Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 19:09 UK

Bishops raise homosexuality issue

Peter Tatchell (2nd left) and members of Lesbian and Gay Christian Group
The protest was said to have gone largely unnoticed by delegates

Anglican bishops have been discussing Bible teachings on homosexuality at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

The debate took place among a group of about 40 bishops, but there was no formal resolution on an issue which has frustrated Church traditionalists.

The subject has driven the Communion to the brink of a permanent split.

Members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement held a protest and unfurled a banner outside a sports hall where the delegates were meeting.

Anglican officials hope the discussion at the conference will help restore some of the trust lost in five years of church conflict over homosexuality.

A spokesman for the bishops would not reveal specific details of what was said but expressed regret that the issue had overshadowed other topics at the conference including world poverty and the environment.

Their views will be represented to a larger committee, which in turn will reflect the collective attitude of the conference.

Divisive issue

Traditionalist Anglicans say several passages in the Bible clearly outlaw active homosexuality.

But liberals say the Bible's general message is that all people should be included in the Church.

Since the ordination of the openly gay, and non-celibate, Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, in the US five years ago, divisions have become increasingly entrenched.

Traditionalists claim that the conference is missing a rare opportunity to deal with the crisis.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, argues that formal resolutions about sexuality have not produced unity in the past.

However, he wants bishops to adopt a general statement of shared belief and then agree to stick to it, as the only way of avoiding further disintegration.

BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott in Canterbury says no issue has come as close to splitting worldwide Anglicanism as homosexuality.

The protesters, led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of facilitating the views of "homophobes" at the conference.

But their demo was said to have gone largely unnoticed by bishops, who left by a different exit after the discussion.

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