A senior Anglican conservative witheringly described the state of the worldwide Church as “a mess” and “awful” yesterday as the Archbishop of Canterbury prepared to take a three-month break.
The criticism will come as a blow to Dr Rowan Williams, who last week attempted to placate the Church’s conservative wing by snubbing the Church’s first openly gay bishop.
Dr Williams announced that Bishop Gene Robinson will not be invited to next year’s Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly gathering of all the Church’s 850-plus bishops in Canterbury.
But conservative leaders remain unimpressed. At least a handful of them – who represent a huge swathe of the 70-million strong Church – are still proposing to boycott the conference.
The Primate of the Southern Cone in South America, Archbishop Gregory Venables, told The Daily Telegraph: “It is a mess. Unless there is a major shift there are going to be significant absences from Lambeth.”
The conservative “Global South” primates, who are mostly from Africa and Asia, are furious because they believe Dr Williams has been unduly lenient with the liberal leadership of the American branch of Anglicanism.
Many of them had expected that all the liberal American bishops would be excluded from the Lambeth Conference unless they reversed their unilateral pro-gay agenda.
The US bishops were given until September 30 by the Anglican primates to declare a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and same-sex blessings and to approve a “parallel” Church scheme for American conservatives.
So far the Americans have rejected the scheme and seem unlikely to fulfil the other requests. Dr Williams, who begins his extended leave on Friday, appeared to offer them unconditional invitations to the Lambeth Conference last week.