Queen singles out breakthrough over women bishops as sign that progress is possible ‘even in the midst of deep disagreements’
The Queen has urged leaders of the Church of England to learn the "onerous but rewarding task of peacemaking" as they grapple with deep divisions over issues such as homosexuality.
Addressing the Church’s ruling General Synod, she warned of stormy waters ahead with "many different views" on the "difficult issues" they face.
But she held up the breakthrough over women bishops, an issue which took decades of argument to resolve, as proof that breakthroughs are possible “even in the midst of deep disagreements”.
She was speaking at the inaugural sitting of a newly elected Synod - ahead of a five-year term expected to be dominated by attempts to resolve deep splits over the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and whether to offer informal blessings for same-sex couples.
In a highly unusual move, much of the Synod’s main annual meeting in July next year is to be given over to group mediation sessions involving different factions in an attempt to forge some agreement on the issue.
The Queen also singled out a make-or-break gathering of bishops and archbishops from around the world taking place in Canterbury in January to over overhaul the 80 million-strong global Anglican church to avert a permanent split between liberals and conservatives branches.
Archbishop Welby wants to recast the Anglican communion as a loose confederation, effectively formalising the rift particularly over sexuality in a move aides liken to "moving into separate bedrooms" rather than full-scale divorce.
She also spoke of the Established Church having a "particular vocation" to work with people "of other faiths and none" for the "common good in this land".
Her message of unity was reinforced in a sermon by Pope Francis’s personal preacher Fr Raniero Cantalamessa during a special service in Westminster Abbey immediately beforehand.
In a sermon in which he referenced Thomas Cranmer and Martin Luther, he spoke of all Christians including Roman Catholics being able to "celebrate” the 500th anniversary of the protestant Reformation and “benefit from its achievements".
He added: "We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than faith in Jesus united us."
In her address to the Synod, the Queen urged spoke of the “journey that still lies ahead in the pursuit of Christian unity”.
Turning to the Church of England itself, she said: “The last Synod will be particularly remembered for the way in which, after prolonged reflection and conversation, even in the midst of deep disagreements, it was able to approve the legislation to enable women to be consecrated as bishops.
"This new Synod too will have to grapple with the difficult issues confronting our Church and our world.
"On some of these there will be many different views.
"And I am sure that members of the Synod will pray earnestly that the gathering in January of the Primates of the Anglican Communion will be a time when, together, they may know what is God's will."
She added: "St. Paul reminds us that all Christians, as ambassadors for Christ, are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.
"Spreading God's word and the onerous but rewarding task of peace-making and conflict resolution are important parts of that ministry.
"So too is the Church of England's particular vocation to work in partnership with those of other faiths and none, to serve the common good in this land."