Archbishop of Canterbury 'calls for Anglican Church to abandon idea it has global consensus'

The Church has been riven by differences, particularly over gay rights

The Anglican Church should abandon the idea that it has the same views across the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has reportedly proposed.

The Church has been riven by differences in recent years, particularly over gay rights, with US Anglicans recognising same-sex marriages while leading members of the Church in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya have called for the criminalisation of homosexuality. Under Archbishop Justin Welby’s proposal, the different branches of the Anglican Church would remain linked to Canterbury, but without formal ties to each other.

A Lambeth Palace source said the Archbishop felt the disputes meant the Church was “spending vast amounts of time trying to keep people in the boat and never actually rowing it anywhere”.

The Church did not confirm the report about the proposed shake-up, but Archbishop Welby said “a 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together”. He has asked Anglican leaders to attend a meeting in January to discuss the church’s structure.

“I have suggested to all Primates that we need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion and especially as Primates, paying proper attention to developments in the past,” the Archbishop wrote in a letter inviting them to Canterbury.

“The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity.”

The consecration in November 2003 of gay Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire is one factor which has led to divisions.

In July 2008 the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference passed largely without mishap after a boycott by around a quarter of the bishops who objected to the presence of American clergy responsible for the consecration of Bishop Robinson.