Lambeth Conference Begins Amid Struggles

CANTERBURY, England, JULY 18, 2008 ( Cardinal Walter Kasper joined with some 650 Anglican leaders at the Lambeth conference, which began Wednesday evening with a three-day retreat.

Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, was invited by the Anglican Communion’s spiritual leader, Archbishop Rowan Williams. The Lambeth conference is held once every 10 years. It is under way through Aug. 4, with meetings and discussions scheduled to begin Monday.

This year’s Lambeth conference faces unprecedented difficulties, with some Anglican leaders boycotting the gathering altogether.

Williams acknowledged the difficulties Wednesday, saying, “I think it’s important I should say that it’s a great grief that many of our brothers and sisters in the Communion have not felt able to be with us for these weeks.”

The communion is threatened by schism. One of the main issues causing conflict is the Episcopalian resolve to ordain openly homosexual bishops. The Episcopal church is the portion of the Anglican Communion in the United States.

The episcopal ordination of women, approved at a synod meeting earlier this month, is another sticky issue.

When the Church of England voted to approve women bishops, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity affirmed in a statement that the decision is a “further obstacle to reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.”