LONDON—Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is being targeted from all sides in a fight to have the ordination of known homosexuals accepted at this year's Lambeth Conference.
The Conference, held every ten years, gathers some 750 Anglican Church leaders from around the world. In an apparent battle between western liberal bishops and their ‘southern’ more evangelical counterparts, details of a tense correspondence between Archbishop Carey and Newark, N.J.'s Bishop Jack Spong have appeared in the English press.
Bishop Spong claims to have the backing of 73 Episcopalian bishops who want the 1998 Lambeth Conference to accept the ordination of actively homosexual ministers. Archbishop Carey said Bishop Spong's initial call for the issue to be debated at the Conference, was “hectoring and intemperate.”
The response from Bishop Spong, quoted in the Sunday Times March 8, is reported to have set the tone for future exchanges. He wrote to Archbishop Carey: “Your quite critical response to my initial statement was an emotional and angry one; not the response of one who is willing to listen and to be in dialogue.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, apart from his own biblical views, must try to keep peace between the increasingly bold liberals and the majority of Episcopalian bishops worldwide, from Africa, Asia, and South America. When the so-called ‘bishops of the south’ met in Kuala Lumpur last year, their declaration on human sexuality included the paragraph: “We are deeply concerned that the setting aside of biblical teaching in such actions as the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions calls into question the authority of the Holy Scriptures. This is totally unacceptable to us.”
It is expected that Archbishop Carey will attempt to establish a commission to study the question of the ordination of homosexuals in an effort to avoid a complete split at the Lambeth Conference.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Episcopalian Church in Scotland, Bishop Richard Holloway of Edinburgh, joined the fray in early March. In response to the concerns of the “bishops of the south” he was quoted as saying, “I do not think the conservatives will win. I am irritated by the tone of some of these statements. This is fundamentalist language and part of something you get in authoritarian societies. These bishops will have to learn to live in a multicultural communion.”
Members of the Church of England who opposed the ordination of women to the Anglican ministry four years ago predicted at the time that liberal elements would go on to campaign for Church recognition of homosexual vicars and same-sex ‘marriages.’