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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2007, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Anglicans 'obsessed' by gay issue
By Mike Lanchin
BBC News religious affairs correspondent

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking to the BBC in 2004
Archbishop Tutu said there were more pressing issues
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on Africa's Anglican church to overcome its "obsession" with the issue of gay priests and same-sex marriages.

He said they should spend time on more pressing issues in the region.

Speaking to the BBC World Service, the South African bishop said Zimbabwe, HIV/Aids and the crisis in Darfur were not getting sufficient attention.

Zimbabwe's Anglican church also lacked courage to stand up to President Robert Mugabe's regime, he said.

'So many issues'

This was the 76-year-old Nobel peace laureate touching raw nerves for the Anglican church in Africa on very sensitive subjects.

In his usual forthright manner, Archbishop Tutu told the BBC that the Anglican communion was spending too much of its time and energy on debating differences over gay priests and same sex marriages - a subject, he said, that had now become "an extraordinary obsession".

He said: "We've, it seems to me, been fiddling whilst as it were our Rome was burning. At a time when our continent has been groaning under the burden of HIV/Aids, of corruption.

Robert Mugabe
The church had "kow-towed" to Mr Mugabe's regime, he said

"There are so many issues crying out for concern and application by the church of its resources, and here we are, I mean, with this kind of extraordinary obsession."

For Archbishop Tutu, the crisis in Zimbabwe was one such issue that had been eclipsed by the sexuality debate.

He said he was saddened by the muted response other African governments had shown to the Mugabe regime.

Growing tensions

But he also said that leaders of his own Anglican Church in Zimbabwe had failed to show more courage in dealing with the Zimbabwean president.

"One seems to have to say they have kow-towed to President Mugabe. Certainly there's not been anything like the same kind of standing up to the evil and exercising the prophetic ministry that one would have expected from the church, and that has been very distressing."

There are growing tensions within the worldwide Anglican communion - pitching liberals against conservatives - mainly over the issue of sexuality.

But as Archbishop Tutu recognised, there are other points of contention that need to be resolved and other issues that the church, especially in Africa, needs to turn its attention to.

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