According to insiders, Dr Williams has given his blessing to the plans to create an enclave for up to 20 conservative American bishops that would insulate them from their liberal colleagues. The scheme would allow them to remain technically within the Episcopal Church but under the care of like-minded archbishops from abroad. The Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, a moderate conservative, has agreed to participate, and other primates could be recruited.
However, the initiative is likely to infuriate liberal leaders of the Episcopal Church, who will see it as an attempt to undermine their authority and interfere in their affairs. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, the head of the Episcopal Church, has been cracking down on any diocese or parish that seeks to leave, and numerous legal actions are under way. She and her colleagues have already rejected similar proposals suggested at a meeting in Tanzania last year of all the primates, the leaders of the 38 independent Churches that constitute the Anglican Communion. However, she met a group of conservative bishops and theologians in New York last week after hearing that Dr Williams was sympathetic to the new proposal.
US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has endorsed a programme of alternative Episcopal oversight brought to her by a group of conservative American bishops.
The “Anglican Bishops in Communion” seeks to meld the Primates’ Dar es Salaam pastoral council scheme with the “Episcopal Visitor” programme created by Bishop Schori in a bid to hold the fissiparous elements of American Anglicanism together until an Anglican Covenant is agreed.
“This is a step forward, albeit a small one,” the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev John W Howe noted, that permits freedom of conscience for traditionalist while preserving good order in conformance to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
However, critics charge there is nothing in the plan to compel a liberal bishop to permit alternative oversight, while spokesmen for the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth told The Church of England Newspaper they were unable to comment on the merits of the plan as they had not been consulted in its creation and were unaware of the details.
Read it all as well.