Plans by African bishops to consecrate American colleagues will not deepen an Anglican rift over gay clergy but instead provide refuge to US believers at odds with their liberal church, Kenya's archbishop said.
Growing numbers of conservative Anglican priests are abandoning the liberal US church and pledging alliance to traditionalist African bishops who take a tough line against homosexuality.
Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told Reuters on Monday he would consecrate dissident U.S. clerics Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch as bishops on Thursday at a ceremony in Nairobi. Uganda's Henry Orombi is due to consecrate John Guernsey next week.
"Since the talk about gay marriage started, many congregations in America have been looking for oversight from overseas," Archbishop Nzimbi said.
In Africa, gay relationships are denounced as immoral and are outlawed in many countries.
The 77 million-strong Anglican Church has been split since 2003 when its 2.4 million member US branch consecrated Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop.
The move enraged conservative Anglicans, who accuse the Episcopal church of flouting Biblical commandments. Archbishop Nzimbi said Kenya had been approached by more then 30 congregations from across the United States asking for leadership since then.
"REPENTANCE IS KEY"
Liberals, who support a looser interpretation of scripture, say the African clergy are violating church rules by creating conservative outposts in the United States and deepening a crisis that threatens to split the Anglican communion -- a worldwide federation of 38 churches.
"We are not invading other people's territory as such but preaching the gospel, the way it was brought to us, the way it is written," Archbishop Nzimbi said.
And he said the only way to bridge the schism was for the liberal churches to repent: "The way we can have one understanding is through repentance, that is the key word."
The Primate denied the Africans were motivated by monetary gain to consecrate American priests.
"It is not a question of finances," Archbishop Nzimbi said. "Here in Africa we are used to living under difficult situations and we are not ready to compromise because of finances. No."
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola raised a storm in May when he consecrated Martyn Minns as a bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is linked to the Church of Nigeria, despite being asked not to by the Anglican's spiritual head, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Williams did not invite Minns to the 2008 Lambeth conference, a key 10-yearly meeting of Anglican leaders -- a fate that the African consecrated bishops are likely to face.
"If they are invited it is well and good, if not, well and good. The word of God will still be preached," Archbishop Nzimbi said.
Thursday's ceremony in Nairobi will be attended by bishops from the West Indies, Rwanda, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Nigeria, among others, he said.