Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pleaded for the "catastrophic" Anglican communion to hold together yesterday in tolerance, if no longer love, at the start of a key conference of representatives from the church's 38 provinces meeting at Nottingham University.
Even as he did so, however, plotting and mutual recriminations continued over the presence of observers from the US Episcopal Church who had been asked to stay away from the meeting. Rival US factions sat at the back of the hall glowering at each other amid accusations of bad faith.
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Earlier, the archbishop had spoken earnestly of the spectacle that Anglicanism is making of itself and how the outside world would react: "Here is a group of Christians talking to each other, they will think, arguing over matters that seem quite a long way from the plight of a child soldier in northern Uganda, or a mother with HIV/Aids in Lesotho, or a sweatshop worker or fisherman in south Asia. Some will react with contempt - what a parade of foolish anger and bigotry or self-importance, what a fuss over the rights of the prosperous; some with indifference; some with real sorrow that we are not speaking to them and the world they know."