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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Anglicans 'regret' gay bishop election
Anglican primates arrive for the meeting
The primates represent a worldwide church 70-million strong
Anglican leaders have condemned the appointment of a gay bishop in the US and warned his consecration would split the church.

In a statement the 37 clerics expressed their "deep regret" over the appointment of Reverend Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States.

It came at the close of the two-day summit at Lambeth Palace of Anglican leaders called in response to anger at the election.

But Anglican church authorities in the United States have defended the openly gay bishop saying he chosen because of his nearly 30 years of ministry, and his sexuality was incidental to his calling as a bishop.

Defying calls for his appointment to be rescinded, they said they looked forward to his consecration.

The statement from church leaders in London warned the canon's consecration in November would lead to further division and could lead to a split in the entire Church.

We have grown closer together rather than further apart during this meeting
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

"If this consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy," the statement said.

Afterwards, conservative clerics said they hoped the pressure put on Canon Robinson would force him to reconsider his position.

The leaders, known as primates, also decided to establish a commission to discuss the "urgent and deep theological and legal reflection on the way in which the dangers we have identified at this meeting will have to be addressed".

It has been asked to report back within 12 months, they said.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams called the meeting a "remarkable couple of days that have not been without pain."

"Our understanding has been hard won, we have grown closer together rather than further apart during this meeting," he said.

US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said in the US a majority had wrestled with the issue of homosexuality for at least 30 years.

"We must keep our focus on the mission we share, more issues that cry for our attention outside the issue of homosexuality," he said.

Gene Robinson

Dr Williams said Gene Robinson would not be licensed to carry out work in the UK in the position he had been appointed in the US.

Canon Robinson's election as bishop had infuriated many traditionalist Anglicans, particularly in countries like Nigeria.

Conservative clergy had threatened to leave the worldwide church if Mr Robinson's appointment was not overturned.

There is still fallout in the UK from the battle over moves to appoint an openly gay priest as Bishop of Reading this summer.

The row over the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John led him to withdraw his candidacy amid fears his appointment would damage the "unity of the church".

Also contributing to tensions within the church is the official church blessing of gay relationships by the Vancouver diocese in Canada.

Participation

The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop Frank Griswold indicated he may yet participate in Mr Robinson's consecration.

He confirmed he would be in New Hampshire on 2 November - the date set for Canon Robinson's ordination.

Reverend Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, warned of "dark days" following the ordination and said his church would join Nigeria's in splitting over the appointment.

HAVE YOUR SAY
To do nothing is no longer an option
Ann, Australia

Liberal leaders want individual branches of the church to have the freedom to decide their own destiny, allowing them to put their stance in line with more reformist views among some national congregations.

Conservatives - such as Reverend Peter Akinola, of the Church of Nigeria - say there can be no compromise over homosexuality because they say it is clearly outlawed by the Bible.

The American Anglican Council, which represents US conservatives, contends the liberals are the ones who have departed from the communion by accepting non-celibate gays.





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The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Prospects for unity seem bleak"



SEE ALSO:
Can Anglicans resolve the gay clergy row?
16 Oct 03  |  Have Your Say


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