Bishops take a hard line on gays

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The Independent Online
THE OVERWHELMING majority of Anglican bishops last night, backed a hardline stance against homosexuals in the church following a highly charged final debate on the subject at the Lambeth Conference.

The conservative resolution, which declared that homosexuality was "against scripture", was a clear victory for the Alliance of Evangelical Western Bishops and those from Africa and Asia. The crucial clause said that the conference "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex union, nor the ordaining of those involved in same agenda unions."

However, the liberal wing of the Anglican Church, particularly in the United Kingdom, North America, Australia and New Zealand, where there are significant numbers of ordained practising homosexuals, refused to admit defeat.

The Bishop of Johannesburg, the Rt Rev Duncan Buchanan, who chaired the two weeks of debate on human sexuality, signalled that the liberals would not give in. "Churches in the United States and elsewhere ... need to take into account the fact that Lambeth Conference has passed the resolution when they make decisions in the future," he said.

But the resolution has no legal binding and, in reality, provinces throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion will be able to continue to do what they wish. "The word we use in the resolution was 'advise'," said Bishop Buchanan. "One of the nice things about being Anglican is that you can both shout and disagree."

The Rev Richard Kirker, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "The Lambeth Conference resolutions are not rules by which the Anglican Communion have to conduct their affairs. It was the same with the ordination of women, some went ahead and ordained women before it was formally accepted because they could not wait. This has simply made clear what many did not want to admit, that there is a deep division on this issue."

He said the group estimated about 15 to 20 per cent of priests world- wide were gay or bisexual though they may not be practising. In this country alone, at least two priests are known to be openly gay and accepted by their congregations.

The Rt Rev John Spong, Bishop of Newark in New Jersey, and a leading advocate of gay rights within the Anglican church, said: "We have achieved a great victory here, this issue is now at the front and centre of the Anglican Communion and at the next conference I predict there will be openly out gay bishops. "