A wise social worker who often counseled troubled families once said, "Staying together isn't always the answer. When a situation is truly intolerable and irreconcilable, staying in it can cause damage, psychological or physical, and it's better to get out." Too bad he isn't around to give the same advice to the Anglican Church.

There was scant news media coverage of this summer's Lambeth Conference; not a surprise, as the news media generally were considered personae non grata. However, some newspapers reported that the more than 600 bishops attending the decennial conference were strongly in favor of avoiding a schism over same-sex blessings and the consecration of bishops living in homosexual unions.


The spouses conference at Lambeth was much less contentious than that of the over 600 bishops. (ACNS photo)

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, titular leader of the Anglican Communion, came out in favour of moratoriums on the asking of God's blessing on same-sex couples, the consecration of (known) gay bishops, and the cross-border intervention of provinces of the communion.

No one voted in favor of these measures, proposed by the so-called Windsor Continuation Group, as no votes were taken at this Lambeth Conference. But Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, did express frustration that representatives of the Canadian church were not given the opportunity to present a report on the situation in this country.

"My understanding of a hearing," said Hiltz, "is obviously different from their understanding of a hearing."

A spokesperson for what is now abbreviated as the WCG (yet another Anglican acronym), and an architect of its proposals, is the chic and complicated Victoria Matthews, now Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. She said the group wants the moratorium on same sex blessings to be "retrospective."

"It isn't just from here on there will be no new ones," she told the Anglican Journal. She didn't explain how one unblesses people.

Our Bishop Michael Ingham-and other Canadian bishops-called the idea of a "retrospective moratorium" punitive, unfair or a step backwards. Bishop Michael was elegantly angry, declaring the WCG demonstrated "rigidity and a lack of wisdom."

The WCG also advanced the concept of an "Anglican Covenant" and an "Anglican Faith and Order Commission," something sounding ominously like the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; which, in Globe and Mail reporter Michael Valpy's words, "almost certainly would impose limitations on homosexual inclusiveness."

Where did this WCG come from, you ask? It was established just last February by Archbishop Williams to "address outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report"-with the implied assumption that the Windsor Report is now Anglican doctrine and must be implemented. Responses from this corner of the communion were, at best, skeptical.

The Rev. Neil Fernyhough of St. Hilda's, Sechelt, who went to observe the Lambeth Conference, wryly noted "there's no uniform opinion with regard to the Windsor Report...but it's already being accepted as the 39 Articles."

Even Bishop James Cowan of British Columbia, whose vote at last year's Canadian General Synod showed he's more of a "go slow" prelate when it comes to same sex-blessings, doubted that measures now being proposed by WCG to "minister" to churches that have left their dioceses "will have any more sway" than other groups created by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

One has sympathy for the current Archbishop of Canterbury: well-intentioned, gentlemanly, scholarly to the point of obscurity, and clearly someone who does not want the global Anglican Communion to fold on his watch. A fine writer, an accommodating leader, and an admirable man in many ways, but sometimes one wishes for the soldierly toughness of one of his predecessors, Robert Runcie.

The most felicitous words spoken at Lambeth were those of Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth. He recognized that, too often, religious groups have shown conflict "between faiths, and sometimes within faiths."

But, he continued, "The Anglican Communion has held together quite different strands of Christian theology and practice more graciously and successfully than any other religion I know."

One hopes this may continue. And yet, one knows the history of the Christian church is full of divisions, reaching back to the animosity between Saints Peter and Paul. Many schisms, separations, dissolutions, new "reformed" churches.

That may happen again, over this issue, but if so, let it happen. As Archbishop David Somerville said of the ordination of women to the priesthood, "If this is what God wants us to do, we must do it." And the same can be said of this current brouhaha over the blessing of same-sex unions.

My feeling is, if there are parishes and dioceses that cannot accept the full inclusiveness of diverse sexualities, let them go. Staying together is not the most important thing about religious life.