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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 04:36 GMT 05:36 UK
Church ponders rules on disputes
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has said the Anglican Church risks being torn apart
The Church of England is to consider possible rules for settling disputes in the Anglican Church, amid divisions over the ordination of gay priests.

Its general synod, meeting in York, is to hear from the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez, chairman of the group designing the possible "covenant" agreement.

Anglican divisions over issues such as the 2003 US ordination of a gay bishop prompted the idea of a set of rules.

The row has brought Anglicans near to schism, says the BBC's Robert Pigott.

But our correspondent adds that the communion's 38 independent churches "guard their autonomy jealously", making a proposed binding agreement "controversial".

"It's designed to commit Anglican churches around the world to procedures for solving disputes, such as that over homosexuality," he says.

He adds that liberal Anglicans oppose the move, fearing it would concentrate power among hardline traditionalist archbishops.

Call for change

The liberal US Episcopal Church's ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 marked the start of the divisions.

There has been disagreement also over church blessings for same-sex couples.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said the Anglican Church cannot remain unchanged in the wake of the crisis.

He has suggested the Communion could be divided into "associated" and "constituent" provinces.

On Saturday, the general synod announced proposals to give couples greater choice over where they get married.

The Church is set to change legislation to allow couples to tie the knot in any church where they have a "qualifying connection", but is stopping short of allowing couples to marry in any church of their choosing.

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