Traditionalist Anglicans warn rift over gay issue may widen

Traditionalist Anglicans warn rift over gay issue may widen

NAIROBI - Western churches risk widening a rift in the Anglican Communion if they follow North America by blessing same-sex marriages or allowing sexually active gays to be bishops, a leader of a traditionalist group said on Friday.

The global association of 80 million Anglicans has split deeply since Canada's Anglican Church began blessing same-sex couples in 2002 and the Episcopal Church, its US branch, ordained Gene Robinson as its first gay bishop in 2003.

The African churches have been in the vanguard of opposition to same-sex unions and gay or women clergy.

"There is no sign yet that there is any return to Biblical standards," Peter Jensen, general secretary of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), told Reuters at the group's second meeting since it first convened in Jerusalem in 2008.

Traditionalist bishops formed GAFCON after refusing to attend the Lambeth Conference, Anglicanism's 10-yearly world conference, in 2008 because then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had also invited the bishops who consecrated Robinson.

Trying to hold the communion of churches together is the daunting task of Justin Welby, appointed last year to succeed Williams as spiritual leader of the global Anglican family.

Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, urged other Western churches to "resist pressure" to follow North America's example.

Asked if the rift would widen, he said: "It will if the moves by the American Anglicans are transmitted to England, New Zealand, Australia, which is the next port of call."

This week's second meeting of GAFCON, held at All Saints Cathedral in Kenya's capital, brought together 331 of the communion's 700 or so bishops.

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