Anglicans sever ties amid gay bishop fury

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Conservatives in the Anglican Church voiced their outrage yesterday at the consecration of Canon Gene Robinson as the world's first openly gay bishop.

Anglicans in Kenya would now sever all ties with the Episcopalian Church in protest at the new Bishop of New Hampshire, said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, the head of the church in Kenya. "The devil has clearly entered the church. God cannot be mocked," he said.

The head of the Nigerian Anglican Church, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said a "state of impaired communion" now existed in the church.

There were hardline sentiments too from South America, where the primate, Archbishop Greg Venables, said: "The United States have declared independence." And in Australia the conservative Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, said the split was a "tragedy but necessary if the truth is to be preserved".

The conservatives signalled their intention to present the issue not simply as one between liberals and conservatives, but as one of cultural imperialism.

Archbishop Akinola insisted he was speaking on behalf of "the Primates of the Global South", representing more than 50 million of the Communion's 70 million Anglicans. Attacking those in the US church who "consider their cultural-based agenda is of far greater importance than obedience to the word of God", he said: "The overwhelming majority of the primates of the global south cannot and will not recognise the office or ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop."

He went on to request that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, create a new structure to allow conservative diocese to work separately while remaining within the Communion. But the idea of a north-south split was countered by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, of South Africa, who insisted that each Anglican province had the right to act autonomously. He said: "We would like to congratulate Gene Robinson and pray for him."

Archbishop Akinola took aim not just at Gene Robinson but at all "those bishops who have taken part in the consecration", but there was a slightly different signal from Uganda. Anglicans there specified that they were cutting all ties with the New Hampshire diocese rather than the whole US Church. There was also little indication of what difference cutting particular ties would make on the ground. In May, when the Canadian diocese of New Westminster defied church policy by sanctioning same-sex unions, Nigeria de-recognised it, but without any apparent consequences.

In Kenya, Archbishop Nzimbi said yesterday that his church would now not accept any support from the US Church, including missionaries, though there were signs that the attitudes in his area were more complex. The Kenyan bishop of Eldoret, Thomas Kogo, announced that his diocese would not recognise Canon Robinson but would maintain its ties to the New Hampshire diocese.

When the primates met in Lambeth last month the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, bought time by setting up a commission to look at the governance of the Anglican Communion ­ in particular how it agrees on policy and how independent its 38 provinces are allowed to be.

Yesterday the Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames, appointed to head the commission, offered a more nuanced reading. "We are moving into unknown territory," he said. "I don't think you can prevent a realignment. I sincerely hope we can prevent what you call a split."

Even the hardliners seemed to be staying their hands. Archbishop Venables said: "We are having a time of separation and thinking. We are not saying it is a divorce yet."

Where the Anglican communities stand

By Cahal Milmo

KENYA 2.5 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Has already separated - Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi became the first to formally sever ties with the Americans, saying yesterday that "the devil has entered the church".

NIGERIA 15 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Very high. The largest single Anglican church, it is also among the most hardline in its stance against homosexuality. Archbishop Peter Akinola has all but said he is in schism with the American Church, stating the he "cannot and will not" recognise Bishop Robinson's appointment.

UGANDA 8 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Very high. The second largest Anglican province has already declared itself out of communion with the American Church.

AMERICA 2.4 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? High. The wealthiest of the Anglican provinces is widely blamed for forcing the issue of homosexuality with the appointment of Gene Robinson. Conservative American Anglicans have already called in the lawyers ahead of a probable "divorce".

Likelihood of schism? High. Archbishop Bernard Malango said the appointment of Gene Robinson brought "darkness and disappointment" to his church.

Likelihood of schism? High. Archbishop Gregory Venables declared yesterday that a group of primates representing southern countries were prepared to declare themselves out of communion with the US church.

AUSTRALIA 3.9 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? High. Until recently had no official stance on homosexuality, but the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, said yesterday that he did not consider Gene Robinson to be a bishop.

Likelihood of schism? Moderate. Archbishop Justice Ofei Akrofi has yet to make his position clear but he is head of a conservative community on the issue.

TANZANIA 2 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Moderate. Archbishop Donald Mtetemela has reiterated the current Anglican doctrine that homosexual practices are against scripture.

CANADA 800,000 worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Moderate. One of the most liberal Anglican churches, same-sex union blessings have been authorised in one diocese, over which it may face censure from the Anglican Communion and internal dissent.

Likelihood of schism? Moderate. The church has so far declared itself to still be in line with the statement that homosexuality is "incompatible with scripture".

NEW ZEALAND 584,000 worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Low. So far, the Church has sat on the fence and has no stated policy on the issue of gay bishops.

Likelihood of schism? Low. Perhaps the most moderate of the African provinces, it has sought to act as a go-between with the conservatives and liberals. Archbishop Njongonkuku Ndungane yesterday congratulated Bishop Robinson on his appointment.

SUDAN 5 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Low. Believes that there are more important issues than homosexuality, such as the effects of war and poverty.

ENGLAND 2.75 million worshippers
Likelihood of schism? Low. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will do all in his power to prevent the Anglican Communion falling apart. He is said to hold private views more liberal than his public conclusion that homosexuality is "incompatible with scripture".