- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

LONDON — Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has acknowledged that he fears losing control of the Anglican Church in an escalating row over homosexual clergy.

Archbishop Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, is battling to placate factions in a church on the brink of schism.

“Because I am an ordinary sinful human being, I fear the situation slipping out of my control,” Archbishop Williams said in an ITV documentary about Canterbury Cathedral, mother church of the Anglican Communion.

“I fear schism, not because I think it’s the worst thing in the world but because, at this particular juncture, it is going to be bad for us. It’s going to drive people into recrimination and bitterness,” he said in the program that aired yesterday.

The Anglicans, a loose federation of 38 provinces around the globe, has struggled since 2003 to hold together its liberal minority and conservative majority, mostly in Africa, which opposed the naming of openly homosexual V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

U.S. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to head the 2.4-million-member U.S. Episcopal Church, has been under fire from conservatives because of her stand in favor of same-sex unions and support of Bishop Robinson’s consecration.

Archbishop Williams, who is to lead a crucial meeting of Anglican leaders in Tanzania next month where Bishop Jefferts Schori could have a chance to confront her fiercest critics, painted a bleak picture of the church’s future.

“We can’t take it for granted that the Anglican Communion will go on as it always has been,” the primate said.

“There’s no way of moving on without asking the hard questions,” he said, however painful and unsettling.

Archbishop Williams faces a fiery challenge at the Tanzania meeting, where traditionalist African bishops have threatened not to sit at the same table as Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Archbishop Williams has tried to quell a slow-burning schism by proposing a two-tier membership that effectively would exclude the U.S. church for consecrating a homosexual bishop.

He hopes the Anglican Communion could debate the plan for several years before an irrevocable decision is made because schism could create serious financial and property conflicts as factions separate.

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