Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 20:20 UK

Clergy reject gay 'false gospel'

Gay protestors
The bishops deny protestors' claims that their views are based on prejudice

Traditionalists within the Anglican church have promised an alternative to what they call a "false gospel" on issues such as homosexuality.

The group, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, has been meeting to discuss setting up a "church within a church".

It says it may intervene in churches, including the Church of England, to combat liberal approaches to sexuality.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has criticised the plans as "fraught with difficulty".

Church 'chaos'

The Fellowship has promised to set up a council of bishops to help restore order to what it has called the "chaos" over the last five years within the worldwide Anglican church.

Events such as the ordination of the openly gay - and non-celibate - bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, in 2003 have split the church, with traditionalists calling for a reassertion of the "authority of the bible."

On Sunday traditionalists published the so-called "Jerusalem Declaration" calling for a return to church teachings based on the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

After a meeting with 700 English clergy in London on Tuesday, one of the group's leaders, the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, said British clergy had already experienced what he said was the "missionary zeal" of the liberal agenda.

He said they needed to be ready to fight back.

But the group is anxious to stress that it intends to remain within the Anglican Communion.

'Anti-gay'

The head of the Church in South America, Archbishop Gregory Venables, said: "It is not the formation of an alternative group. It is not a breaking away.

"It is the exercise of legitimate authority for the sake of the Anglican communion. A group of leadership has got to take things in hand to take things forward."

The conference was picketed by protestors who have accused the group of being prejudiced against woman and gay people.

Priest's collar
The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures...In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it.
Extract from the 'Jerusalem Declaration' by traditionalist Anglicans

But at a news conference, archbishop Jensen dismissed as a "myth" claims that his group was homophobic .

He said: "What we see in the goings-on in New Hampshire and elsewhere is, if you like, a symbolic enactment of a different set of ideas.

"It is not so much the thing itself, as what it represents in our church which has so alarmed us."

Dr Williams has already criticised plans for a self-elected group of traditionalist bishops as lacking in legitimacy.

But archbishop Jensen said the bishops had "enormous authority" within their own provinces.

He added that there were moments in the church when "authority must be taken".

He added: "I was a little surprised at the Archbishop's remarks.

"I was hoping he might be very joyfully receptive to what he sees here as a development of quite legitimate authority to help bring order to the chaos of the Anglican Communion in the last five years."


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