The church should value tolerance over its own unity

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Robin Eames may see his commission's report into the Church's stance on homosexuality as part of the Anglican Communion's "pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation", but it is unlikely that the two opposing sides in this ill-tempered dispute will share that optimism. And it is unlikely that yesterday's report will prevent hostilities flaring up again, since it fails to address the fundamental issues behind this crisis of Anglicanism.

It is true that the Archbishop of Armagh, who was directed to chair the Lambeth Commission in response to the furore surrounding the election of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, has produced vigorous criticisms of both sides. The American bishops who oversaw the consecration of Mr Robinson are told to apologise for breaching accepted Anglican doctrine and asked to consider whether they should retain their representative roles within the Church. The African bishops who publicly denounced Bishop Robinson's appointment are taken to task for interfering in the affairs of other dioceses and criticised for their attempts to "demonise" homosexuality. Such ill-treatment of minorities is rightly deemed contrary to "Christian charity and the basic principles of pastoral care".

But the report ducks the crucial questions: namely whether the Anglican establishment should re-evaluate its attitude to homosexual clergy, and whether separate churches ought to be allowed to decide for themselves whom they ordain. It weakly calls for all churches to sign a new "Anglican covenant" governing the issue, but does not specify what ought to be in it. That, we are told, will require another lengthy consultation process. The report adds up to little more than a hand-wringing plea for unity.

By all accounts, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, holds enlightened views about the position of homosexuals within the Communion. By neglecting to use his position as head of the Anglican Church to project these views, he has failed to provide the leadership that the world's 77 million Anglicans expect of him. If Dr Williams continues to value the unity of his church more than the principle of toleration, he will jeopardise his claim to be a voice of moral authority in modern Britain.

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