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Church sidesteps gay issue at Synod debate

The Church of England's General Synod avoided yet another damaging schism yesterday. It sidestepped an attempt by evangelicals to officially recognise a controversial sect of American Anglicans who have formed their own church in protest at the growing acceptance of homosexuality.

Lorna Ashworth, an evangelical lay member of the Synod, put a motion asking that the Church of England "express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America [Acna]" – a step which would have given anti-gay conservatives in the States a publicity coup and some open recognition.

But instead the church's legislative body opted for a more watered-down amendment which simply recognised the Anglican Church in North America's "desire to remain within the Anglican family". The Acna remain within the global Anglican Communion but it is severed from the Episcopal Church (the US version of the Church of England) because of their continued consecration of openly gay bishops.

The wording of the amendment is a small victory for pro-gay liberals because it simply recognises the Acna's desire to stay within the Anglican Communion but does not endorse its decision to break away from its mother church in the States.

This week's meeting of the General Synod has been dominated by bitter disputes between the liberal and traditional wings of the church over the twin thorny issues of women and gay bishops.

In a separate motion, synod members expressed "deep concern" about the reduction in religious programming across British television but stepped back from specifically naming the BBC. One member said that putting the BBC "on the naughty step" would not help encourage better coverage of religious affairs.