English bishop threatens conference boycott over gays

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Church of England’s war of words over the ordination of a gay bishop has been reignited by the Bishop of Rochester, who has indicated he may boycott a meeting of senior Anglican leaders next year.

The Lambeth conference, held every ten years, has been a focus of discontent from traditionalists angry over the Church’s stance over gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Michael Nazir-Ali, who is an evangelical Christian, has said he would “find it difficult” to attend the conference if senior US clergy to consecrated openly gay bishop Gene Robinson were there.

“My difficulty at the moment is not with a particular person, such as Gene Robinson, but with those who felt it right to approve and to officiate at his ordination,” Bishop Nazir-Ali told The Telegraph.

“Unless they are willing to say that what they did was contrary to the Gospel, and we all of us from time to time need to repent about what we have done wrong, I would find it very difficult to be with them in a council of bishops.”

Nazir-Ali also accused the American Anglican clergy of turning to aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism and not having proper regard for the Bible.

The Lambeth conference has been a source of bickering in the Anglican communion for months.

In July the ‘Global South’ group of Anglican church leaders decided that it will boycott.

As many as 120 bishops will not attend unless the American part of the Anglican church repudiates its current accepting attitude towards gay clergy and relationships.

Conservative and liberal branches of the worldwide Anglican communion have been at loggerheads over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions ever since Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was ordained as a bishop in the US in 2003.

A number of American Anglican congregations have decided to place themselves under the authority of bishops in Africa who are hostile to gay people in the church.

The spiritual leader of the Anglican communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, faces a split church, and others are talking of schism.

In in interview with The Telegraph, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said that the Global South bishops had effectively expelled themselves from the church already by boycotting the conference.

However, a large group of Church of England bishops may also boycott.

In April Archbishop Williams said he considered cancelling the conference to avoid a schism.

He then decided to exclude Bishop Robinson, but many Anglicans wrote letters of complaint to the Archbishop about the decision.

In June The Times revealed that Archbishop Williams was “exploring” whether to invite Bishop Robinson to attend but not vote at the 14th Lambeth Conference.

It will take place between 16th July and 4th August 2008 in Canterbury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury indicated last year that he did not want to discuss human sexuality issues at the conference, emphasising training matters instead.