Gay bishop forced to halt sermon after heckler calls him 'heretic'

The tensions tearing the Anglican Church apart were underlined last night as its first openly gay bishop was heckled during a sermon in London.

The Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire, was forced to halt his address after a demonstrator repeatedly called him a heretic.

He faced the protest as hundreds of bishops from around the world prepare to travel to Canterbury for the Lambeth conference, which takes place every 10 years. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is desperately fighting to avoid a lasting split in the church over the issues of gay clergy and the ordination of women bishops.

Bishop Robinson, who has not been invited to the conference, began his sermon at St Mary's Church in Putney, south-west London, by saying how sad he was that the worldwide Anglican communion was being split over the issue of homosexuality.

But a member of the congregation shouted that the schism was his fault and forced him to halt mid-sentence. As the bishop's supporters started slow handclapping the demonstrator, a hymn was sung and the unidentified protester was escorted from the building.

Earlier, Stephen Green, national director of the traditionalist Christian Voice, said: "It is a sad day when you get a bishop in a church preaching something that God himself called an abomination."

Resuming his sermon shortly after the interruption, Bishop Robinson said: "This discussion of homosexuality we are having in the church is not so significant because of what it says about homosexuality, but because of what it says about God.

"When someone stands up and says homosexuality is an abomination, does that make you want to get to know God?"

Earlier Bishop Robinson, whose ordination five years ago sent convulsions through the church, said he was disappointed that Dr Williams was trying to "appease" conservative elements over homosexuality.

His omission from the Lambeth conference guest-list has been seen as an olive branch to the church's more traditional wing. He described the decision to bar him as a mistake as it would mean the openly gay voice would be absent from the event.

Asked if any of the bishops attending were gay, but not open about it, he said: "Absolutely." He added: "I do not think that there is a person around and breathing that believes that I'm the first gay bishop, just the first talking honestly about it."

Bishop Robinson said: "When Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, we were delighted because he had been very vocal in his support of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the Church.

"It has certainly been a disappointment that he has been seen to seem to us to bend over backwards to, some would say, listen, others would say appease, the most conservative elements of our church."

In the latest sign that the church faces a potentially irrevocable split, members of the Gafcon movement (Global Anglican Future Conference) have established the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Members said the move was born, not of homophobia, but "to reassert the authority of the Bible". But the breakaway group is widely seen as a rebuke to the Archbishop of Canterbury after he invited supporters of gay bishops to the Lambeth conference.

They include the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, who said yesterday he would be happy to consecrate Britain's first openly homosexual bishop himself.

Dr Morgan told The Sunday Telegraph: "If there was a candidate who was in a homosexual relationship that would be discussed. It would be my job to say, 'you have to vote according to your conscience, but I'm duty-bound to tell you that it will have repercussions as far as the wider Anglican communion is concerned'. If a priest had a partner and someone nominated them, that wouldn't be a bar to them becoming a bishop."

Pleading for unity in the communion yesterday, Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, said: "The Anglican Church prides itself – and this is one of its greatest attributes – it prides itself on being the church that is comprehensive, meaning that it includes all kinds of points of view."

He added: "One of the sadnesses about the current crisis is that we seem to be jettisoning this wonderful inclusivity that is a characteristic of our church."

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup