Page last updated at 18:31 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 19:31 UK

Way ahead found in Church gay row

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams parades with other bishops during Lambeth Conference 2008
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said "internal tensions" must be resolved

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the "pieces are on the board" to resolve the row over homosexuality which threatens to split the Anglican Church.

The announcement came on the last day of the Lambeth Conference, which has been overshadowed by the issue of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

About 200 bishops boycotted the once-a-decade forum over the row.

Dr Rowan Williams said there was a recognition, "though still with many questions", that a Covenant was needed.

The BBC's Robert Pigott says this would be "some sort of statement of shared beliefs and a more-or-less binding agreement to stick to them".

Our correspondent said there were signs of support for a long-term strategy to prevent further disintegration, but that the issue had brought the Church to the "brink of a permanent split".

"It seems that a number of groups of clergy have voted for a ban on gay bishops and church blessings for homosexual couples, as part of a long-term plan to preserve at least the core of the Communion," he said.

One suggestion from the group working on a potential Covenant has been for churches departing from tradition to have "diminished status" within the Communion.

Such an arrangement would result in a two-tier Communion but no church would be expelled.

The man whose ordination triggered the crisis - the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson - told Radio 4's Sunday programme that some traditionalists were actively working towards schism.

"Bullies always come back for more. And the one thing that I think the archbishop is blind to is the fact that nothing short of total victory will satisfy these guys."

But Dr Williams said there was a recognition "though still with many questions" that a Covenant was needed, and put forward an idea involving a "global Church of inter-dependent communities".

He told the audience of 650 bishops from around the world it was important the Communion stayed together.

He said it needed to "embrace deeper and more solid ways of recognising and trusting each other", which could be a "grace not a burden".

In the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

This would allow the Communion to be more than "an association of polite friends", Dr Williams said.

But he recognised there was still a lot of work to do and this was a longer-term solution to the current controversy.

"In these days together we have not overcome our problems or reinvented our structures: that will still take time."

It is thought a meeting of primates will convene as early as possible next year.

"And in the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages."

"We may not have put an end to all our problems - but the pieces are on the board," he said.

Traditionalist Anglicans say several passages in the Bible clearly outlaw active homosexuality.

But liberals say the Bible's general message is that all people should be included in the Church.

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