Four years ago in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, I watched that supreme diplomat Archbishop Robin Eames trying – not to square the circle exactly – but to dodge around it as he presented the Windsor Report on ways of holding the Anglican Communion together after the election of the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. It was a good try but now, it seems the scales are tipping more and more heavily against him. Later the same day, I attended a riveting debate on homosexuality and the church between the senior US bishop and Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria. Akinola wouldn’t even look at the American; hisi most telling point was that if he moderated his stance in Nigeria, the Muslims would clean up and the church would be doomed. Now, ahead of next month’s Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops,Akinola and 300 other Anglicans meeting in Jerusalem have turned their fire on the Abp of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
The near schism, (or maybe not so near), has spread to the Church of England itself, where the sole Asian-born bishop Nazir-Ali will boycott Lambeth The best review of the Jerusalem gathering I’ve read is by Stephen Bates of the Guardian, who concludes that the gay issue is a common denominator for all sorts of other differences
Sad to say the least, if you regard Anglican toleration and mutual respect for difference as a strength and not a weakness, as I do. I wonder if the rift will seriously spill over into the Church of Ireland and the rest of Irish Protestanism? As we have seen in the Iris Robinson row, the embers are smouldering.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London