Daily Telegraph (England), July 24, 2003
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
In their most powerful statement yet, seven primates and a number of bishops – representing more than half the 75 million-strong Church – demanded that Canon Gene Robinson be stopped from becoming bishop of New Hampshire.
They warned that, if his appointment is ratified by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, they are “prepared to respond”, a signal that they are ready for the worldwide Church to split into two.
The primates said that, if their fears were realised, they would convene an “extraordinary meeting” involving the leaders of more than half the Church’s 38 provinces to deal with the “dramatic realignment”.
The statement, an ultimatum to the liberal wing of the Church which marks one of the most dangerous moments in Anglican history, follows their triumph in forcing the withdrawal of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading.
Canon Robinson is, however, regarded as even less acceptable than Canon John, who is now celibate, because he is still in a sexually active relationship.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is at the centre of the storm, was beginning a trip to the west coast of Africa last night and was not available for comment.
The brief but powerfully worded statement followed a two-day meeting in Washington of evangelicals from around the world. They included the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, and Dr Philip Giddings from Oxford, one of the main opponents of Canon John.
The statement called on the General Convention, the American equivalent of the Church of England’s General Synod, to decline to ratify Canon Robinson’s election.
Under the rules of the Episcopal Church, diocesan appointment must be confirmed, in this case by a majority of deputies and bishops at the two-week Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A vote to block the democratically elected choice of a diocese would be unprecedented, however, and most observers believe that Canon Robinson will be confirmed in the post. Less likely to go through is legislation paving the way for the Episcopal Church to introduce gay “marriages”.
Canon Robinson, who lives with his partner Mark Andrew, whom he met after divorcing his wife, has said that he has no intention of withdrawing voluntarily and has called on Dr Williams to open the Church to homosexuals.