Conservative Anglicans Unhappy With Rumors Of New Leader
London (CNSNews.com) - Evangelical activists in the Church of England have written to Prime Minister Tony Blair warning of a schism if a liberal bishop is appointed as the next leader of the church.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams is favored by church officials to take over from the current leader of the church, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.
Carey is retiring in October, after overseeing celebrations surrounding the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Both the queen and Blair have a say in the final selection of the new church leader, although they are expected to follow the advice of the bishops.
British media reported earlier this week that Williams was first amongst two names recommended by a special panel of bishops and vicars. The prime minister will now select one of the names and the queen will be asked to approve the candidate.
A group of evangelical leaders in Britain, the United States and other countries has warned against selecting Williams because of his support for the ordination of homosexuals.
The clergymen say that the appointment of Williams would "fly in the face of Holy Scripture" and could lead to a split in the Anglican Church.
"Rowan Williams would not have the confidence of the vast majority of Anglicans in the world, who are now in the third world and who, as loyal Anglicans, take the holy scriptures as their supreme authority," their letter read.
"His appointment would lead to a major split in the Anglican Communion."
One of the signatories to the letter, Richard Bewes, the Rector of All Souls Church in London, said that disputes over homosexual ordination have adversely affected the church in the United States and Canada.
"What we have done is little more than give a warning," he said Friday. "Too often, we follow developments on the other side of the Atlantic. In this case, to be behind is to be ahead."
Bewes said that previous church decisions had firmly set policy in this area.
"Now it seems that for the first time in history, we are about to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury who sits loosely on one of the great foundation principals of society," he said.
In a recent interview with the Australian Anglican publication Southern Cross, Williams admitted ordaining a man that he knew to have had a homosexual encounter in the past. He expressed uncertainty about same-sex marriages, however, saying that "complicated questions would arise" if they were sanctioned by the church.
"I believe there is an integral sexual morality, which the church has rightly taught," he told the paper. "It's only within that framework that I want to discuss the question of active homosexuality as a theological possibility."
Although Williams supports the ordination of homosexuals and women, he is conservative on the subject of abortion and has spoken out against the emergency contraceptive or "morning-after" pill.
The London-based Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said they supported Williams' bid for the Anglican leadership and that the panel choosing the candidates showed a broad range of opinion.
Director Richard Kirker said that Williams is held in high regard by many evangelicals other than those who signed the letter to the prime minister.
"Any candidate who is willing to work for a more inclusive church is welcome," Kirker said. "We hope the prime minister will not be deflected by this letter."
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