacks on what they consider to be the real Anglican religion. A Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Foca, will be formed in the coming weeks in order to provide a base for those who seek the traditional trappings of the Anglican church. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria decried the “forces of militant secularism and pluralism” as the reason why people are turning away from the Anglican church.
There is much more conservatism among Anglican clergy in Africa, South America and Asia than among those from more economically developed societies. The split is most probably as much stemming from geographical and economic factors as from religion. People in more advanced societies include those from diverse backgrounds and thus are more sensitive to the need for pluralism.