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Conservatives rule out Anglican reconciliation on gay clergy

There is no longer any hope for a unified Anglican communion because of divisions over homosexual clergy and civil partnerships, according to conservative bishops gathering in Jerusalem for a breakaway summit.

Clergy attending the Global Anglican Futures Conference (Gafcon), which starts on Saturday, have issued a manifesto declaring there is no possibility of reconciliation with the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada, because both ordain gay bishops and accept same-sex unions.

The summit comes in the wake of controversy around the ”wedding” of two gay priests at London’s St Bartholomew the Great church.

About 200 of the 280 bishops in Jerusalem will boycott this summer’s Lambeth conference, an event symbolising one of the four instruments that binds the church. Although the archbishop of Canterbury invited more than 800 bishops, those from Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda are shunning his conference in favour of one reflecting their views.

They join bishops from England, Australia and some Asian and Latin-American countries. Eight American bishops, unhappy with their church’s direction, will also be attending.

Conservatives say after years of meetings on key issues they remain ”ignored”, ”demonised” and ”marginalised”, concluding there ”is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified communion”.

Despite the gloomy prognosis, the conservatives are playing down talk of a schism, a message at odds with the pronouncements of some delegates.

The manifesto features the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, questioning the Archbishop of Canterbury’s status as an instrument of unity. His colleague Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, has said in interviews that the rift in the church can only be bridged if liberal bishops ”espousing sexual perversion, repent and return to Christ’s teachings”.

Two of Gafcon’s leaders are prominent members of the Church of England: Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester, and Wallace Benn, bishop of Lewes. Neither has confirmed whether they will be at Lambeth. Organisers say the 1 000 delegates will spend the week in discussion, prayer and workshops. The convention clashes with Jerusalem Gay Pride, although participants from the two events are unlikely to meet.

There has been no reaction from the archbishops of Canterbury or York to the conference. But, in an interview with Premier, a Christian radio station, the bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Dr Tom Wright, urged people not to abandon the communion.

”The boat is in rocky, choppy waters; don’t jump out of the boat and swim to the right,” he said. ”Stick with it. We’re going towards Lambeth.” —

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