“It is whether the Global South Primates have enough voting power at that Primatesâ€™ Meeting to swing the vote their way or whether with the addition of York there, the liberals in the West can still keep the reins of power in their hands”
Discussion between Roger Bolton (BBC Sunday) and Ruth Gledhill (The Times) on BBC Sunday September 24.
Roger Bolton: Regular listeners to Sunday will be well aware of the Anglican Communionâ€™s long drawn out agony over homosexual bishops and biblical authority. Well, this week Primates from Africa, Asia and South America who represent 70 per cent of the worldâ€™s Anglicans said the time has come to form a separate ecclesiastical structure in the United States so that conservative bishops there can remain within the Communion, but not have to accept the oversight of the liberal bishop, Katharine Schori. Does this mean that she and those US liberals who accept her authority will be banned from the 2008 Lambeth Conference which will finally decide the shape of the Communion?
I am now joined by Ruth Gledhill the Times Religion Correspondent. Is this an attempt to get the US liberals out of the Communion?
Ruth Gledhill: Possibly yes. It is certainly an attempt to define Anglicanism according to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, in particular the resolution 1.10 that set out strict biblical norms on the crucial issue here of homosexuality. I think the ultimate agenda is to try and express in the formal structures of the Anglican Communion the fact that, as you said the majority of communicant Anglicans, 70 per cent, are in the Global South provinces that were represented at this meeting at Kigali in Rwanda that produced this communiquÃ©. It is a kind of crisis point now because they have actually formally initiated steps to set up an alternative Anglican structure in the United States.
RB: Does this mean that the liberals may be able to belong to the Communion as sort of associate members but not as full members in the future?
RG: That possibility has obviously been raised of a two tier structure, one of full members and a second tier of associate members. No one seems to be quite certain. I do not think that is quite what is being proposed certainly from the Global South. What they seem to be suggesting is an alternative church structure that would run, say, parallel. One possibility is that both the structures would end up in communion with Canterbury but not with each other. One interesting thing is that they are demanding their own representation at the Primatesâ€™ Meeting. Because, a key part of the communiquÃ© is the refusal to recognise the oversight of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the primate elect of the American Church.
RB: That is essentially because not because she is a woman but because of her beliefs about homosexuality and apparently her willingness to ordain openly homosexual priests.
RG: Thatâ€™s right.
RB: What will this mean then within the Church of England? What about liberals who share the views of Katharine Schori and so on, will they be tempted to say well actually we would rather have her oversight? Will Conservatives within the Church of England say well that actually might be a good thing? It would get rid of this worrisome element?
RG: They of course will not be able to have oversight anyway. They are under the oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think the interesting thing this will mean for the Church of England is where does the church go? Because one of the key parts of the communiquÃ© is its insistence that it is now time to move on the old geographical territorial boundaries of one bishop in one diocese in one church. In the new globalised era of modern communications it is time to have, say, parallel dioceses existing alongside each other. Whether it is actually practically possible within Anglican Tradition is a completely different question. There are many who believe it is not possible and that what we are seeing here is the beginnings of a breakaway church.
RB: Are we not seeing a switch of power within the Communion. The Primates say they are bothered about the expense of going to Canterbury for the 2008 Lambeth Conference. They suggest it could be held in Africa. They have got 70 per cent of the votes. Is it not that the reality from now on?
RG:The key will be at the Primatesâ€™ Meeting at Tanzania in February. There will be an extra primate there because John Sentamu is going for the first time, Archbishop of York, and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be the presiding chairman. It is whether the Global South Primates have enough voting power at that Primatesâ€™ Meeting to swing the vote their way or whether with the addition of York there, the liberals in the West can still keep the reins of power in their hands. That is when this will get really interesting and we will get a very good idea of how it is going.
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