By Matt Cresswell
THE ANGLICAN Communion must prepare for “an orderly” separation if differences cannot be healed, claims the Bishop of Winchester (pictured). In a report addressed to his diocese relaying his reflections on the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had three realistic options ahead of him after the next Primates meeting in 2009.
Firstly, Dr Williams will need to judge “whether there is a will for the Anglican Communion to go forward together in our Lord’s service,” claimed the Bishop. Secondly there existed the “terrifyingly difficult decision” of negotiating “an orderly separation”. And finally there is the looming possibility of watching a “more destructive separation take place around him.”
During the Lambeth Conference the Bishop told The Sunday Telegraph that the Archbishop’s plan to maintain unity was unlikely to work. “The Lambeth Conference is required to do something rather than live down to the worst expectations of the bishops who stayed away,” he said. “We need to negotiate a separation in the Communion sooner rather than later, to leave the strongest possibility of remaining in some kind of fellowship.”
Following the Conference, his document this week has confirmed to him the likely option of separation. Ideally the separation would mean one large “orthodox” majority which stayed faithful to the See of Canterbury. The church would then maintain “some defined relationship with a ‘separated’ and more ‘liberal’ Communion of Churches centred on The Episcopal Church.”
He added that much depended on “the Gafcon Primates and the rest of the ‘Global South’ quickly mending the relationships between them that have been put at risk.”
He said it was therefore important for the Gafcon primates, who boycotted Lambeth, to ensure that they attended the forthcoming Primates’ Meeting.
But Fr Geoffrey Kirk, of Forward in Faith, was sceptical of that approach. He said that the idea that the opposing factions in the communion might talk at the next Primates’ Meeting was highly improbable.
“The thing that shocked me most while at Gafcon was just how angry some of the African bishops are,” Fr Kirk said.
He added: “Bishop Scott-Joynt is rapidly moving into a position where he will be regarded as an extremist. The fact is he is an absolute centralist.”
Meanwhile, the Rev Rod Thomas of Reform said: “I would hope there is a growing desire in the Communion for churches to align themselves with the Gafcon statement, so that those who can’t subscribe separate themselves from the Communion.”