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The Archbishop of Canterbury called on Anglicans to put aside their differences ahead of an international church conference in South Africa to address poverty and combat HIV and AIDS. Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Anglicans' spiritual leader, acknowledged there were tensions in the church but said there was a willingness to work toward addressing issues of poverty "as a basic Christian imperative."
"We do have serious disagreements about some areas. But the fact remains, we are all called by the same mission, which is a mission of reconciliation, justice, and caring. It would be a very grim reflection on our life as a Christian community if we focused on our differences without sorting out these other issues," he said.
The Anglican church has been threatened by deep disagreements over homosexuality, the ordaining of gay priests, and the blessing of same-sex unions. Conservative clerics from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have harshly criticized the U.S. Episcopal Church's consecration of the denomination's first openly gay bishop.
Williams will be the keynote speaker at an international Anglican conference that will focus on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which include poverty eradication and combating HIV, AIDS, and malaria.
The conference will bring together representatives from the church across the world and is a follow-up on the first Pan-African Anglican Consultation on HIV and AIDS held in South Africa in August 2001.
This is the first time in 20 years that Williams has been back to South Africa since he visited during the height of the struggle against apartheid and white minority rule in the mid 1980s. "South Africa is a beacon of both challenge and inspiration. I feel privileged to be here," he said. (Celean Jacobson, AP)