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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Archbishop raises idea of split
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Rowan Williams says a divide in the Anglican Church is possible
The Anglican Church could be split into different sections in a bid to resolve the row over homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Dr Rowan Williams favours exploring a system of "associated" Churches which would not have the same constitution as the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The 2003 consecration of openly-gay Gene Robinson as bishop in the US has angered conservatives in the Communion.

Dr Williams said there was no way the Anglican Church could remain unchanged.

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

He has suggested the Anglican Communion, which is the loose network of individual Anglican Churches around the world, could be divided into "associated" and "constituent" provinces.

The Churches in the 70 million-strong communion would make a formal commitment to each other in the form of a "covenant".

However, those unwilling to join the covenant could choose to become "associated", which would recognise their historic links with the rest of the Church, but allow them to have different constitutional structures.

Dr Williams likened it to the relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church.

"There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment," he said, in a reflection to Anglicans around the world.

"Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn't correspond with where we now are."

Bishop dispute

The liberal US Episcopal Church has refused to come into line with the conservative majority in the Anglican Church over homosexuality.

The election of Bishop Robinson was criticised by conservative elements in the church, particularly in Africa.

There have also been disagreements surrounding church blessings for same-sex couples.

A meeting of the Anglican primates early next year will discuss the way forward for the church on the issue of homosexuality.

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