- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is increasingly under attack these days from his own bishops.

Several American Episcopal bishops as well as the archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada have — in a rare show of public pique — castigated the English prelate for his handling of the homosexuality issue.

And to date, Archbishop Williams has turned down a request for a meeting with some 140 American bishops, citing a crammed schedule, including an upcoming two-month sabbatical to write a book.

However, yesterday’s London-based Guardian newspaper reported he plans to spend part of the sabbatical in the United States. His spokesman, Jonathan Jennings, refused comment about the sabbatical yesterday but said a meeting was still “under consideration.”

“Hopefully,” he added, “there will be an announcement before the end of the month.”

Archbishop Williams flies to Canada this weekend for a lecture at the University of Toronto on Monday, followed by a one-day retreat Tuesday for the Canadian Anglican House of Bishops.

But as recently as April 3, Canadian Archbishop Andrew Hutchison construed Archbishop Williams’ handling of major theological disputes among the 77-million-member Anglican Communion as “disappointing and lacking.”

Later, he told the Toronto Globe and Mail his remarks had been misconstrued, but added that Archbishop Williams “seems to have produced a lack of clear and decisive leadership” on homosexuality.

Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno was more critical during a March 24 event in his diocese, comparing the head of the Anglican church to Neville Chamberlain, the 1930s British prime minister notorious for his appeasement of Adolf Hitler.

“It’s time for [Archbishop Williams] to stop being Chamberlain and start acting like Churchill,” he said in remarks reported by the Living Church magazine.

In a March 22 blog entry on his diocesan Web site, Northern Michigan Bishop Jim Kelsey described Archbishop Williams as “uncomfortable and defensive” when he met with a few American bishops in South Africa in early March.

“He has a distorted picture of the Episcopal Church,” Bishop Kelsey wrote, “believing that the dissidents in our midst make up 40 percent of the Episcopal Church — a bizarre and wildly inaccurate figure.”

About 10 percent of the 2.2-million-member denomination has refused to accept the 2003 election of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an active homosexual.

In February, the world’s Anglican archbishops, also known as primates, met in Tanzania. They instructed the Episcopal Church that it had until Sept. 30 to collectively promise it will not elect any more homosexual bishops nor authorize same-sex “blessing” ceremonies and announced plans for a “primatial vicar” to oversee Episcopal conservatives.

American bishops rejected the Tanzanian communique at their annual March retreat near Houston, but asked Archbishop Williams for an all-expenses-paid, face-to-face meeting. The Rev. Ephraim Radner, a Colorado theologian who spoke at the retreat, said the bishops there were clearly frustrated by steps taken by the Anglican archbishops and Archbishop Williams to hem them in.

“There was an enormous hostility toward the primates meeting,” he said. “The bishops aren’t stupid. They are intelligent people, bright people. It is astonishing to me they are acting in way that contradicts their intelligence and morals.”

The Rev. Ian Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., also attended the Texas meeting, but said he noticed no animus toward the Canterbury archbishop.

“There was more sense of wholeness and unanimity there than I’d seen in the last five years,” he said. “I can only assume some of that was driven by the fact that perhaps the primates were asking the Episcopal Church to do something that might not be within our capacity to deliver. Putting the Episcopal Church in a bind does build a commonality of position.”

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