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ENGLAND: Archbishop of Canterbury says he has no 'pre-cooked' agenda for resolving conflict

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
12/5/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, told the group Episcopal Majority that he is "not seeking to impose any new structure" on the Episcopal Church.

Williams' assurances came in a November 20 letter to the group, which describes itself on its website as "a grassroots organization committed to the values and vitality of the Episcopal Church and working to neutralize the negative influence" of groups critical of recent church decisions.

Williams responded to two November 9 letters from the steering committee of the Episcopal Majority. The first letter urged him to reject requests from some Episcopal Church bishops and standing committees for a relationship with a primate other than Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The second recommended that Williams ask West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez to step down as chairman of the Anglican Covenant Design Group.

The group's objections to Gomez's leadership, detailed in its letter, include his signing of the Kigali Communiqué, which said the time had come to form an alternate Anglican structure in the United States.

The group told Williams that such efforts were "blatantly secessionist activities."

"To grant their request would constitute a reward for these actions and legitimate the break-up of the Church," the letter said.

In posting Williams' response on its website December 3, the Rev. David K. Fly, Episcopal Majority president, said "we are grateful for the clarification of his thinking on these issues."

Williams said that he fully accepts that he has no jurisdiction in the USA and has not sought and is not seeking to impose any new structure.

"I have had informal discussions with a number of parties in [the Episcopal Church], of very diverse opinions, as to what future possibilities there are, but I do not approach this with a pre-cooked agenda of my own," Williams wrote in the letter, addressed to the Rev. Bill Coats, who wrote him on behalf of Episcopal Majority's steering committee.

Williams said that the idea of an Anglican covenant "has been brought forward chiefly because of a widespread recognition that existing historic links and bonds are not proving effective as expressions of mutual accountability," adding that "the support of the Windsor commission and the Primates has to be taken seriously."

While not addressing directly the group's concerns about what it called Gomez's failure "to be impartial, fair minded, neutral and without any preconceived views about what should be accomplished," Williams said that the covenant design group that will be working a covenant proposal "will certainly include people who hold differing perspectives on the question, whatever the views of the chair."

"Since nearly every primate in the Communion has some sort of 'record' on the divisive questions of the day, I simply note that it is practically impossible to find a chair unequivocally acceptable to all," Williams wrote.

The full text of Williams' letter is available here.