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Nothing I can do to stop potential Anglican schism over gay clergy, admits Archbishop

By Sam Lister

Published 16/01/2016

Looking for reconciliation: Justin Welby
Looking for reconciliation: Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted he is powerless to stop Church leaders walking out of talks aimed a healing splits in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality.

African representatives at the meeting in Canterbury are poised to pull out of the discussions, sparking fears of a permanent schism.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said he hoped to achieve "reconciliation" at the gathering of Anglican primates over the course of this week.

"Certainly I want reconciliation. Reconciliation doesn't always mean agreement, in fact it very seldom does. It means finding ways of disagreeing well. There is nothing I can do if people decide to leave the room. It won't split the communion," he said

Church leaders have agreed to sanction the American branch of the Anglican Communion over its views on marriage and homosexuality.

Anglicans across the world have been divided since the liberal Episcopal Church in America consecrated Canon Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The Archbishop said: "The Church is a family and you remain a family even if you go your separate ways. A schism would not be a disaster, God is bigger than our failures, but it would be a failure.

"It would not be good if the Church is unable to set an example to the world of showing how we can love one another and disagree profoundly because we are brought together by Jesus Christ, not by our own choice."

A meeting of Anglican primates in Canterbury reached an agreement on measures against the US Episcopal Church, which a statement said had made a "fundamental departure from the faith and teaching" by endorsing gay marriage.

The agreement upheld a "traditional doctrine" of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Mr Welby insisted the US Episcopal Church had not been sanctioned but had faced "consequences", and the decision was supported by the "overwhelming majority" of Anglican primates.

It has been banned from taking part in ecumenical and inter-faith bodies, internal committees or votes on doctrine or policy for a period of three years.

The decision was met with dismay by some observers, including the senior Labour MP and former Anglican minister Chris Bryant, who is gay.

He tweeted: "I've finally given up on Anglican church today after its love-empty decision on sexuality.

"One day it will seem wrong as supporting slavery."

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