Canadians accuse Anglican leader of snub

Anglicanism's storm clouds over homosexuality darkened yesterday with the primate of the Canadian church accusing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams of snubbing Canadian and U.S. bishops by refusing to meet with them.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison all but dismissed as fabrication Archbishop Williams's reason for declining to attend next month's gathering of North American Anglican leaders, to which he was invited more than a year ago. Archbishop Williams said he had another meeting to attend, in England. Archbishop Hutchison said: "I'm sure [it's] not something he [had] committed [to] before our invitation.

"The message it sends to us is that, at the moment, he does not want to be associated with the Canadians."

"It does send a very, very negative symbol to the Canadian church, no question," Archbishop Hutchison told the national Anglican newspaper, the Anglican Journal.

At a closed-door gathering in Ireland two weeks ago, the Anglican Communion's primates — the senior archbishops of the global church's 38 autonomous branches — put pressure on the Canadian and U.S. churches to withdraw for three years from the communion's senior consultative body because of their acceptance of homosexuals.

Archbishop Hutchison defended the action at the time, saying it had been necessary to stave off a formal schism in the world's third-largest Christian faith.

But of Archbishop Williams's decision to cancel a "pastoral visit" to Canadian and U.S. bishops upset Archbishop Hutchison.

"I'm very upset, because it goes against what I believe is his own personal position [on homosexuality] and he has expressed it pretty publicly and in other circumstances," he said.

Archbishop Hutchison also verbally cuffed the leader of the tiny South American Anglican Church, Archbishop Gregory Venables, for flying directly to Vancouver from the primates' meeting to attend a rally of dissident priests and laity rebelling against their bishop for authorizing church blessings of same-sex unions.

He said that Archbishop Venables's visit was "a clear violation" of the primates' agreement not to intervene in the affairs of member churches. "To think that there's such a lack of good faith in this discussion is profoundly disturbing."

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday, "I can see why Archbishop Hutchison is miffed."

But he explained that Archbishop Williams, who is Primate of All England as well as spiritual leader of the world's 78 million Anglicans, had to attend a conflicting meeting of the senior council of the Church of England.

"That makes it [the North American meeting] not doable."

However, a senior Church of England cleric, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that, in Anglicanism's current crisis, Archbishop Williams felt the optics of meeting the U.S. and Canadian bishops would not have been very good.

He said that, for the same reason, Archbishop Williams had declined to attend a meeting of central African primates three months ago.

With the exception of South Africa's primate, Anglican leaders on the continent are the most vociferous opponents of the decision by the U.S. church to appoint a practising homosexual bishop, as well as the decision by Greater Vancouver's Bishop of New Westminster to authorize same-sex blessings.