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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 16:57 GMT
Archbishop 'regrets' divisions
Dr Williams said there was deep regret over the divisions
The consecration of the first openly gay Anglican bishop will not be 'accepted' throughout the church, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Rowan Williams reiterated concerns within the church after Canon Gene Robinson was consecrated as Bishop of New Hampshire in the US on Sunday.

Dr Williams said it would not be possible to accept Canon Robinson's ministry in every province in the communion.

Dr Williams also said divisions arising from the appointment were "a matter of deep regret".

Traditionalists had warned of a schism over the appointment in the US.

I'm in very good company
Canon Robinson

Dr Williams said: "It is clear that those who have consecrated Gene Robinson have acted in good faith on their understanding of what the constitution of the American church permits.

"But the effects of this upon the ministry and witness of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans particularly in the non-western world have to be confronted with honesty."

He said: "It will not be possible for Gene Robinson's ministry as a bishop to be accepted in every province in the communion."

While the autonomy of the Anglican provinces is an important principle, Dr Williams said it was "precisely because we rely on relations more than rules, consultation and interdependence are essential for our health."

The New Hampshire diocese had pressed on with the consecration despite a two-day summit last month by 37 archbishops at Lambeth Palace in London which had warned of the consequences of such a move.

Formal protests

At the summit, the leaders, known as primates, also decided to establish a commission to discuss the theological ramifications of the move. The commission will report back in 12 months.

Formal protests were made at the ceremony, but Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold overruled them and continued with the service in a specially converted ice-hockey arena in the town of Durham.

About 4,000 people attended the ceremony amid tight security.

Fifty American bishops were there, as well as Canon Robinson's family and parishioners.

Demonstrators gathered outside the venue, some carrying placards with slogans such as God Hates Fags.

Some traditionalists, who view homosexuality as a violation of the teachings of the Bible, plan to ask Dr Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's Anglican Christians, for permission to split from the Church.

British evangelical campaign group Reform said Bishop Robinson and his supporters had stepped "beyond what is acceptable".

A spokesman said Reform will be "seeking reassurances from our bishops that they won't have anything to do with those who have taken these steps and a failure to get those reassurances will cause splits in this country."

The group added: "We believe that homosexual relationships are clearly contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture.

"The Anglican Communion must now formalise a separation that has already occurred."

Anglican Mainstream said it was in mourning after the consecration, saying "We, like most of the Anglican world, do not accept Gene Robinson as a bishop."

'New honesty'

It called on members of the American church opposed to the consecration to "stand fast and remain with the Anglican Communion".

The consecration was welcomed by Changing Attitude, a national organisation of Anglican bishops, priests and lay people, which said it showed a "new honesty".

"His ministry will inspire lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual Christians with new confidence that we have a full place at the communion table of our Lord," said Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude.

"The highest offices of the church can be open to lesbian and gay people without pretence.

"A new honesty is present, undermining the secrecy of `don't ask, don't tell' policies and the fear of discovery and abuse which many lesbian and gay Christians live with."

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Different parts of the church are developing at different speeds"

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