Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 10:40 UK

Archbishop criticises gay threats

Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams criticised what he called "unchristian bullying"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned death threats made against the leader of a group representing homosexual Anglicans in England.

Dr Rowan Williams said threats against Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, marked the "latest round of unchristian bullying".

He was also criticising assaults on gay Anglicans in Nigeria.

His comments follow a global dispute over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Church in recent years.

The divisions in the church over homosexuality began with the ordination of a gay bishop by the liberal American branch of Anglicanism, the Episcopal Church, in 2003.

On one side are the conservative Anglicans who are adamant that ordaining gay clergy or blessing same-sex relationships in church is a sin, and on the other a coalition which insists on tolerance and inclusion of homosexual people.

Rev Coward said comments made by conservative Anglican church leaders had unintentionally encouraged death threats against him.

Conservative society

They have described active homosexuality as sinful and a satanic attack against the church.

Meanwhile, 12 Church of England bishops have signed a letter addressed to traditionalist leaders asking them to moderate their language, although acknowledging that they had not intended to foment violence.

In Nigeria, where gay Anglicans were attacked, homosexual sex is illegal.

Like many African countries, it is a conservative society where homosexuality is considered a taboo.

The Nigerian Anglican Church is Africa's largest Anglican church, with an estimated 17.5 million members.

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