Church seeks to avert rift on gays

The Church of England will unveil a blueprint aimed at avoiding a rift over the ordination of gay bishops tomorrow, with the release of the Windsor report.

A commission of 19 senior churchmen, headed by the Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames, has spent the last year deliberating on the question of gay bishops, which has threatened to pull the 70-million strong global Anglican community apart.

The row was triggered by the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading and the consecration of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in America last year.

Both men are gay. Canon John decided not to accept the post to avoid the possibility of schism raised by church conservatives, particularly in Africa. But the Episcopal Church went ahead and ordained Bishop Robinson.

The commission's 80-page report, published tomorrow, is expected to fall short of calling for the expulsion of the 50 bishops who attended the consecration of Bishop Robinson, and for Bishop Robinson to step down, as hardliners had called for.

Instead the report, drafted in Windsor, will censure the bishops, most from the Episcopal Church in the US, who attended the consecration and ask the Episcopal Church to apologise for electing Bishop Robinson.

This compromise is likely to anger both sides, one of which believes that homosexuality is for ever outlawed by the Bible, the other which believes 2,000-year-old words need reinterpretation to better reflect a changing society.