Carey says Anglican Communion is in crisis
Former archbishop of Canterbury wants U.S. church to give in to demands
The former archbishop of Canterbury wants the Episcopal Church to support an international agreement calling for a moratorium in the Anglican Church on the consecration of gay bishops and church blessing of same-sex unions.
"The Anglican Communion as such is in crisis," said the Most Rev. George Carey, who was in Houston this week to install the Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr. as rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church, one of the largest Episcopal churches in the United States.
The 77 million member communion, including 2.15 Episcopalians, has been in turmoil since the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.
"It has created enormous tidal waves, shock waves around the world," Carey said of the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson. "It has hindered missions in Muslim countries. It has distressed conservative congregations everywhere. There is no place in the Anglican Communion that has been impervious to the shock waves."
Scores of American parishes and at least two dioceses are asking for foreign oversight because members feel the national church is no longer traditional in biblical interpretation and practice. Asking for such oversight is contrary to Anglican governance.
"If I were in my successor's shoes, what I would be wanting to do is say that the American House of Bishops must commit itself to the Windsor Covenant and be wholehearted about that," Carey said of the 2004 report calling for the moratorium. "Around the Windsor Covenant we can actually find a way to deepen the dialogue and get people there.
"If we don't insist upon that, then I think our number is up and so I worry about that," he said.
Carey served as archbishop from 1991 to 2002. His successor as titular head of the Anglican Communion is Archbishop Rowan Williams.
Despite claims to adhering to Windsor, the American House of Bishops has said that only the denomination's national assembly could speak to the issue. The next General Convention is scheduled for 2009.
Although the bishops have supported a ban on gay consecration and blessing of same-sex unions until then, that has not quieted the furor.
The once-a-decade meeting of the world's Anglican bishops is set for July in Canterbury, England. Conservative leaders, including Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, are calling for an Anglican conference in June in Jerusalem, a move that some say is meant to undercut attendance the following month at the Lambeth Conference in England.
"If the Jerusalem conference is an alternative to the Lambeth Conference, which I perceive it is, then I think it is regrettable," said Carey, a conservative. "The irony is that all they are going to do is weaken the Lambeth Conference. They are going to give the liberals a more powerful voice because they are absent and they are going to act as if they are schismatics. It's crazy."
Ten years ago, Carey presided over the 1998 Lambeth Conference which declared homosexual behavior as not scriptural.
"So what the American church has done by the election and then ordination of Gene Robinson is really actually turn its back on the voice, the moral voice of the Lambeth Conference. That's the problem basically. There is no way out of the problem now."
Still, Carey feels that if the Americans were to come out wholeheartedly for the Windsor Covenant, dialogue and reconciliation would be possible.
"If the Episcopal Church says, 'No, dammit, we are not going to go that way', then there is no dialogue," he said. "They are actually saying they are walking away from the family, they are closing the door. But if they are prepared to say, 'We will fall in behind the convenant,' then we can find a resolution.
"But there is no sign that the American House of Bishops realizes how serious it is," he said.
Carey said he remains active in the church although he is an ex-archbishop.
"What I am trying to do now is make a contribution towards healing the church," he said.
He also is working as head of a British education program and for interfaith understanding. He travels regularly with his wife to Africa, where the "church is strong."
"My problem is that I am probably doing too much," he said. "I need to slow down a bit."
But one thing he won't be doing is leaving the Anglican Communion.
"Basically the Anglican spirit aches for unity and I don't think there are going to be many people who are going to be in a rush to run away from the See of Canterbury."