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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005, 10:11 GMT
US Church moves to avoid splits
Church leaders gathered in Northern Ireland
Church leaders have been divided over the issue of homosexual clergy
The US Anglican Church says it will not appoint new bishops or bless same-sex relationships for at least one year.

In a statement, US Church leaders expressed "deep regret" for the pain caused by the appointment of gay cleric Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003.

They said the "extraordinary action" was being taken to halt the Church's slide towards a formal split over the issue of homosexuality.

The head of the Anglican Church has welcomed the move.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said US bishops' move was "constructive".

"They have clearly sought to respond positively to the requests made of them," he said in a statement.

'Mixed messages'

In their statement issued in Texas, the US bishops said they wanted to reaffirm "our continuing commitment to remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and to participate fully in the Anglican Consultative Council".

70 million baptised members worldwide
38 self-governing Churches
500 dioceses, 30,000 parishes, 64,000 congregations in 164 countries
26 million members in the United Kingdom
17.5 million members in Nigeria
2.5 million members in the US

Anglican leaders asked the US and Canadian Churches temporarily to withdraw from the key Anglican Consultative Council less than a month ago.

Rev Susan Russell, president of Integrity, an advocacy group for gay Episcopalians, told the Associated Press news agency that it was "hugely positive" that the moratorium applied to all candidates for bishop, not just gays.

But she said church leaders were sending a mixed signal to gays and lesbians that "the Episcopal Church welcomes you, sort of".

The row within the Anglican Church was triggered by the consecration of Gene Robinson - who lives with his male partner - as Bishop of New Hampshire.

In a report last year, Anglican Church leaders urged the US Church to apologise for ordaining Bishop Robinson without consulting other Anglicans first.

The Windsor Report also asked the US Church to consider a moratorium on consecrating any more bishops in openly gay relationships until the communion adopts a global policy on the matter.

It also recommended a hold on the blessing of same-sex unions.

How the Anglican church has responded to the move

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