Friday, April 17, 2009

The Anglican schism widens quietly

What if you gave a schism and nobody came? At a press conference to announce the next move of global Anglican conservative leaders, I was the only journalist.

In an airport hotel there is no avoiding the impression that everybody else is on the way to somewhere more important, or is already there. The feeling grew when I walked into yesterday's press conference outside Heathrow: the Renaissance suite could have held 360 people. In fact there were half-a-dozen archbishops and bishops connected with the Anglican conservative tendency, plus fixers and hangers-on. And me.

This was no reflection on the archbishops, of course, and only a little on the hotel. It was principally, I'm sure, that in the week after Easter, heading up to Low Sunday, religious journalists, like everybody else, want to take a break. Tough on the press officer, but these things happen. So we moved some chairs and sat in a small circle, and I asked questions for 45 minutes, and then they went off to lunch, and I got back into my car and drove home.

And as I sat on the M25, I reflected on what I'd heard, trying desperately to avoid the traffic analogies that came unbidden into my mind. For the international Anglican Communion, all 38 provinces and 77 million worshippers of it, has been coming apart over the past decade or so, and these archbishops were saying they want to put it back together again. Except that, to many of their fellow Anglicans, these archbishops have been leading a breakaway movement and have been instrumental in the divisions.


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