Church of Uganda Rejects Gay Bishop

( [email protected] ) Nov 04, 2003 10:10 AM EST

Conservative Anglicans have refused to recognise the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States and said the move had split the church in two.

But liberals hailed Sunday's installation of the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, saying it spelt an end to hypocrisy and double standards.

Yesterday, the Nigerian clergy described the consecration of Robinson as appalling while the Church of Uganda said it was cutting ties with the New Hampshire diocese.

The provincial communications secretary of the Church of Uganda, the Rev. Canon Jackson Turyagyenda, said the consecration was "regrettable, sad and lamentable that the Church of Uganda could not accept it".

"We are sad that the church in US has gone ahead to defy the Lambeth Conference that outlawed homosexuality; they have cut themselves from the agreed procedure," Turyagyenda said.

He said the Church of Uganda would cut all relations with the Episcopal Church (as the Anglican Church in the United States is known) in New Hampshire as promised at the time of Robinson's election months ago.

"The Church of Uganda will go ahead and cut all relations with that church because it is the stand we took and it has not changed," he said.

Turyagyenda said there is no chance of a compromise because it is the church in the United States that chose to ignore what was agreed upon in Lambeth.

Nigeria's Anglican Church leader Peter Akinola bluntly signalled a north-south divide, saying: "We cannot and will not recognise the office or ministry of Canon Gene Robinson as a bishop."

"We deplore the act of those bishops who have taken part in the consecration which has now divided the church," he said in a statement representing over 50 million Anglicans in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Canon Robinson - who has lived with his male partner for 15 years - was formally made bishop in a colourful but controversial ceremony in the American state of New Hampshire on Sunday.

Irish Primate Archbishop Robin Eames, who heads a commission given the task of preserving the church's future, said he hoped a looming split could be avoided.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams - the spiritual head of the church - said the divisions arising in the global Anglican Communion following the consecration were "a matter of deep regret".

The consecration service, at a specially converted ice-hockey arena in the town of Durham, was held amid tight security, with police on rooftops and in heavy presence on the street.

About 4,000 people, including 50 American bishops, as well as Bishop Robinson's family and parishioners, attended the ceremony.

He was given a standing ovation before being presented with brightly coloured vestments by members of his family, including his mother and father.

And then, his voice cracking with emotion, he spoke, saying, "You cannot imagine what an honour it is for you to have called me."

Three church members were given the opportunity to voice their objections during the ceremony and one woman said the consecration would not only rupture the Anglican community but "break God's heart".

Outside, protesters and supporters of Canon Robinson were kept apart by mounted police, while a separate service for those against the consecration took place in a church in another part of the town.

Some traditionalists, who view homosexuality as a violation of the teachings of the Bible, plan to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury for permission to split from the church.

But Archbishop Eames said that while the church was entering "unknown territory" its leaders had made it crystal clear that they wanted to maintain unity.

"I don't think you can prevent a realignment," he told the BBC, "but I sincerely pray we can prevent ... a split."

He said the church would aim to minimise the damage as it did following the ordination of women priests in 1992.

Senior church leaders in Africa have been at the forefront of opposition to Bishop Robinson's appointment.

Rev. Peter Karanja, provost of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, said he was deeply saddened to hear of the appointment, but he said leaders in Kenya still hoped some way could be found to avert a split in the communion.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, head of South Africa's Anglican Church, also struck a conciliatory note, arguing that each province of the Anglican Church was autonomous.

"So, we would like to congratulate Gene Robinson and pray for him," he said.