Williams warns of risks for conservative Anglicans
LONDON (Reuters) - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, battling to avoid an Anglican schism over the issue of gay clergy, warned conservatives on Monday of the risks in setting up an alternative council of bishops.
"How is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?" asked the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
At a meeting in Jerusalem, conservative Anglican leaders vowed on Sunday to stay in the worldwide Anglican Communion but form a council of bishops to provide an alternative to churches they say are preaching a "false gospel" of sexual immorality.
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) said member churches would continue sponsoring breakaway conservative parishes in liberal western member countries and called for a separate conservative province in North America.
It also said Anglicanism, the third largest group of Christians after Roman Catholics and Orthodox, was not "determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury".
Williams, who next month hosts the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the globe, said the GAFCON proposals were "problematic in all sorts of ways."
Making a plea for unity, he said in a statement: "I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed."
The liberal and conservative wings of the Anglican Church have been divided since the consecration of openly gay U.S. Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 and the blessing of same-sex marriages in Canada.
Williams, fighting to avoid schism in the 450-year-old church, said of the proposed council of bishops "any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulty."
Urging both sides to temper their heated rhetoric, he said: "On all sides, our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound."
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, a driving force behind GAFCON who earlier branded Williams an apostate, has rejected the idea that they were forming "a church within a church".
Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen said a Primates' council -- a body of the heads of member Anglican churches -- would be formed to regulate the "chaos" within the Communion and "defend the Gospel ... from revisionist or liberal theologies".
Despite some initial rhetoric, GAFCON did not develop into a full alternative and participants did not opt for schism.
Conservative bishops from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, who boast fast-expanding congregations, have said they will boycott the Lambeth Conference.
(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem)
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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