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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 10:44 GMT
Gay bishop meets head of Church
Bishop Gene Robinson
Bishop Robinson's appointment caused a storm
The first openly gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, has met Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for talks.

Lambeth Palace said Dr Williams met the bishop of New Hampshire as he wanted to listen to all the voices in the Church.

The bishop's ordination sparked a row across the Anglican Communion, with many conservative, evangelical and developing world priests outraged.

Bishop Robinson told BBC News: "The issue has to be faced because gay and lesbian people have to be faced."

The bishop spoke at an Oxford Union debate on Thursday on whether gay men could become bishops.

He said the Bible was misinterpreted in order to reject gay people from the Church.

The issue has to be faced because gay and lesbian people have to be faced
Bishop Gene Robinson

The "Sin of Sodom" had nothing to do with homosexual sex but was a "failure to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans", he said.

Speaking to BBC News, Bishop Robinson said it was inevitable the Church would have impassioned debate over moral issues and even differences but did not need to split.

"From time to time the Church has always attempted to define itself and, if you will, find its soul yet again as it faces each new issue that presents itself," he said.

The bishop said there should be no such thing as "irreconcilable differences" in the Church.

Acceptance needed

But he said the issue of gay and lesbian people within the Church had to be addressed.

"Scripture is not as plainspoken as some would have us believe.

"The issue has to be faced because gay and lesbian people have to be faced," he added.

"I believe that the acceptance of gay and lesbian people into the life of the church is something that is going to happen. It may not happen in my lifetime, but that is all right. It will happen in God's own time.

"What I will say in the short run is that no one is asking any other province of the Anglican Communion to raise up gay and lesbian people and to ordain them as priests or consecrate them as bishops.

"We are only asking that we be allowed to do this in our own context, which is admittedly different to that of most of the world."

Traditionalists are likely to see Bishop Robinson's presence in the UK as a provocation in itself, and Dr Williams' decision to meet him as a significant gesture.

With churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America vehemently opposed to the bishop's ordination, critics in the Church of England have said a schism in the worldwide Anglican church is on the horizon.

'Candid' talks

But there are many in the Church who believe that gay bishops are compatible with scripture.

Lambeth Palace said the talks between Dr Williams and Mr Robinson were "friendly but candid".

The bishop himself refused to discuss what had been said in the meeting, but added: "It was a good meeting, a very, very cordial one."

Bishop Robinson is also attend events to mark the 10th anniversary of gay Christian pressure group Changing Attitude.

Bishop Robinson's ordination in 2003 prompted the Church to examine how it would cope with the issue which threatened to split the worldwide Church.

Earlier 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.

New challenge

Bishop Robinson lives with his partner Mark Andrew, and has two daughters from a failed marriage.

Meanwhile, a church in London has thrown down a new challenge to the authority of the Church of England.

Dundonald evangelical church in Wimbledon has had three of its priests ordained by a foreign bishop, accusing the Church of abandoning its disapproval of homosexual relationships.

The three men were ordained by bishop Martin Morrison, whose South African church is not a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The London church's minister, Richard Coekin, said it was estranged from the bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, over what it regards as his unduly liberal attitude to civil partnerships between gay couples.

The church belongs to the traditional Anglican group Reform.

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