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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
'Huge crisis' over gay bishop
US Bishop Frank Griswold, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Archbishop of Armagh Robin Eames
Rowan Williams, centre, said the Church faces "huge challenges"
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of a serious split looming in the Anglican Church, after US clerics insisted they would go ahead with consecrating a gay bishop.

Dr Rowan Williams said there was a "huge crisis looming" over the forthcoming consecration of Reverend Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

"We shall immediately have some responses from around the world," if the ceremony goes ahead, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Some provinces will declare outright that they're not in communion... others would want to continue in an impaired state of relation," he said.

The diocese of New Hampshire said it would press on with next month's consecration after a two-day summit by 37 archbishops at Lambeth Palace in London, which warned of the consequences of such a move.

Gene Robinson

In a statement it said Canon Robinson's sexuality should be seen as "incidental" to his ability as a church leader.

"Canon Robinson was elected based on his nearly three decades of ministry in the diocese, his considerable pastoral skills, and his vision for ministry," it said.

It continued: "We look forward to the consecration of Bishop-elect Robinson on 2 November, believing that God has called him to this ministry."

The primates meeting in London said the consecration "would tear at the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level".

"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," they said in an agreed statement.

The leaders set up a commission to look into the whole issue, which they said should report back within a year.

Dr Williams said this would allow 12 months' "thinking time" into how splits over homosexuality could be resolved.

He added that the summit had shown it was possible "at least to find some way of talking through the crisis without instantly jumping into what appear to be quick solutions".

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

But he said it had also displayed very clearly the anger of "a very, very large number of Anglican provinces who feel that a decision has been made which commits them, or involves them in some way, and yet in which they have had no part at all".

There remained a paradox at the heart of the Church with two different groups feeling "squashed" and needing to be included, he said.

"One group of course is the homosexual community, here and elsewhere.

"The other group is those from small and struggling churches, often in the developing world, who feel excluded, overruled and ignored."

UK bishop

When asked whether he personally believed Canon Robinson should become a bishop, he said: "No, I don't".

That was because the church had to make a decision together on such major issues, he said.

US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said he was certain the consecration of Canon Robinson would go ahead - unless there was a "second coming".

He has no power to force Canon Robinson to step aside.

Dr Williams said Gene Robinson would not be licensed to work in the UK, under its current rules.

In the UK the appointment of the openly gay priest Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading this summer led to a furious row with him finally withdrawing his candidacy.

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
"A celibate homosexual is always eligible for consideration"

The BBC's Ian Pannell
"New Hampshire is now at the heart of a worldwide religious controversy"


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