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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Church wants gay bishop apology
Gene Robinson (L) is invested in New Hampshire
Gene Robinson became the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire
The Anglican Church has urged US church leaders to apologise for ordaining a gay priest as bishop.

The call was made by the Lambeth Commission, set up after the ordination of Gene Robinson threatened to split the worldwide Anglican church.

Commission chairman Irish Anglican leader Robin Eames concluded: "There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together."

The report called for a moratorium on the consecration of gay candidates.

It demanded an explanation from the Anglican Church in the US, known as Episcopalian, about "how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ".

Scripture must be used to back up the explanation, it added.

'Condemnation'

Many conservative clergy believe the Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality, and African church leaders have also argued it is a strong cultural taboo in many areas on the continent.

However, the report urged all members of the church to work together, while acknowledging that serious divisions exist.

Dr Eames insisted Monday's report was not a judgment but part of an ongoing process.

There has been talk of crisis, schism and realignment - voices and declarations have portrayed a communion in crisis
Robin Eames

"It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation."

The report urged the 50 bishops who attended the ordination of Gene Robinson last November as Bishop of New Hampshire to apologise for their actions, but adds that they should not be expelled.

In consecrating Bishop Robinson, the report said, the Episcopal bishops had "acted in the full knowledge that very many people in the Anglican Communion could neither recognise nor receive the ministry as a bishop in the church of God of a person in an openly acknowledged same-gender union".

Dr Eames told BBC World Service's Newshour: "There could have been much more consultation before they took a step that was obviously contrary to the views of a great many Anglicans."

He added: "In a world Anglican family there are no rules, no constitution, to control our relationship with each other.

"While autonomy is important, we have to be realistic that there are certain limitations to it.

"Those limitations turn on when it affects the beliefs, the practice, the confidence of others."

'Express regret'

Conservatives, particularly in the African sections of the church, were outraged over the ordination and several broke ties with the US. Many are still demanding the suspension of the US church.

The report invited the Episcopal Church "to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached" in appointing Canon Robinson.

Until there was an apology, those who took part should consider whether to withdraw themselves from functions of the Anglican Communion, the commission said.

ANGLICAN CHURCH FACTS
70 million baptised members worldwide
38 self-governing Churches
500 dioceses, 30,000 parishes, 64,000 congregations in 164 countries
26 million members in the United Kingdom
17.5 million members in Nigeria
2.5 million members in the US

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Dr Eames said: "Since the 1970s, controversies over issues of human sexuality have become increasingly divisive and destructive throughout Christendom."

He said the ordination of Canon Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions in Canada had uncovered "major divisions throughout the Anglican Communion".

"There has been talk of crisis, schism and realignment. Voices and declarations have portrayed a communion in crisis."

But he told Newshour: "I am confident that we will find our way through this difficulty.

"It will take immense patience, immense courage, but I do believe that there are the seeds already today for a way forward."

'Toothless'

But the Church Society branded the report "toothless" for lacking clear direction over the issue of homosexuality.

"Everyone stressed how important the communion was but not what you do when people undermine that," said the society's Reverend David Phillips.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The Church must move with the times
Alex K, London. UK

"I am pretty disappointed with this. I was expecting something much more definite and clear."

Reverend Martin Reynolds, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, praised the report's "conciliatory " tone.

"This is a document we can work with, this is a church we want to continue to be a part of. We see this as the beginning of the real debate."




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