An international Anglican study group that could spell out limits to the quarrels that have beset the 70-million-member worldwide communion is to start work this year.

The issues of homosexuality and women priests and bishops have proved particularly divisive for the communion of 38 provinces, whose leader is the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Other major issues for the commission include the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

Last month Carey announced the creation of the 21-member Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission to look at what membership of a fellowship of churches entails. The commission's role was confirmed at a meeting for the heads of the world's Anglican provinces which concluded at the Kanuga Conference Center, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, on March 9.

Theologians from four continents are members of the commission, which is chaired by Professor Stephen Sykes, a former Bishop of Ely, in England. It will build on the work of the Virginia Report, which was produced for the 1998 Lambeth Conference, held in Canterbury and attended by Anglican bishops from around the world.

In an interview with ENI, the commission's secretary, Canon David Hamid, acknowledged that there were "strains on relationships" within the Anglican Communion. A key issue for the commission would be "how much diversity is tolerable?" he said.

Asked about church policy on homosexual relationships, Hamid said the commission could explore and clarify the theological issues, but he did not see its job as enunciating doctrine. "The Anglican Communion represents a sacramental bond between churches, not a legislative framework," he added.

The present Anglican stance on homosexuality has "coherence," he says, and difficulties ...

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