Church split over gay bishop widens

North American bishops will cut off funds from the Anglican Church in Africa if they are disciplined for supporting the election of a gay bishop.

This warning is due to be delivered to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by a commission made up of senior churchmen from across the world. The commission has recently completed a year-long deliberation into the church’s future.

Its report will be published next month and there is speculation that bishops who supported the United States Episcopal Church’s decision to endorse election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire last year will be disciplined.

Conservative evangelicals and traditionalists in Western churches have backed church leaders in the developing world in demanding that supporters of Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop who lives with a partner, should be expelled from the communion.

Among the moves the commission has considered is excluding American and Canadian bishops from meetings, like the 10-yearly gathering of all 780 bishops for the Lambeth conference in Cape Town in four years’ time. They also want sanctions against bishops of the Anglican church in Canada, who are considering authorising blessing services for gay couples.

A number of developing world provinces have declared themselves out of communion with the US Church and the Canadian diocese of New Westminster, which has started blessing services.

The latest warning, from a senior North American bishop, means both sides in the row are now threatening to split the 77-million-strong church unless they get their way.

Disciplining bishops could involve between 50 and 100 of them. Last year 62 US bishops voted for Robinson’s appointment, and 50 bishops assisted at his consecration service.

In 1998 146 bishops, including Williams, signed a statement apologising to gays for the church’s treatment of them.

But the North American bishop, who is one of those who may be disciplined, said that the US church, which underwrites the funding of many dioceses in the developing world, might then cease paying for the rest of the communion. — Â

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