leader of the world's Anglicans said he feels ''great
grief'' that more than 200 bishops are boycotting the
Lambeth Conference, calling it a wound to the
once-a-decade meeting of the Anglican fellowship.
Canterbury Rowan Williams expressed respect for the
decision of church leaders who stayed away, but he said
their absence should not stop participants from trying
to repair fractured relations, according to a paper
released Thursday containing highlights of his private
talk the previous day.
''I don't imagine
that simply building relationships solves our
problems,'' he told bishops at a closed-door prayer retreat
Wednesday. ''But the nature of our calling as
Christians is such that we dare not, and I say very
strongly, dare not pretend that we can meet and discuss
without attention to this quality of relation with each
other even if we disagree.''
Communion is a 77 million-member family of churches that
trace their roots to the Church of England, including the
Episcopal Church in the United States.
fellowship has long held together with different views
of ritual and Scripture. But the communion began splintering
in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its
first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New
quarter of the world's Anglican bishops -- theological
conservatives mainly from Africa -- are not attending the
Lambeth Conference because Williams invited U.S.
church leaders who consecrated Robinson and other
church leaders who accept gay relationships.
Robinson and a
few other clergy have been barred from the assembly, which
runs through August 3. The 650 or so church leaders who are
participating are a mix of traditionalists, liberals
and others with conflicting ideas on what Anglicans
designed a conference program with no votes or resolutions.
Instead, the bishops will engage in Bible study and small
group discussions on issues ranging from evangelism to
the structure of the communion. Williams said the
gathering has been set up so ''every voice can be
heard.'' The first public event, opening worship, is set for
''It's a great
grief that many of our brothers and sisters in the
communion have not felt able to be with us for these weeks,
a grief because we need their voice and they need ours
in learning Christ together,'' Williams said at the
bishops gathered privately in Canterbury Cathedral, where
Williams gave sermons on the role of bishops as viewed
through the Gospel.
Details of those
talks were not released. But Bishop Geralyn Wolf of
Rhode Island said the archbishop of Canterbury spoke about
how bishops must ''call everyone together.''
want us as bishops to align ourselves to one group or
another,'' she said, summarizing his remarks. ''But as
bishops we must say there is more than just being on
one man's side. You have to make decisions for the
good of the whole. There's not just one way.''
Last month a
group of Anglican traditionalists from Africa, Australia,
and other regions who are frustrated with Williams's
leadership formed a new network within the communion
that challenges his authority, while stopping short of
sermon Thursday, Wolf said, ''For those who like absolute
answers and who wish for him to address the issues in the
communion, this was probably a disappointment,'' but
she said most people seemed to find his address
Sauls of Lexington, Ky., who participated in the retreat
Thursday, said he has sensed no animosity from bishops who
have condemned the decision to consecrate Robinson.
One strong critic, a West African bishop, even hugged
him, Sauls said.
But Sauls said,
''We're also too soon to get into many issues. The focus
right now is on prayer.'' (Rachel Zoll, AP)