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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Mixed reaction to gay bishop vote
Some church leaders say Reverend Robinson is defying the word of God
The controversial appointment of the United States' first openly gay bishop has met with sharply contrasting reactions from Anglican leaders around the world.

Daniel England, spokesman of the Episcopal Church - the US branch of the 80-million strong global Anglican Communion - said the selection of Reverend Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire was "an important step".

"Some will be elated at this news, others very disappointed. And yet the decorum and the civility throughout leads me to believe that things will hold together," he said.

The sternest mainstream response came from conservative bishops at the Episcopal General Convention, which voted 62-45 to confirm Reverend Robinson's election.

"This body wilfully confirming the election of a person sexually active outside of holy matrimony has departed from the historic faith and order of the Church of Jesus Christ," said Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan.

"This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world," he said.

'Too soon to judge'

The bishop urged Dr Rowan Williams, leader of the Anglican Communion, "to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us".

A blatant aggravation of societal norms
John Dayal, vice president of All India Catholics Union
Dr Williams issued a statement saying it was too soon to judge what impact the appointment might have on the Church.

"It is my hope that the Church in America and the rest of the Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in response," he said.

The two-million strong Anglican American Council, a conservative Episcopal splinter group, denounced the election as a threat to the future of the Church.

"The Episcopal Church USA has shattered the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church has departed from the historical Christian faith. We reject these actions of our church," it said in a statement.

'Contrary to Bible'

Some Anglican Communion leaders around the world were openly critical of Reverend Robinson's appointment.

"In countries like ours, it is not only contrary to Scripture teaching, but also not conducive in our environment," said the leader of the Anglican Church of West Malaysia, Bishop Dr Lim Cheng Ean.

John Dayal, vice president of All India Catholics Union, went further.

"The election of a gay bishop is a blatant aggravation of societal norms, and in India it certainly will not be acceptable."

Church leaders in Africa had a similar interpretation of the appointment.

Bishop Cyril Okoracha, of Owerri parish, in Nigeria, said the Reverend Robinson was defying the written word of God.

"Those of us in Africa have serious difficulty with that kind of way of thinking," he said.

"We are praying for him and praying for the church in the US as we are battling with our problems at this end."

Not welcome

In Uganda, Anglican spokesman the Reverend Jackson Turyagyenda, said the church there was "very disappointed".

In Australia, conservative Sydney Archbishop, Peter Jensen, said the new gay bishop would not be welcome in his diocese.

He urged the bishop's opponents in the US to fight the appointment by withholding contributions to church coffers.

"For the first time, a branch of our Anglican church has knowingly appointed a person to this senior position who lives in breach of the Bible," he said.

But the head of Australia's Anglican Church, Primate Peter Carnley, said he felt the rifts caused by Reverend Robinson's election would heal.

"I don't think it's a communion-breaking issue," he said.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Emma Simpson
"This is a defining moment for the Anglican Church"



SEE ALSO:
US church backs gay bishop
01 Aug 03  |  Americas
Gay bishop debate stirs passions
02 Aug 03  |  Americas


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