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NOTTINGHAM: US church leaders justify ordination of gay bishop

US church leaders justify ordination of gay bishop

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

NOTTINGHAM (June 20, 2005)--ANGLICAN leaders will hear for the first time tomorrow a theological justification by the heads of the Canadian and American churches for their actions over homosexuals, which have brought the Anglican community to the brink of schism.

The Primate of the US Anglican Church, the Most Rev Frank Griswold, will deliver a report to a meeting in Nottingham on why it was right to ordain the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. The Canadian Primate, the Archbishop of Montreal, the Most Rev Andrew Hutchison, will also lead a delegation to explain the actions of the New Westminster Diocese in authorising same-sex blessings.

The US report, To "Set Our Hope on Christ", has been prepared by the liberal theologian Mark Mcintosh, of Loyola University, Chicago, and others. Although the Americans have expressed regret for the effects of their actions, they have not expressed repentance and are not expected to do so.

They will continue to stand by the ordination of Bishop Robinson, condemned by the so-called Global South churches of Africa for breaching the spirit of a resolution on sexuality agreed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that set a biblical norm on the issue, and which was legal within the constitution of the US church and supported by most of its bishops.

However, they have agreed a temporary moratorium on any future episcopal ordinations, straight and gay, in an attempt to avert immediate schism. Their report concludes with a detailed appendix setting out a 40-year history of the US church's explorations of the gay issue.

After the primates' meeting in Ireland this year, Canada and the US agreed to withdraw their official representatives from this week's meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, the worldwide church's executive body. Their delegates will be limited to explaining their actions.

The meeting opened yesterday with a procession through the streets of Nottingham led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The communion, with 77 million members in 38 provinces, has been paralysed by the dispute over gays. Neither side wants schism but it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how they can remain in the same body. The debate will come to a head at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

All sides are hoping to avert schism. One outcome in 2008 could be that the US and Canada are forced into observer status only unless they agree to adopt the orthodox line. Internationally the rift appears unbridgeable. In Brazil the former Bishop of Recife, Robinson Cavalcanti, is to appeal against his deposition by a church court for declaring his diocese out of communion with New Westminster and New Hampshire. The Recife diocesan standing committeehas described his deposition as vicious, and has called an extraordinary synod for August.

# The new Archbishop of York wants to banish homophobia from the Church of England. John Sentamu said he wanted people to stop using "ghastly" language that implied people were "not human beings" because of their sexual orientation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said, in an ITV interview with Melvyn Bragg, that he could see no "theological objections" to a woman leading the Anglican Church and admitted that many Christians were bigoted towards homosexuals.


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