The Archbishop of Canterbury’s commission on communion has called for a ceasefire among Anglicans at odds over the issue of same-sex blessings in Canada and the ordination of a gay bishop in the United States, saying it is finding ways of “maintaining the highest degree of communion possible” among members of the Anglican Communion.
“The commission requests all members of the Anglican Communion to refrain from any precipitate action, or legal proceedings, which would further harm ‘the bonds of communion’ in the period whilst it completes its work,” the commission said in a communiqué released after it met for the first time from Feb. 9 to 13. The group, dubbed the Lambeth Commission, was formed last October by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to report on the “nature, extent and consequences of impaired communion,” in the Anglican Communion.
(Based in England, the Anglican Communion is a federation of 38 national or regional churches.)
The 17-member commission said it was “saddened that tensions within the communion, exacerbated by the use of strident language” have escalated in recent months. “In addition, there has been the declaration from significant numbers of Anglican provinces of impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) and the diocese of New Westminster ( Canada).”
Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the only Canadian member of the commission, said the call for a cessation of hostilities was meant for everyone in the communion. “It’s a general statement,” she told the Anglican Journal. “Everybody just back off.”
Archbishop Williams has acknowledged that the commission is faced with “unprecedented difficult challenges.” Speaking at the General Synod of the Church of England, which was held about the same time that the Commission met at St. George’s House in Windsor, he also said, “I remain fully committed to searching for arrangements which will secure a continuing place for all Episcopalians in the life of the Episcopal Church in the United States and I have been involved in working with several parties there towards some sort of shared future and common witness, so far as is possible.”
As the commission met, a group of 13 primates issued a statement saying they supported those opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions in New Westminster and the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Ms. Barnett-Cowan said that during the commission’s meeting there was “a great sense of how important our task is, a sense of burden but also of being upheld in prayer.” The commission also stressed that while the members represent “a broad range of opinion” they were nonetheless “united in their commitment to preserving the unity” of the communion.
The commission will meet twice more before making a final report to Archbishop Williams in September. The next meeting, scheduled in June, will be held in the United States – the locus of the controversy.