A written constitution, new powers for the archbishop of Canterbury, a looser federation of national churches--these ideas reportedly are among proposals being considered by a commission that is seeking a way to hold the Anglican Communion together.
There's no obvious formula for reconciliation among the world's 77 million Anglicans and Episcopalians. Some support the elevation of V. Gene Robinson, a gay man living with a partner, as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism. Many more regard this, and the ordination of other openly gay clergy, to be a repudiation of the Bible and Anglican tradition.
Anglicanism's split could worsen June 2 if the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod approves a proposed bill authorizing all bishops and dioceses to sanction blessings of "committed same-sex unions" if they wish. The decision of one Canadian diocese, New Westminster in Vancouver, to approve blessing rituals for same-sex couples has already provoked condemnation elsewhere in the communion.
This fundamental dispute over sexual morality and biblical tradition has stretched Anglicanism's customary tolerance for diversity to the breaking point.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglicans' spiritual leader, held an emergency summit with the heads of the 38 self-governing national branches last year. He then appointed Ireland's archbishop, Robin Eames, to head the 17-member Lambeth Commission that is seeking a solution.
With Canada partly in mind, Eames recently appealed to the irreconcilables on both sides of the church debate to avoid precipitate action and instead wait for commission to complete its work. The panel, which meets June 13-17 near Hendersonville, N.C., and again in September, is scheduled to finish its report in October.
At a news conference during Ireland's synod this month, Eames was asked about the possibility of a written constitution. "The question is, Do you write rules and, having written these rules, then try to get agreement from those who do not want to be bound by rules? If that is done, then it will be the first time we have done it," Eames said, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
A constitution, Eames added, would probably not sit well with those who want the 38 national branches to have looser ties.