Page last updated at 18:15 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 19:15 UK

Bishops criticise Anglican leader

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on 23 May
Traditionalists see the Archbishop of Canterbury as too lenient

Conservative Anglican leaders have opened talks in Jerusalem on the future of the Church with criticism of its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda attacked his failure to discipline the US Episcopal Church for consecrating an openly gay bishop in 2003.

The 300 bishops are meeting to discuss the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion, amid fears of a split.

Many of them say liberals are rewriting the Bible to fit modern trends.

"The Communion is in a state of brokenness," said Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola at the opening of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), which brings together conservative Anglican leaders, many from developing countries.

We want unity... but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend
Gafcon conference booklet

On Monday, another Nigerian bishop, Emmanuel Chukwuma, went even further by calling unequivocally for Dr Williams to resign.

Bishop Chukwuma also described the American Church as "apostates", or heretics, for their approach to homosexuality.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott, who is at the conference, says it is robust comment but it may dismay many of the traditionalists who the meeting in Jerusalem this week needs to unite if they are to exercise real influence in the Communion.

Our correspondent says the talks are in effect a rival to next month's Lambeth Conference - a 10-yearly gathering of Anglican bishops from all over the world.

Many attending the Jerusalem talks have threatened to boycott the July meeting.

Bishops attend a service on the Mount of Olives (picture copyright: Daniel Clarke)
Bishops are discussing the worldwide Anglican communion's future

Our correspondent says the Gafcon delegates are also drawing up what amounts to a blueprint for an alternative Anglican Communion.

The traditionalist meeting is a clear signal to other Anglicans of their willingness to give up their links with Canterbury if that is what it takes to return to what they consider to be the Biblical values of the first Christians, he adds.

"We want unity... but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend," a booklet issued by the conference's organisers said.

'On fire'

However, Archbishop Akinola stopped short of saying a schism in the 77-million-strong Communion was imminent.

Our correspondent says the conservatives are angered not only by the US Episcopal Church's stance on homosexual priests, but also by the leadership of the Communion's failure to discipline the US faction.

We don't agree with what happens in the Episcopal Church but this doesn't divide us
Suheil Salman Dawani
Bishop of Jerusalem

Archbishop Henri Orombi of Uganda was among those who called on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to take a stronger stance.

"We have been on fire for quite a while, and he just cannot leave us burning and delay. At what time will you salvage us?" he asked.

"Supposing another part of the communion begins to do something which is contrary to the word of God, how is it going to stand up and say no to that? That's my challenge."

However, the Jerusalem conference does not speak for all traditionalist Anglicans, our correspondent says.

The Bishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Salman Dawani, had asked the organisers not to meet in the city, saying that many other traditionalists like himself would resist the conference's approach to the crisis.

"We don't agree with what happens in the Episcopal Church but this doesn't divide us. Unity is at the heart of the gospel of Christ," Bishop Dawani said.

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