- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

NEWRY, Northern Ireland — The rift over homosexuality that threatens to split the 77 million-member Anglican Communion cannot be resolved without someone admitting he’s wrong, the church’s spiritual leader warned yesterday — a day after leaders asked the U.S. and Canadian churches to withdraw temporarily from a key council.

The election of a homosexual bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada have opened a potentially unbridgeable division between Anglican liberals in North America and conservatives, who are strongest in Africa and Asia.

“We still face the possibility of division, of course we do,” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said after a crisis meeting of 35 leaders of Anglican national churches. “That’s not going to go away. Any lasting solution, I think, will require people to say somewhere along the line, ‘Yes, we were wrong.’”

On Thursday, Anglican leaders meeting near Belfast asked the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council for three years — a move some fear could be the first step toward a permanent split in the communion.

The withdrawal request was welcomed in Nigeria, which has the second-largest Anglican community after Britain.

“Asking them to quit is the right decision. And they should stay out if they won’t change their ways,” said Chika Ezenwe, a 44-year-old Anglican businessman in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

An overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s 17.5 million Anglicans back the strong condemnation of homosexual priests and same-sex “marriage” by their Primate Peter Akinola.

Some conservative Anglicans also hailed the bishops’ statement as a victory.

“The clarity with which the primates have spoken is breathtaking,” said Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, a leader of the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church.

“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.”

Andrew Hutchison, the Anglican Archbishop of Canada, said there had been a great deal of warmth and support at the meeting — although he confirmed that some of the primates had refused to participate in communion services with the North Americans during the five-day meeting.

In their statement, the bishops called on the U.S. and Canadian churches to “voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference,” an international Anglican gathering of bishops, priests and lay people, due to be held in 2008.

The two churches also were invited to explain to the council in June the theological reasoning behind the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the decision by one Canadian diocese to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions.

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