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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Gay appointment splits UK Anglicans
Gene Robinson
Mr Robinson's election has been opposed by conservatives
The appointment of the first openly gay Anglican bishop has provoked warnings of a split in the church, while others have welcomed the move in Britain.

The appointment of Reverend Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire comes about a month after a gay British canon turned down a bishop's post because of the controversy surrounding his appointment.

Reverend Robinson was elected by 62 votes to 45 by bishops of the Episcopal Church - the US branch of the 80-million strong global Anglican Communion.

The church's spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said the US appointment heralded "difficult days".

'Out of kilter'

His words were echoed by writer Andrew Carey, a traditionalist opposed to the appointment.

"There won't be an immediate split but there will be a period of realignment and great difficulty," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It is quite clear that a move like this would be considered by the majority of Christians worldwide as putting the American church out of kilter with world wide Christianity."

He said the worldwide church has always stood for sex within marriage.

"The problem with this appointment is that for many people this seems to institutionalise something that has always been regarded as sinful - forgivable but sinful."

The Rev David Phillips, general secretary of the Church Society, said the Church of England should separate itself from the American church.

"We consider the Episcopal Church of the United States has put itself outside the fellowship of the church with this issue," he said.

"They have created schism with what they have done and I hope what happens is that the churches in North America separate themselves from others and uphold the Bible's position."

No interference

The Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee, considered a moderniser, said it was up to the American branch of the 80m global Anglican Communion to make their own decisions.

"I don't think it's right for the church anywhere to interfere in appointments made in another province, so it's not our business to interfere with appointments in the United States."

He criticised people who were warning of a split.

James Jelinek (L), Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, embraces Canon Robinson

"What we are seeing is signs of people forming alignments, but basically their intention is rule or ruin. If they don't like what is happening they are determined to ruin it."

Labour MP and church commissioner Stuart Bell said the Archbishop of Canterbury faced a challenge in reconciling the opposing views.

'Liberal interpretation'

"We do need to move away from this idea of schism or split. Both sides of the argument wish to stay inside the church, and the great challenge for the Archbishop of Canterbury is to see how he can bring that about.

"Who is right or wrong is not really the issue. It is how we can bring about in the Anglican community both strands of opinion, sincerely held, one believing in a literal interpretation of the bible, others believing in a liberal interpretation."

The US vote has been deplored among sections of the Anglican community worldwide, with Church leaders in Asia denouncing the appointment of a homosexual bishop as contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Early in July gay priest Canon Jeffrey John decided not to take up the post Bishop of Reading, following weeks of bitter argument within the Anglican Church about whether or not he should be allowed to hold the position, because of his sexuality.

Dr John said at the time that he made the decision because of the "damage" his consecration might cause to the "unity of the Church".

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

Anglicans warned over gay bishop
06 Aug 03  |  Americas
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US church backs gay bishop
01 Aug 03  |  Americas
Gay bishop debate stirs passions
02 Aug 03  |  Americas

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