No easy solution to Anglican split, says Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, last night said there would be "no painless solution" to the deepening row over homosexuality in the Anglican church.

Dr Williams was speaking at the end of a week-long Primates' conference in Northern Ireland, during which the American and Canadian branches of the Anglican church were asked to temporarily withdraw from one of its leading bodies, the Anglican Consultative Council, until the next Lambeth Conference, due in 2008.

Dr Williams, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, insisted the Church was not splitting over the issue, but acknowledged any resolution would have to involve one side in the bitter dispute backing down. "I haven't had cause to revise my idea that there is no painless solution, I just think human life isn't like that," he said. "Any lasting solution, I think, will require people to say, somewhere along the line, yes, they were wrong, wrong about something, what, I don't know."

The split in the Anglican church this week followed the decision by the Episcopal Church in the United States last year to ordain Gene Robinson, a practising homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and the Anglican Church of Canada's move to authorise same-sex blessings, both of which enraged traditionalists, particularly in Africa, who have demanded the Americans repent.

But the the expulsion of American and Canadian Anglicans is expected to create deeper divisions in the Church, already in crisis over the question of the degree to which homosexuality should be accepted.

Traditionalists, led by leaders of the church in Africa, were reported to have been in victorious mood. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola is understood to have held a celebration dinner after the decision was announced late on Thursday. "People harvest what they have sown," said Peter Karanja of the Anglican church in Kenya who saw the decision as moving Anglicans towards a split.

In the liberal camp, American Bishop Steve Charleston said the North Americans were unlikely to change their position. "I think Gene is something of a champion of human rights, he said.

"Like people of colour before him, they got tired of sitting at the back of the bus and it was time to stand up and say 'Here I am, I am an honest decent human being and you must treat me with respect.' That is essentially what Gene is doing and I honour him for it."

Leading article, page 36

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