Implacable statements from two of the Anglican church's leading archbishops yesterday put the Church of England on a seven-day countdown to a permanent split.
The comments from the Archbishop of the West Indies and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone - a slice of South America from Peru to Argentina - came in the wake of equal determination from the gay bishop-elect at the centre of the controversy not to give way.
Canon Gene Robinson, who will become the church's first openly gay bishop on 2 November, told a conference of gay clergymen in Manchester yesterday that his consecration will go ahead - in defiance of pleas from leading churchmen for him to stand down.
But the Most Rev Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone, told The Independent on Sunday the consecration would amount to a "declaration of independence" by the US church. He said the Church of England may have been living with two different views of Christianity for at least 25 years, and the time may have come for a permanent parting of the ways.
Homosexuality, rather than being the cause of the split, was merely bringing the crisis to a head, he said. "[This situation] has risen not because we have differences about sexuality but rather because what was a once a consensual view of Christianity ... is no longer the case."
Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies, said that his church was only in "technical" communion with Canon Robinson's New Hampshire. A decision on how to proceed will be taken in Antigua next month, he said. That is likely to result in a formal breach of communion.
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