In his final presidential address to the Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey warned that unilateral action on the local level is a threat to the Anglican Communion.
'I must point out my greatest worry,' Carey said at the opening of the ACC in Hong Kong September 16. 'I would be failing in my duty if I recoiled away from it out of an assumption that silence is the safer option.
'In short, my concern is that our Communion is being steadily undermined by dioceses and individual bishops taking unilateral action, usually (but not always) in matters to do with sexuality; and as a result steadily driving us towards serious fragmentation and the real possibility of two (or, more likely, many more) distinct Anglican bodies emerging. This erosion of communion through the adoption of 'local options' has been going for some thirty years but in my opinion is reaching crisis proportions today.'
Carey declined to discuss the issue that has led some clergy in the Diocese of New Westminster [Canada] to rebel against their bishop and their diocesan synod over the blessing of same-gender relationships.
'I respect the sincerity of Bishop Michael Ingham and his diocesan synod, and I do not doubt that they believe that they are acting in the best interests of all, as they see it,' Carey said. 'But I deeply regret that Michael and his synod, and other bishops and dioceses in similar situations in North America, seem to be making such decisions without regard to the rest of us and against the clear statements of Lambeth '98.'
Carey said this matter also has serious ecumenical implications. 'I have had countless conversations with leaders of other Churches who have spoken gently but sternly of our internal disorderliness on issues such as this. It is viewed as a major stumbling block to the unity we claim we seek with the universal Church,' Carey said.
But it is not just matters of sexuality that are of concern. Carey said the resolution he has put in for consideration by the ACC can also be seen to entreat 'the Diocese of Sydney on the issue of Lay Presidency to submit the matter to its Province and to have regard to the effect of any decision it makes on the wider Communion to which it belongs.' He also pointed out that his resolution was 'relevant to the deposition of the Rev. David Moyer by the Bishop of Pennsylvania which has consequences' for the whole Anglican Communion.
Yet the greater part of his wide-ranging presidential address turned the attention of ACC representatives towards the vital issues confronting the witness of the Anglican Church in the world today.
He listed the tension between globalization and fragmentation, the tension between our longing for peace and the threats that undermine it, the tension between an 'inter-faith world' and the clash of religions, and finally the tension and clash between cultures.
He mentioned the increasing understanding of the importance of the Communion, while at the same time pointing out an awareness of the 'disconnectness between the independent Provinces that cannot be the future of the Anglican Communion.'
He urged Anglicans around the Communion to remember they are called to carry forward the work of Christ, not to waver in the commitment to mission in action, and to honor the Communion's heritage of faith.
Bonds of affection
In his conclusion Carey emphasized his confidence in the strengthening of the Communion's bonds of affection and its commitment to mission in action.
'As I re-imagine the Communion I am confident that as long as we focus on strengthening the bonds of affection and deepen our mission to the most vulnerable, the very poor and those without hope in Christ, we shall grow stronger and fulfil the enormous potential of which we are capable,' Carey concluded.
ACC members gave their president a standing ovation.