Gay rights off the agenda for African church leaders

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A meeting of African Anglican Archbishops avoided homosexuality yesterday, a topic dividing their Communion, in favour of other issues affecting the continent.

The gathering took place in Mauritius and was chaired by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, an outspoken opponent of gay rights.

Last month he criticised the US Episcopal Church for not making a clear stand against consecrating gay clergy or blessing gay unions.

The Archbishop told journalists: “I’m trying to avoid dragging us into unnecessary controversy when there are more profitable things to talk about.

“This is Africa, and we would rather focus on those important things that affect us Africans,” he said, according to Reuters.

In a statement, the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa listed their concerns as drought and floods, Zimbabwe’s political oppression, the Darfur conflict, and HIV/AIDS.

The US church, known as the Episcopalian Church, has been mired in controversy since 2003 when it consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in over four centuries of Anglicanism.

The move divided US Episcopalians and alienated them from parts of the church’s global membership of 77 million.

A report issued on Wednesday by The Joint Standing Committee, an international panel of Anglican clerics and laity, said the Episcopalian church had responded to criticism at a meeting last month in New Orleans.

It will no longer consecrate gay bishops or approve church blessings for same sex couples.

Yet the report said that more still needed to be done to prevent the increasing number of conservatives breaking away to join bishops outside of the US.