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Episcopal
leader's pro-gay views won't waver, aide says

Episcopal
leader's pro-gay views won't waver, aide says

The head of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the Anglican Church, who supports ordaining gays and allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, will not soften her views even as the issues threaten to break apart the Christian denomination, her aide said Thursday. The leaders of the world's 77 million Anglicans, who are holding a closed meeting this week in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, said they would discuss the U.S. response to a 2004 report by an Anglican panel that called for a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions. Splits between Anglicans have been growing for years but became a crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The problems mounted last year with the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as head of the U.S. church. "The spirit of Anglicanism will prevail here, and there will be a middle way forward,'' said Jefferts Schori's aide, Robert Williams. But he said she ''will not waver in her stand for justice and inclusion of all people in the body of Christ.'' Conservative Anglicans have formed a rival network in the United States under the leadership of Anglican archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the acceptance of gay relationships a ''satanic attack'' on the church. Other conservatives have called for a parallel church within the United States. The conference was sure to be highly charged over the rift. ''The basic issue here is what to do about those who decided they don't want to stay in the main Anglican body,'' said Canon Jim Rosenthal, a spokesman for the Anglican Communion. Akinola gave a letter this week to the spiritual leader of the communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, that is believed to demand some concessions to head off a schism. Africa is home to half the world's Anglicans and is dominated by conservative leaders. Rosenthal confirmed the existence of the letter but said it was private. Supporters of ordaining gays believe the Bible's social justice teachings take precedence over its view of sexuality. However, most Anglicans outside the United States believe gay relationships are sinful, and they are distancing themselves from the U.S. church. Williams has struggled to hold off one of the biggest meltdowns in Christianity in centuries, but he lacks any direct authority to force a compromise. The Anglican Communion is the world's third-largest family of Christian churches behind Roman Catholic and Orthodox. Bishop Martyn Minns of Fairfax, Va., one of the most prominent U.S. clerics to leave the American church for Akinola's group, said Wednesday that it would be best for the U.S. church to ''back off and reconsider'' its stance on gays. But, he said, that was highly unlikely. ''It's been tragic, the amount of time and energy that has been spent on this issue that was initiated by the American church,'' he said. The creation of Akinola's group, called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, has been the most dramatic step by conservatives to encourage a breakaway Episcopal group that would be outside Jefferts Schori's oversight. An eventual breakup of the communion would be the most stunning fallout yet from religious struggles over gay relationships, which also have gripped Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and others. The Anglican fellowship was founded in the 16th century by King Henry VIII and spread worldwide by the British Empire. Several delegates at the six-day conference, which brings together the archbishops who head the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion, have threatened to refuse to sit with Jefferts Schori over the issue of gays. But Rosenthal said Wednesday she is welcome and was invited by the archbishop of Canterbury. (Elizabeth A. Kennedy, AP)

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