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Anglican Schism Feared

October 26, 2002|Religion News Service

TORONTO — Whether from the blessing of homosexual marriages by liberal bishops in Canada and the United States, or plans by conservative adherents in Australia to allow laypeople to preside at Holy Communion, the worldwide Anglican Church is in danger of splitting into two camps, warns the archbishop of Canterbury.

"If people act precipitously, then the danger of there being a real split, which I've been resisting all my ministry, will happen," Archbishop George Carey said. In Toronto to accept an honorary doctorate, Carey, 67, reaffirmed his opposition to the unilateral decision by a Greater Vancouver diocese to bless same-sex marriages.

But Carey, who is stepping down later this month as titular head of the world's Anglicans, said he is not anti-gay and conceded that the church has been unfair to homosexuals.

"I feel very saddened, because I come across very often to homosexuals as very hard and doctrinaire, when I do understand their predicament," Carey said. "I think the church has not behaved very fairly in the past to homosexuals and has misunderstood them. So we do need to find ways in which they are strongly affirmed as members of the body of Christ.

"On the other side, [homosexuals] need to understand that people such as myself are keeping strongly to theological principles, [but] that we're not against them as a people. I'm not homophobic at all, but it may seem that. What we need to do is explore together and keep in step with one another, but not [take] precipitous actions that will endanger and deepen splits within the church.

The recent unilateral move by evangelical Anglicans in Sydney, Australia, to allow laypeople to preside over Holy Communion is as threatening to church unity as gay activism, he said.

"The issue is not sexuality; it's how we handle disagreement. I believe the issue of lay presidency is as major a problem as the issue of sexuality," he said, "because it undermines the whole concept of faith and order."

A schism can be avoided "by Christian charity and sensitivity to one another. Because we're all facing the same issues and challenges, it's imperative that we maintain a healthy dialogue."

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