Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2003 15:24 UK

Williams attacked over gay bishop

Canon Jeffrey John
Dr John has many supporters across the Church
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been accused of walking away from Anglicans in the developing world.

A leading bishop in Nigeria, which has the world's largest Anglican Church, has attacked Dr Rowan Williams over the appointment of a gay priest as Bishop of Reading.

Dr Williams has said he stands by Canon Jeffrey John.

But Bishop Cyril Okoracha from eastern Nigeria says the views of many Anglicans elsewhere in the world are being ignored.

Dr Williams denied claims that homosexual clergy were being promoted to change Church policy on the issue by stealth.

He also rebuked English bishops for fuelling a public row about Dr John's appointment.

Williams move

But Dr Williams' success in buying time for quieter reflection was short-lived.

Bishop Okoracha, whose Owerri diocese in Nigeria is twinned with Oxford, said Dr Williams' failure to oppose Dr John's selection meant he was walking away from the majority of the world's Anglicans.

At home, the Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, said only if Dr John stepped down could a split in the Church be avoided.

Should we have gay clergy?

But there has been support for Dr Williams from the man who appointed Dr John.

The Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, said rejecting him would suggest that there was no place for homosexual people in the Church.

Dr Williams has said he raised no objection to the appointment of Dr John as bishop.

In a letter sent to all diocesan and suffragan bishops in England, Dr Williams said: "It is an appointment I have sought neither to promote nor to obstruct."

Dr John, due to be ordained as Bishop of Reading on 9 October, has been in a relationship with a man for 27 years but says he is now celibate.

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