The Archbishop of Canterbury believes that American and Canadian Anglican Churches should cease from ordaining bishops in open same sex relationships or blessing same sex unions.

At a media conference at the close of the Lambeth Conference in England, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams placed the issue clearly before the North American Churches: “If the North American churches don’t accept the need for moratoria, then, to say the least, we are no further forward,” he told the closing press conference.

Said the Archbishop: “The idea of a covenant which includes as many [national Anglican Churches] as possible becomes more fragile and that means as a communion we continue to be in grave peril.”

Bishop Michael Ingham's in response to the Archbishop's remarks said the Diocese of New Westminster will have to "consider deeply" the implications of Lambeth. See the accompanying story.
Canadian Anglican Churches should cease from ordaining bishops in same sex relationships or blessing same sex unions. At a media conference at the close of the Lambeth Conference in England, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams placed the issue clearly before the North American Churches

The Archbishop also called for outside Primates who have claimed jurisdiction in Canada and the US, to withdraw.

He said he had discussions with Primate Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South America), but did not indicate whether Archbishop Venables had agreed to withdraw his claim to in charge of—among other North American churches—four Diocese of New Westminster parishes.

Asked how long a moratorium on same sex ordinations and blessings might last, Archbishop Williams first said it would have to be “a period of gracious restraint.” Pressed further on the issue, he suggested, that a moratoria might last “unless and until a wider consensus emerges” in the Communion.

The Anglican Communion is a collection of 38 national or regional Anglican Churches, formally independent of each other. The recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference are advisory only. However, at the press conference, the Archbishop agreed that if proposals for moratoria and an Anglican Covenant are accepted, the Communion will be moving in the direction of becoming a unitary world-wide Church, rather than its current status as a communion of formally independent Churches.

The Lambeth Conference ended with a service in Canterbury Cathedral after the conference document was released, a summary of what eighteen “indaba” groups with of about 40 bishops each had discussed and agreed upon.

In many areas, the conference document was less definitive than the Archbishop’s statement.  The section on Human Sexuality only listing a wide range of “competing visions of how the Communion should responsibly handle our current situation.”

The range regarding the issues surrounding homosexuality was from “decisive action” (citing Mark 9:47: “If your eye cause offence, pluck it out”) to “keep walking, keep talking, keep listening together.”

And the conference document also stated: "It was also reported that there has been positive effects in parts of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Central America and in other parts of the world when homosexual people are accepted as God’s children, are treated with dignity and choose to give their lives to Christ and to live in the community of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ with fidelity and commitment."

The document was stronger in its call for unity: “Our Communion longs to stay together - but not only as an association of polite friends. It is seeking a deeper entry into the place where Christ stands, to find its unity there.”

Asked at the press conference by a reporter for the theological justification for asking homosexual people to sacrifice the blessing and full participation in the Anglican Church for the same of unity, Archbishop replied that “sacrifice has to be accepted voluntarily. Elsewise it is not sacrifice.”

However the presence of a global fellowship is very important, he added.

Archbishop Rowan insisted the issues of ordination of blessing of gay and lesbian people were not—to the Church—“simply a matter of human rights.”

“That’s an assumption I simply can’t accept,” said Williams. “You hear it from time to time in the secular press. I can’t accept [it] because I think the issue about what conditions the Church lays down for the blessing of unions has to be shaped by its own thinking, it’s own praying.”

“There there’s perfectly serious theological reflection on this issue in some areas. I’m not saying there isn’t. But I don’t want to short circuit that argument by saying it’s just a matter of rights.” “Therefore [I want] to say that the rights and dignities of Gay and Lesbian people, as people in society, is not what we’re disagreeing about, I hope and pray.”

Archbishop Williams said he felt there was wide agreement that an Anglican Covenant should be created, which, he insisted, would not be “punitive” but would entail more “intensive mutual responsibility.”

The conference document however suggested only that “there is a willingness to continue exploring a covenant together.” While “there were many positive responses to the idea,” there was serious concern about some proposals that have been made as to covenant might operate.


The Lambeth Indaba Reflections can be found on the Lambeth Conference website here.

The Anglican Journal's report on the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference can be found here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s concluding presidential address can be found here.

An audio recording of the Archbishop’s concluding press conference can be found here.