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CANADA: Anglican gay row 'full-blown schism': Canadian bishop

CANADA: Anglican gay row 'full-blown schism': Canadian bishop

OTTAWA (AFP) - A theological split in the Anglican Church over homosexuality is now a "full-blown schism," a Canadian bishop said Wednesday, ahead of the expected formation of a breakaway body.

Right Reverend Michael Ingham, whose Greater Vancouver diocese became the first Anglican jurisdiction to formally authorize the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002, accused the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas of tearing at the rip by poaching congregations in Canada.

He also blasted the South American faction for planning to ordain two deacons in his diocese in westernmost Canada next month, despite his objections.

"Over many, many centuries the rule has been that there is only one church in one geographical area, so we think it's improper" for anyone to try to set up a parallel Anglican church in Canada, his spokesman Neil Adams told AFP.

"Setting up two rival bodies is not healthy for the Anglican Church."

"Historically, the Anglican Church came from a split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1400s," Adams conceded. "But afterwards it became a big tent church ... open to a wide variety of theologies, and we think that's good and we'd like it to remain that way."

The conservative South American faction of the global Anglican community is expected Thursday to announce the creation of an alternative church structure in Canada and formally invite conservative priests and parishioners here to join the Southern Cone under retired Bishop Don Harvey's oversight.

Harvey announced last Friday that he was leaving the Anglican Church of Canada and would affiliate with the orthodox Anglican church in South America.

"Because of the unabated theological decay in the Anglican Church of Canada, many long-time Anglicans have already left their church and left Anglicanism," Harvey said in a statement, in a veiled reference to the blessings of gay marriages in this country.

"We want to provide a fully Anglican option -- a safety net -- for others who feel their church has abandoned them and who are contemplating the same action."

Adams countered: "They're essentially trying to maintain their ties to the worldwide Anglican Communion, but escape what they feel is a (local) church that doesn't have the right theology."

In the United States, the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, California, and Quincy, Illinois, as well as several Virginia parishes have indicated they plan to leave the Anglican Episcopal Church and affiliate with overseas churches.

Recently, the Virginia diocese began a court battle with its renegade parishes over title to church buildings.

On Saturday, the Anglican Church of Canada protested the turf trespass, saying in a statement: "We cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the Province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders.

"We call upon the archbishop of Canterbury to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion."

The 77-million Anglican Communion is comprised of 38 autonomous provinces, or regional and national churches, under the titular leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

The Southern Cone spans Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, but has only 27,000 members. The Anglican Church of Canada boasts more than 800,000 parishioners in 30 dioceses nationwide.

Homosexuality has divided the Anglican community since the US Episcopal Church, the US branch of the Anglican Communion, approved the appointment of an openly gay bishop in 2003, angering more conservative branches of the church.

In Canada, the general synod of the Anglican Church voted earlier this year not to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions.

But, three dioceses in recent weeks have authorized same-sex blessings: Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara.

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