Justin Welby Launches ‘Last Throw of the Dice’ to Avert Worldwide Anglican Split

The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to a high-stakes plan to overhaul the worldwide Anglican church to avert a permanent split over issues such as homosexuality.

The Most Rev Justin Welby has invited the heads of all the other Anglican churches – some of whom have not spoken directly to each other for more than a decade amid a deep liberal-conservative split – to a make-or-break meeting in Canterbury in January. He wants them not only to acknowledge the rift but effectively formalise it by scaling the Anglican Communion back into a loosely linked organisation – a step aides liken to “moving into separate bedrooms” rather than full-scale divorce.

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to gamble his legacy on a high-stakes plan to overhaul the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican church in what he sees as a “last throw of the dice” to avert a permanent split over issues such as homosexuality.

The Most Rev Justin Welby has invited the heads of all the other Anglican churches – some of whom have not spoken directly to each other for more than a decade amid a deep liberal-conservative split – to a make-or-break meeting in Canterbury in January.

He wants them not only to acknowledge the rift but effectively formalise it by scaling the Anglican Communion back into a loosely linked organisation – a step aides liken to “moving into separate bedrooms” rather than full-scale divorce.

But he is understood to fear that the confrontation will trigger an angry walk-out by traditionalist archbishops, particularly from Africa, which in turn could lead to “large chunks” of the Church of England itself breaking away.

Equally, he has infuriated the liberal-leaning American branch of the church – whose decision to ordain the first openly-gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003 led to the rift in global Anglicanism – by inviting the breakaway traditionalist Anglican Church of North America (Acna) to the meeting even though it is not officially part of the Anglican Communion.

Aides to the Archbishop said he is now convinced that, after more than a decade of open hostility, the rift between different wings of what is the world’s third largest church must be resolved.

“We’ve actually got to draw a line here, we can’t go on,” said one Lambeth Palace source.

“Justin can’t leave his successor – whoever she or he may be – to inherit this situation in which you spend vast chunks of time trying to placate people and keep them in the boat without ever getting the oars out and starting to row.”

It is understood that the Archbishop accepts that there is at least a 70 per cent chance the strategy will fail in some way and a one in three chance of the meeting ending in disaster and triggering a permanent schism.

“If that happens, the whole thing goes completely pear-shaped, it will pull apart large chunks of the Church of England, fairly quickly particularly the more conservative elements,” one aide added.

“It is high risk because loads of people will be trying to stop this happening …but the view that Justin has come to is that we’ve got to start treating people as adults which means that if they choose not to come he says fine that’s your choice, we are not going around grovelling and trying to just tweak everything to make it happen.

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