PARIS (Reuters) - The top Episcopal bishop in the United States, under pressure from the Anglican Communion for allowing homosexual bishops, has said plans to discipline it in the worldwide denomination violated Anglican traditions.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the proposal by the Communion's spiritual head, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, was "a troubling push toward centralized authority" in a body born in opposition to Vatican control.
Her reaction, issued in a pastoral letter on Wednesday, amounted to a polite rejection of the idea Williams floated last week in his latest bid to avert a schism in the loose group of churches that make up the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion.
Anglicanism has been torn for years by disputes about authority over Church teaching, especially on gay rights. Williams has tried to counter this by defining Anglican positions more clearly and strengthening his central role.
Jefferts Schori said his Pentecost letter suggesting sanctions for churches that disagree -- both those approving gay clergy and same-sex unions as well as conservatives vehemently opposed to them -- smacked of discredited colonial practices.
"We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion," she said in the letter.
The Episcopal Church was not trying to impose its views on other Anglicans, she said, but it believed its reforms were based on genuine divine inspiration.
"The Spirit may be speaking to all of us in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree," she said. "In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions."
Orthodox Anglicans, especially in Africa, vehemently reject pro-homosexual reforms as sinful and unbiblical. Several African churches have ordained orthodox U.S. bishops to lead a dissident network of conservative Anglican churches there.
In the Williams plan, these churches would also be excluded from Anglican committees on doctrine and ecumenical cooperation because they appointed bishops to work in other provinces without the permission of local bishops there.
His proposal came only weeks after the Episcopal Church ordained a lesbian bishop, Mary Douglas Glasspool, despite a request not to do so issued by the Communion after its first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, was installed in 2003.
The Williams proposal, which the Communion's member churches will discuss when their primates next meet in January, had already met critical responses from the reformist and orthodox wings of Anglicanism due to be sanctioned.
Jefferts Schori took a page from the Africans' book by accusing Williams of taking a colonial view of the Communion, most of whose member provinces are former British colonies.
"We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue," she wrote. "In their search for uniformity, our forebears in the faith have repeatedly done much spiritual violence in the name of Christianity."