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Friday, September 21, 2007

Day II: Bishop Gene Speaks Truth to Power

Archbishop accused of 'dehumanising gays'

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Telegraph UK

Dr Rowan Williams is holding two days of crisis talks in New Orleans in an eleventh-hour effort to persuade the bishops of the American branch of Anglicanism to reverse their pro-gay agenda.

But insiders said that a number of the liberal bishops were in no mood to capitulate, and any compromise that they might eventually accept was unlikely to placate conservatives who want them ousted.

Documents leaked to the Daily Telegraph suggest that they may agree an ambiguous form of words that will fall far short of the unequivocal reassurances demanded of them, leaving Anglicanism on the brink of collapse.

Insiders in the often emotive private meeting in a New Orleans hotel said that Dr Williams rapped the Americans over the knuckles for triggering the crisis by consecrating Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

He told them that they had to balance their fidelity to gay and lesbians with fidelity to their fellow members in the 77-million strong Anglican Communion, the vast majority of whom believe homosexuality is sinful and unbiblical.

But Bishop Robinson, who is attending the six-day House of Bishops meeting with his partner Mark Andrews, said that though he had always publicly supported Dr Williams, he now "had to tell the truth".

According to witnesses, he said that for Dr Williams to present the situation as a choice between fidelity to gays and fidelity to the Communion "is one of the most dehumanising things I have heard in a long time" and he wanted no part of it.

Another liberal, the Bishop of Massachussetts, the Rt Rev Thomas Shaw, also criticised the Archbishop for failing to honour the American Church's "prophetic discernment" in consecrating Bishop Robinson.

One insider said: "The speeches we heard suggested that the tide was running heavily in the direction of saying to the Archbishop, thank you for your concern but we have made up our minds and we are going forward."

In February the primates, the heads of the 38 self-governing provinces that make up the Anglican Communion, gave the Americans until the end of this month to declare unambiguous moratoriums on future consecrations of gays and on same-sex blessings.

But the Daily Telegraph has seen a draft document drawn up by a senior bishop who urges his colleagues to adopt a far less clear position that will be open to a wide range of interpretations, allowing liberal American bishops considerable leeway.

Insiders said they believed that the document by the Bishop of Alabama,the Rt Rev Parsley, who is head of the American Church's theology committee, could well form the basis of the House of Bishops' final statement next week.

Dr Williams has told friends that he may nevertheless allow the Americans to come to next year's showcase Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, and call the bluff of conservative archbishops in Africa and Asia who have threatened to boycott it.

Meanwhile, conservatives angrily dismissed a plan announced by the head of the American Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, to appoint eight bishops as "episcopal visitors" for American traditionalists who reject her authority.

One said: "It has just gone too far. It is like asking people, knowing what we know, would you like to board the Titanic and sail with us. What we have is a clash of world views with eternal consequences."

In a sign of their growing frustration, a handful of the most conservative bishops walked out of the House of Bishops' meeting, saying they could contribute nothing more to it.

Dr Williams, who preached at an ecumenical service complete with jazz and dancing yesterday, also left the meeting for a trip to Armenia,Syria and the Lebanon.

The House of Bishops is expected to issue its final statement on Tuesday next week.

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