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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 03:29 GMT
Anglican split 'a matter of time'
Gene Robinson
The ordination of Gene Robinson outraged conservatives
It may be just a matter of time before there is a permanent split in the worldwide Anglican communion, the leader of the Church in Canada says.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison's comments follow the decision to suspend the US and Canadian branches from a key group because of their liberal views on gays.

He said the decision did not mean the issue of homosexuality had gone away.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has also warned that the divisions could become permanent.

The North American churches were asked to withdraw from meetings of the communion's chief representative body for three years after a meeting of Anglican primates, or leaders, from all over the world.

Conservative Anglicans had been angered by the Canadian's decision to bless same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in the US.

Ultimate schism

Archbishop Hutchison said he had feared an even worse outcome at the meeting, in Newry, Northern Ireland.

Bishop Gene Robinson
We as a body continue to address the situations which have arisen in North America with the utmost seriousness
Anglican Church statement
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Some more conservative archbishops had wanted the total expulsion of both churches.

But he said that although the meeting had averted the communion's immediate disintegration it may simply have delayed ultimate schism.

Dr Williams had previously warned that: "Any lasting solution will require people somewhere along the line to say, 'Yes, we were wrong'."

But speaking on Friday he also noted an "impressive" willingness within the Anglican community to find a way forward without division.

Defending the decision to ordain Gene Robinson, the head of the US branch, Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the American Church, said it had been "right and proper".

He did however recognise that it had been "extremely problematic and difficult in many parts of the world".

The homosexuality debate has pitted traditionalists, notably from the African branches of the Anglican community, against more liberal elements.

The primates have suggested a special hearing in June to allow the US and Canadian branches to explain their views on homosexuality.

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