Church split over gay bishop election

The Anglican Church is facing a crisis over the issue of homosexuality after the close of an emergency summit between senior clergy in London.

Anglican leaders who met at Lambeth Palace condemned the appointment of a gay bishop in the United States.

The consecration “would tear at the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level”, 37 clerics warned in a agreed statement at the end of the two-day summit.

But the diocese of New Hampshire responded by making it clear it would go ahead with Reverend Gene Robinson’s appointment as its Bishop in November.

The primates (church leaders) meeting in London also announced a commission would be set up to examine the deep divisions over homosexuality to report back in a year.

“If this consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy,” the statement said.

But the diocese of New Hampshire quickly responded with a defiant statement.

“Canon Robinson was elected based on his nearly three decades of ministry in the diocese, his considerable pastoral skills, and his vision for ministry”.

“His sexuality was incidental to his call to serve as our bishop”, it said.

It continued: “We look forward to the consecration of Bishop-elect Robinson on November 2, believing that God has called him to this ministry”.

US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told the press conference called by the primates in London that he would be in New Hampshire for the November consecration – unless there was a “second coming”.

He has no power to force Canon Robinson to step aside.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who had called the meeting at Lambeth Palace, said Gene Robinson would not be licensed to work in the UK.

The gay bishop’s appointment has infuriated many traditionalist Anglicans with Conservative clergy threatening to leave the church if it was not overturned.

In the UK the appointment of the openly gay priest Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading this summer led to a furious row with him finally withdrawing his candidacy.

Also contributing to the tensions is the official church blessing of gay relationships by the Vancouver diocese in Canada.

Liberal leaders want branches of the church to have the freedom to decide their own destiny.

Conservatives – such as Reverend Peter Akinola, of the Church of Nigeria – say there can be no compromise over homosexuality.

The American Anglican Council, which represents US conservatives, welcomed the primates’ statement.

Canon Reverend David C Anderson, said it had issued a “firm and direct warning” about the consequences of the consecration going ahead.

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