Delhi, India., Nov. 12 - Leaders of India’s largest Anglican denomination, the Church of North India (CNI), are meeting this week to discuss the appointment of a gay priest as a bishop by a sister church in the United States.
The issue has divided 70 million Anglicans worldwide into liberal and conservative camps, and is threatening to split the church. Gauging by the mood of the Indian church, the 24 bishops who are meeting in Chandigarh, between November 11-13, are expected to oppose the decision of the American church.
Religious leaders attending the meet said the appointment of the openly gay Gene Robinson as a bishop has ‘serious’ implications for the Indian church because it too could have to grapple with a similar issue in the near future.Bishop of Mumbai (CNI) B Gavit, who will be attending the meeting, said that while he did not condemn the American church for its decision to ordain Robinson, he did not support it either. Robinson has been appointed to the New Hampshire Diocese of the American Episcopal Church. “We do not want to pass a judgement on the issue. We are sympathetic to the American church’s decision, but we do not support them,” he said.
In fact, an emissary from the Archbishop of Canterbury, considered the head of the Anglicans who visited Mumbai last week, is reported to have asked the Indian church to take a more tolerant stand on the issue. “He requested us to look at the issue from the human dignity point of view. Whether it is religious leaders or the public, it will be injustice to condemn homosexuals,” said Gavit.
But at the Chandigarh meet, apart from discussing other church matters, the religious leaders are expected to move a resolution whether to support or oppose the American church’s decision. In all probability, the resolution will be against the American church’s stand. “There is no question of supporting them,” said a parish priest.
Meanwhile, the Methodist Church, another denomination with close links with the American church, said it would wait for the coming meeting of the National Council of Churches to officially state its stand on the controversy. “At the last council, when there were plans by the American church to ordain Robinson, we opposed it,” said Reverend Pradeep Samuel.
The Church of North India, formed in the seventies by the merger of seven Protestant churches, is the Indian counterpart of the Church of England. The Indian church, like Robinson’s church and the Episcopal Church, has a close relationship with the Anglican Church and to use Christian terminology the two are ‘in communion’ with each other. The Indian church has some 500,000 adherents.