Anglican Communion leaders, struggling to find consensus before they end a two-day emergency meeting in London, said they hope to preserve their global association of churches despite bitter divisions over the issue of homosexuality. Matthew Davies, a spokesman for the Anglican Communion, said the leaders have reached an agreement, but he declined to provide any details prior to a news conference. Andrew Carey, a spokesman for conservative British evangelicals, said he had been told the agreement was unanimous, but he also declined to provide details.
The 37 church leaders--or primates--were in seclusion for two days of talks at Lambeth Palace, where the 77 million-member communion was formed. The talks began Wednesday and were to end Thursday. "Everybody is saying we believe in communion," Archbishop Peter Carnley, Australia's primate, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "It's very important for the world for the church to be one. The church has a mission to develop networks of reconciliation and human unity. If we can't do that, we're falling down on our mission."
The bishops are under enormous pressure from conservatives to rebuke North Americans who have moved toward accepting same-sex relationships. "I am optimistic that the Anglican Communion will emerge from this stronger," Irish archbishop Robin Eames told reporters during a break in the talks Wednesday. "What I would also like to predict is that there will be much greater honesty than perhaps we have had up to now."
The communion's spiritual leader, Archbishop Rowan Williams, called for the unprecedented gathering last August after the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, ratified the election of its first openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church also acknowledged that some of its bishops allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions. Separately, the Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver, Canada, authorized the ceremonies in its parishes.