Church wants gay bishop apology

Those supporting the consecration of openly gay clergy must accept a worldwide Anglican Communion consensus on homosexuality or risk tearing the church in two, a report warned today.

Bishops involved in the controversial ordination of Canon Gene Robinson in the US were urged to apologise for the consequences of their actions, which caused "deep offence" among the Anglican community.

Fifty American bishops attended the consecration of Canon Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire last year, causing outrage among the traditional sections of the church.

Today's Windsor Report also called on the Episcopal church in the US - which oversaw Canon Robinson's ordination - to "effect a moratorium" on the consecration of any more gay candidates until the fiercely debated issue has been resolved.

Failure to do so could lead to an irrevocable split in the church, according to the study carried out by the Lambeth Commission and set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

It warned: "There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together.

"Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart."

The 121-page report said that those bishops who apologised should also consider whether they should withdraw from representative roles within the Anglican church.

The study referred specifically to the Episcopalian church in the US and the new Westminster diocese in Canada which permitted same-sex blessings.

Refusing to be drawn on the issue of homosexuality one way or another, the report focused on the rift the issue had caused.

It demanded an explanation from the Episcopal church in the US as to "how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ".

It asked that this explanation be backed up by passages from the scriptures.

But the Windsor Report also went on to criticise the "demonising" of homosexuality".

"Any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill-treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care," it said.

The report, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, urged all Anglican provinces around the world to support the Lambeth resolution, which called for the reassessment of the churches "care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation".

Dr Eames, Archbishop of Armagh, said: "Since the 1970s, controversies over issues of human sexuality have become increasingly divisive and destructive throughout Christendom."

He described the election of Canon Robinson to Bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions in Canada as uncovering "major divisions throughout the Anglican Communion".

He went on: "There has been talk of crisis, schism and realignment. Voices and declarations have portrayed a communion in crisis."

Dr Eames said the depth of feeling on all sides had led to "a degree of harshness and a lack of charity which is new to Anglicanism".

He insisted today's report was not a judgment but part of an ongoing process.

He said: "It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation."

The Rev Martin Reynolds, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said they were pleased with the overall tone of the report.

He said: "Whilst we are very saddened by the suggestion that bishops who have been supportive of Gene and supported same–sex blessings should withdraw from the councils of the church, we are very happy with the general tone of the report which is aimed at healing and reconciliation."

He added they were buoyed by the section of the report which said the debate over homosexuality had not ended.

Mr Reynolds said the fact that the report suggested the communion established structures for ongoing discussion meant that the "voice of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement could be heard".

He went on: "That makes a change from being strangled as some people are literally in many places around the world."

Mr Reynolds said the report's demand for an explanation as to why a homosexual could be a religious leader was an excellent opportunity to open dialogue with the church.