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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 10:41 GMT
Gay priest row 'threatens Bible'
Church leaders gathered in Northern Ireland
Church leaders gathered to discuss the Windsor Report
The issue of homosexuality is putting the authority of the Bible at risk and may yet split the Anglican Church, an Australian church leader has warned.

Dr Peter Jensen said a split over gay priests and same-sex marriages would be "painful" but could happen.

And the Archbishop of Sydney urged "a turning back to what the bible says".

Thirty-five of the 38 primates who lead the world's 77 million-strong Anglican Communion are discussing the issue at a meeting in Newry, County Down.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, appealed for unity in the Church as the leaders met to consider the Windsor Report, issued after the controversial ordination of a gay cleric in the US.

I am hoping there will be reconciliation and a turning back again to what the Bible says
Dr Peter Jensen
Archbishop of Sydney, Australia
However, Dr Jensen said those who opposed homosexual practices in the Church were prepared to split over the issue.

"The idea that we break from one another is a painful one, and very, very sorrowful," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday.

"But there do come times when the authority of the Bible is at stake - and this is one of those times - where to stay together becomes a great difficulty.

"I hope we can stay together. I am hoping there will be reconciliation and a turning back again to what the Bible says.

"But in the final analysis, as in the past, as the Baptists had to break away from the Church of England, there are times where strong views are held and where division does occur."

Bid for 'purity'

The Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee, considered a moderniser, said division was being pushed by American-funded right-wingers.

"The Christian right, particularly funded from North America, is generating very severe divisions in the Baptist and Anglican and indeed the Roman Catholic churches," Mr Slee told Today.

"I think this is a deeper social occurrence that is occurring right across the spectrum of culture and is to do with people seeking after purity and thinking there can be such a thing as a pure church, which there can't be and never has been."

The Windsor Report was published in 2004 in the wake of Gene Robinson's ordination and set out a strategy to calm the crisis, which has threatened to split the Church.

The Windsor Report warned there would be a split in the Church unless steps were taken towards reconciliation.

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