'The communion is already broken. Now just prepare for the backlash'

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The Independent US

The Anglican Church appeared split down the middle last night in its reaction to the consecration of Gene Robinson.

The Most Rev Gregory Venables, primate of several South American countries, said that unity with the North American Church had been "impaired by this consecration". He said: "The Communion is already broken."

Earlier this year he accused leaders of the Anglicans in the northern hemisphere of being "culturally deaf". He also warned that "the primates of the global south are mobilising themselves" and said the row could lead to a break-up of the 70 million-strong Church with the Archbishop of Canterbury heading the northern hemisphere and the south headed by a separate representative.

Archbishop Peter Akinola, who leads the 17.5 million-strong Church of Nigeria, said the appointment would bring "much sadness and disappointment" to his congregation. He said: "A clear choice has been made for a Church that exists primarily in allegiance to the unbiblical departures and waywardness of our generation; a Church that enthrones the will of men over and above the authority of God and His revealed and written Word."

He added: "We cannot go on limping between two opinions."

But his views were countered by Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, primate of South Africa, who said that the Church was able to contend with the "creative diversity" and argued that fragmentation was not the solution.

He said: "It [the gay issue] will not go away, even if people decide to go away from us. As leaders of the Church, we need to lead by example ... we should try to urge people to find common ground." The Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Robin Eames, appointed chairman of an international commission tasked with preserving the future of the Anglican Communion, said the consecration posed a serious threat to the unity of the Church. "We have to face up to it that there are very big divisions over this issue," he said.

The British evangelical campaign group, Reform, said there was no doubt that the split would occur if the consecration went ahead. "We believe that homosexual relationships are clearly contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture," the group said. "The Anglican Communion must now formalise a separation that has already occurred."

The office of Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to comment until after the consecration ceremony.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, based in Britain, said that it welcomed the appointment "thoughtfully and prayerfully".