Gay group protests over ban on holding cathedral service

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A lesbian and gay Christian conference with the first practising homosexual bishop, Canon Gene Robinson, has been barred from holding a service in Manchester Cathedral.

The continuing row over homosexual bishops and gay blessings was blamed for the banning of the event, which was to have been held next month as the culmination of a three-day gathering.

The cathedral said it had "reluctantly" withdrawn its permission for the service organised by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). The action was taken "in the light of sensitivities and timing in relation to the current debates in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion". The LGCM immediately accused the authorities of breach of contract.

The move has stoked the row that the Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted could lead to a "messy" few years and a possible breakdown in the traditional structure of the Anglican Church.

The row was, in part, prompted by the election of Canon Robinson, a divorced gay father of two, as the next Bishop of New Hampshire in the US Episcopal Church. He is listed as one of the keynote speakers at the conference, with Michael Ingham, the bishop of New Westminster, Canada, and the head of a diocese that has allowed the blessing of same-sex relationships in its churches.

But the actions of liberal elements in the US, Canada and Britain - where the openly gay Canon Jeffrey John was appointed Bishop of Reading before declining the post under strong evangelical pressure - have prompted fury from communions in Africa and Asia who have led calls for the split.

The Reverend Richard Kirker, general secretary of the LGCM, said yesterday that the service would go ahead at another venue. Offers had been made to the group, and he urged the Manchester Cathedral Chapter to "reconsider this breach of trust".