Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Wednesday, 22 June 2005 08:16 UK

US Church defends gay bishop move

Church of England bishop
The US Church was asked to justify Gene Robinson's ordination

The American Anglican Church has defended its decision to ordain a gay bishop - a move that almost split the worldwide Church.

The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham discussed issues raised by Gene Robinson's appointment.

The Bishop of New York Catherine Roskam said there was nothing wrong with a gay person leading an Anglican flock.

She also called on the rest of the Anglican communion to learn to live with different approaches to sexuality.

The American and Canadian churches were forced to withdraw from the council earlier this year for breaking traditional Anglican teaching on sexuality.

Bishop Roskam was among a group of observers sent to the council's meeting to explain her Church's willingness to ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex relationships.

She told the meeting that she did not hope to change the mind of traditionalists - who believe homosexuality is inherently sinful - but to plead for the communion to live together with its differences.

Last year an inquiry into the row called for an explanation from the American church of the ordination.

The Windsor Report following last year's inquiry warned that there would be a split in the Church unless steps were taken towards reconciliation.

US Church leaders have earlier expressed "deep regret" for the pain caused by the appointment of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Same-sex blessings

In March this year the US Church, in a move to halt a slide towards a formal split, said it would not appoint new bishops or bless same-sex relationships for at least one year.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, in his presidential address at the meeting on Monday, said two issues needed study.

These were the nature of a holy life for someone with consistent homosexual desires and the appropriate discipline to be applied to the personal life of the pastor in the Church.

He said the "majority voice of the Communion holds firmly" with the decision that it was "impossible to justify a change in existing practice and discipline".

"It is possible to uphold this decision and still say that there are many unanswered questions in the theological picture just outlined, and that a full discussion of these needs a far more careful attention to how homosexual people see themselves and their relations," he added.

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