The consecration of the first openly gay bishop in the United States, sanctioned by the Episcopal Church U.S.A., has created a rift among the 70-million member Anglican communion.
Gene V. Robinson’s consecration as bishop of New Hampshire yesterday has generated a reaction from Anglican bishops around the world, many of whom have said they will not recognize Robinson as bishop.
Citing church resolutions stating that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture, some bishops are calling on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to create a new structure that will allow churches to remain in communion but separate from the American Episcopalian church.
"As far as I am concerned, he (Robinson) is not a bishop," Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen told Reuters yesterday, calling it a very sad day for the church."
However, the strongest reaction against the consecration came from the non-Western world, particularly from Africa.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the largest Anglican diocese in Africa with 17 million members, said he would refuse to recognize Bishop Robinson, no matter what church leaders decided.
Bishop Akinola issued a statement on behalf of 50 million Anglicans in Africa, Asia and Latin America yesterday, saying that they deplore the act of those bishops who took part and supported the consecration. The statement also called on the Anglicans' spiritual leader, Archbishop of Centerbury Rowan Williams, to create a new structure that will allow churches to remain in communion but separate from the Episcopal Church U.S.A.
Uganda, the second largest Anglican diocese in Africa, and Kenya also said it would not recognize the consecration or remain in communion with the Episcopal Church U.S.A.
South Africa’s Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane is the only African leader that approves of Bishop Robinson’s consecration while other South African church leaders are against it.
Archbishop Greg Venables, the Anglican leader in South America, told the BBC that the Anglican communion is facing a serious possibility of division. He said the problem is that Anglicans dont have a pope or a central committee to resolve the issue.
"We have an Archbishop of Canterbury, but he is a leader in England with moral authority throughout the world but he has no vertical authority," he told the BBC. "What's happened is that the United States have declared independence."
Archbishop Williams, who is trying to keep the church together, said is a statement that the divisions are "a matter of deep regret."