High noon in york

For years, the Anglican Church has been deeply divided. Liberals want to make women and homosexuals bishops, conservatives threaten schism or even conversion to the Catholic Church – which has also already extended an invitation – if that happens. This weekend's annual meeting may bring decisions.

It is this man's fate to be judged by his commitment to the ordination of women and homosexuals. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican state church of England, faces a hot weekend. Anyone who remembers how exhausted he came out of the hall in 2008 when the Anglican General Synod won its laborious compromise on the future consecration of women bishops might guess the feelings with which Williams will open this year's Assembly in York. Weeks before this Saturday's debate, the Church of England's two archbishops, Williams and John Sentamu of York, flanked the renewed rift with a peace offering to the conservative wing. "Co-ordinate jurisdiction" – shared jurisdiction – is the name of the formula intended to make it easier for opponents of women bishops to say yes and thus preserve church unity.

A pair of bishops as a solution? Behind this is the promise to place a male bishop at the side of a possible female bishop in a diocese, who is then to take care of the traditionalist parishes. For women, then, only a "second-class consecration," liberal lobby groups grumble – and for conservatives, the institution of women bishops remains an imposition anyway, no matter how large the possible concessions may go. Liberals feel abandoned by their erstwhile mastermind Williams. When the Welshman was appointed primate in 2002, he was a beacon of hope to them, a comparatively young savage at 52: Bard, poet, druid. Now 60, his heavy ministry has pushed him further and further to the right: servant of a unity that eats away at his left-wing profile. Between all the stools, he desperately weaved new ties, stretchable compromises that could replace the torn threads between the two camps – in England and in the Anglican world communion. Even if the construct of "shared competence" were adopted, what are "traditionalist parishes"?? And in contrast to what? To "normal" parishes? How will Anglican-Christian coexistence in a church work in the long term if parishes decide by majority vote to be pro-women or pro-gay or just against it? Moreover, observers fear, further compromise formulas would be interpreted by the faithful as a form of disciplinary double standard and undermine credibility on other, more central theological ies. And two more developments worsen the hand the primate is holding at the start of the synod: recent media speculation about the nomination or non-nomination of an avowedly homosexual bishop for Southwark, on the one hand, and the Vatican offer to Anglicans willing to convert, on the other hand.

Catholic Church is bere The rumor around Dean Jeffrey John had brought in the past week above all the liberal wing in rage: First it was said that the clergyman, whom Williams had already been able to diade personally in 2003 from taking over a bishop's chair, gets a new chance and is on the list of candidates. Then suddenly again the press – which must have somehow got hold of internal information – reported that John's name did not appear there. The head of the royal nominations commission: Archbishop Williams. And at the end of 2009, the Vatican had also facilitated the admission of Anglicans into the Catholic Church. So-called personal ordinariates for Anglican priests and faithful will in the future allow them to simultaneously maintain their liturgy and traditions while entering into full communion with the pope. Even if the offer from Rome has so far met with a rather weak response: It makes, so experts judge, the threatening gestures of conservatives to turn their backs on their church more credible. York synod tries once again to square the circle this weekend – and the primate has to rotate in the quadrangle.

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Christina Cherry
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