Church at war over new gay bishop

The Scotsman (Scotland), Aug. 7, 2003
http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/
JAMES DOHERTY

The Anglican Church lurched towards all-out civil war last night as affiliates around the world vented their anger at the appointment of an openly gay bishop in the United States.

Church leaders in Asia and Africa said the 77 million- member global Anglican Communion faced a schism that is likely to tear the Church apart after Tuesday’s appointment of Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Canon Robinson, 56, a divorced father-of-two, yesterday stood with his daughter, Ella, and his partner of 13 years, Mark Andrew, and spoke of his love for the Church, but acknowledged his appointment would upset many, saying: “That is the only thing that makes this not a completely joyous day for me.”

The archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, threatened to withdraw his flock of 17 million from the Anglican Communion if the appointment went ahead.

In Uganda, the Anglican spokesman, the Rev Jackson Turyagyenda, said the Church there was “very disappointed”.

The Very Rev Peter Karanja, the provost of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya, said that the Episcopal Church was “alienating itself from the Anglican Communion”.

He added: “We cannot be in fellowship with them when they violate the explicit scripture that the Anglican Church subscribes to. We’d counsel they reconsider the decision.”

Bishops from nine nations in south-east Asia will meet next week to discuss severing ties with the US affiliate. Bishop Lim Cheng Ean, the leader of the Church in Malaysia, set the tone. “Practising homosexuality is culturally and legally not acceptable here,” he said.

The vote to confirm Canon Robinson had been set for Monday, but was delayed after last-minute misconduct allegations emerged. Only after Canon Robinson was cleared on Tuesday did the final vote go ahead.

More than a dozen conservative bishops, who had failed in their attempt to block the appointment, walked to the podium of the House of Bishops, surrounding Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, who read a statement saying that they felt “grief too deep for words”.

As opponents left in tears, Bishop Duncan voiced fears that the decision would lead to the demise of the Church. “This body has divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world,” he said.

The crisis is potentially the most damaging to face Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his eight-month tenure as leader of the Anglican Communion. In May, Dr Williams faced criticism when the Rev Jeffrey John, who is openly gay, was appointed bishop of Reading.

Mr John refused to accept the post after several Anglican bishops from around the world wrote to oppose the appointment. The cleric said he did not want to inflict lasting damage on the Church.

In a statement, Dr Williams urged opponents not to rush into factions and splinter groups. The Church of England leader said the approval of Canon Robinson would inevitably have a “significant impact” as “difficult days lie ahead for the Anglican Church”.

The primate added: “It is my hope that the Church in America and the rest of the Anglican Communion will have the opportunity to consider this development before significant and irrevocable decisions are made in response.

“It will be vital to ensure that the concerns and needs of those across the communion who are gravely concerned at this development can be heard, understood and taken into account.”

But Richard Kirker, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the vote and praised the courage of the Church, which he said had led the way on issues such as the ordination of women and condemning racial segregation.

The Most Rev Bruce Cameron, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which represents 45,000 members, said:

“It is important that we respect these decisions and yet are sensitive to the reactions of others.

“We are currently carrying out a process of consultation with our members on the issues and will report the outcome of this at the earliest opportunity.”

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