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Jerusalem conference may widen Anglican rift

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The Nigerian primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, was blunter. "Now we confront a moment of decision," he wrote in a pamphlet for the conference. "If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures."

"There is no longer any hope... for a unified communion," he added. "The intransigence of those who reject biblical authority continues to obstruct our mission, and it now seems that the communion is being forced to choose between following their innovations or continuing on the path that the church has followed since the time of the Apostles."

Giles Fraser, a London vicar who describes himself as from the more "progressive" wing of the church, says the conference is "an attempt to destabilize things ahead of the Lambeth Conference, an attempt to set up the beginnings of an alternative church, which they are threatening if they don't get their own way over issues like homosexuality."

A long history of disagreement

It comes as little surprise to discover that the term "broad church" was originally coined for the Anglicans. They are Christianity's third-largest communion, spread across 160 nations as a result of missionary work over the past 400 years. They occupy a wide-spanning theological and ecclesiastical bridge between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, accommodating liberals and conservatives, high-church Anglo-Catholics and low-church Calvinists, with widely differing views on liturgy, the Eucharist, vestments, social matters, and lifestyle.

As such, division and disagreement have been endemic for decades, if not centuries, over issues from slavery to the ordination of women priests.

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