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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2007, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Church agrees plan over disputes
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has said the Anglican Church risks being torn apart
The Church of England's ruling body has backed plans aimed at settling disputes within the Anglican Church.

The General Synod, meeting in York, said it supported drawing up rules in a possible "covenant" agreement.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has warned that the Anglican Church could split over issues such as the 2003 ordination of a US gay bishop.

The covenant would aim to commit the Anglican Communion's separate Churches to procedures for solving disputes.

'Great tension'

The group drawing up the covenant agreement was chaired by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez.

He told the synod he was speaking "at a time of great tension within the Anglican Communion".

"Unless we can make a fresh statement clearly and basically of what holds us together we are destined to grow apart," he said.

"Do we Anglicans have a clear and shared identity? It is a question that our ecumenical partners are increasingly asking us.

"I believe that the covenant can only succeed if it accurately describes a sufficient basis to hold us together and for us to want to stay together, based on what we already hold and believe."

'Too weak'

The synod rejected a motion opposing the draft covenant, proposed by Tim Cox from the Diocese of Bradford during the three-hour debate.

He said: "The current draft of the covenant is too weak. It feels like a cut and paste job.

"It vacillates and unlike our articles does not make a clear assertion that the Scriptures are the word of God.

"Worst still the presenting issue is tearing our communion apart, the promotion of sexual immorality is not even mentioned."

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

Dr Williams has suggested the Communion could be divided into "associated" and "constituent" provinces as a way round problems.

Anglicans facing threat of schism
14 Feb 07 |  Special Reports
US bishops refuse Anglican demand
22 Mar 07 |  Americas
Archbishop raises idea of split
27 Jun 06 |  Special Reports

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