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Anglican leaders
urge conservatives to split from the church

Anglican leaders
urge conservatives to split from the church

An international panel of Anglican archbishops called on a gathering of their conservative American counterparts Friday to split from the rest of the U.S. Episcopal Church unless it abides by traditionally antigay teachings. "Yes, we will stand with you as long as you remain faithful, biblical, evangelical, and orthodox," said Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung, who represents Southeast Asia.

The seven archbishops from Africa, the West Indies, and Asia spoke at the Hope and a Future Conference in Pittsburgh organized by the Anglican Communion Network. The network is headed by Pittsburgh Episcopal bishop Robert W. Duncan. He helped form the group in 2003 after the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire and gave tacit approval to blessing services for same-sex couples.

Nigerian archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola said bishops from Duncan's group and others attending the conference must be clear about their allegiance. "Many of you have one leg in ECUSA and one leg in the network. You must let us know exactly where you stand--are you ECUSA, or are you network?" Akinola said, prompting a loud standing ovation.

The Episcopal Church is the Anglican Communion's U.S. branch. Duncan's group represents a minority of Episcopalians in the 2.3 million-member American church, but his group's views are shared by a majority of bishops in the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, said Douglas LeBlanc, spokesman for Duncan's Anglican Communion Network. The archbishops on the panel represent some 32 million parishioners.

The Pittsburgh conference attracted about 2,400 laypeople and clergy from 77 U.S. dioceses, LeBlanc said. Duncan opened the conference, which runs through Saturday, by drawing a line between the beliefs held by his group and the leaders of the American church. "These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture," Duncan said.

Supporters of the American church's policy on gays, meanwhile, have labeled Duncan and his backers as "neo-Puritan" Protestant fundamentalists. Lionel Deimel, president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, said the archbishops' remarks "could be read as an invitation to leave" the American church. Deimel called that worrisome but said it was consistent with views he has heard expressed at the conference, among them that the Episcopal Church "has been taken over by a pagan religion" or is "the enemy." "My preference is that we all stand together and work out our differences and in some cases accept our differences," Deimel said.

But Archbishop Drexel W. Gomez of the West Indies said that's difficult to do because the American church is teaching a "new gospel" that is unclear about God 's nature and affirms cultural values even when they run counter to historic Christianity. "Anglicanism is really now in a state of flux.... We are being forced into this by people who are teaching something new and something totally different," Gomez said. "I put the blame squarely on their shoulders." Archbishop Chung said action, not more discussion, is required. "A house is on fire," Chung said. "How can we go and have a committee meeting...on whether the fire truck can come or not?" (AP)

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