The final draft of a document aimed at mediating disputes between liberals and conservatives in the global Anglican Communion was sent on Friday (Dec. 18) to its 38 provinces for approval.
The Anglican Communion, which is the world's third-largest body of Christians with 77 million members, has been bitterly divided over homosexuality since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the communion.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicanism, said the document, called a "covenant," is "not going to be a penal code" but rather "a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts."
"We've discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have been strained," Williams said in a statement, "and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another."
Each Anglican province is autonomous, limiting the power of Williams and other Anglican leaders to police the communion. In fact, earlier this month, Episcopalians in Los Angeles openly defied Williams by electing an open lesbian, the Rev. Mary Glasspool, as an assistant bishop.
Since then, Williams and an international panel of Anglican leaders have asked the Episcopal Church to "exercise restraint" by not confirming Glasspool's election. In addition, the Anglican Communion's Standing Committee on Friday asked Episcopalians to exercise "gracious restraint" with respect to "actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion."