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Americans and Canadians face tough decisions


 ANGLICANS in the United States and Canada are considering their next steps in response to the Primates' communiqué.

The ECUSA House of Bishops meets in two weeks' time in Texas. This will be a crucial meeting. Already on the table is its debate on the moratorium on same-sex blessings and ordinations asked for in the Windsor report.

The Revd Mark Allen McIntosh, Canon Theologian to Bishop Griswold, is to lead a committee charged with producing the response to the ACC meeting in June; but no official decision can be taken on withdrawal until the General Convention meets in June 2006.

Conservatives in the US see the Primates' Meeting as a breakthrough, lending them support in their struggle against the liberal hierarchy. The Bishop of Pittsburgh, the Rt Revd Robert Duncan, Moderator of the newly formed Anglican Communion Network (ACN), was in Newry for the duration of the meeting, and is said to have kept in touch with some of the Primates, though he was officially on holiday.

He said in a statement last Friday: "The clarity with which the Primates have spoken is breathtaking. Individual provinces do have the freedom to act as they see fit under their various constitutions, but the exercise of that freedom beyond agreed teaching and practice will imperil their standing and participation in the Communion.

"Autonomy in communion is defined. Moratoria are called for Communion-wide. The need to turn our global attention to the great social crisis of disease and poverty is reasserted."

Bishop Duncan described the guaranteed provision for the "integrity and legitimate needs of theological minorities" as "an extraordinary and essential development. The ACN, together with the much wider circle of orthodox believers in the US and Canada, now has an international promise and an Anglican Communion provision that should stem the flow of three decades of believers' life blood."

Other US bishops had a predictably mixed response to the communiqué. Withdrawal "does not seem too onerous a price to pay for the preservation of the Communion", said the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd John Chane.

The Bishop of Southwest Florida, the Rt Revd John Lipscomb, said of the coming meeting of ECUSA's House of Bishops: "If we are not able to declare a moratorium, I believe we should voluntarily, for the sake of the health of the Communion, abstain from participation, except as requested by the various constitutional bodies."

The Bishop of New York, the Rt Revd Mark Sisk, expressed surprise and puzzlement at the request for withdrawal, and also at "the Primates' sense of their own responsibilities and authority".

The Bishop of Quincy, the Rt Revd Keith Ackerman, believed it "altogether possible" that not all American bishops would be invited to the next Lambeth Conference.

In Canada, two significant meetings are to take place in the next few weeks. The Primate will be explaining the communiqué at the House of Bishops' meeting in April; and the Council of General Synod will consider the request for withdrawal at its meeting in early May.

There had been no specific request for repentance at the Primates' Meeting, the Ven. Paul Feheley, the Canadian Primate's aide in Newry, said on Tuesday. "My hunch is that we as a Canadian Church have been faithful to what the Windsor report has asked us to do. We have not had a specific request in terms of repentance; we were asked to apologise for 'breaching the bonds of affection', and Bishop Ingham has done that, as has Bishop Griswold. There's a sense here of trying to move forward with the communiqué as it sits, and trying to think positively about it, and how we can work with it to maintain the Anglican Communion."

He acknowledged that it was "beyond comprehension" that people were going to change sides. "There's no magic solution to this, no one set of words we're all struggling for that will make it all work. But each time you take a step back, you allow some more dialogue to take place; you allow some other processes to work."

The Bishop of New Westminster, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham, urged the American and Canadian Churches to resist withdrawal. Reports that the Communion had gone into schism over the issue of homosexuality were seriously wrong, he said. "The ACC constitution made no provision for member Churches to be 'uninvited', and the Archbishop of Canterbury had given no indication of an intention to provoke schism in the Anglican Communion by 'uninviting' bishops to the Lambeth Conference."

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