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Russian Orthodox Church backs US opponents of female bishop

The Russian Orthodox Church has lauded members of the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church who say they will not recognise the female bishop elected to lead the US denomination, with which the Russian church broke off relations in 2003 over the consecration of an openly-gay bishop.

The election of a woman to lead the denomination was a "crude violation of ancient Church tradition", the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department of external relations, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, stated in a letter to Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Following the election in June of Katharine Jefferts Schori to lead the US denomination, Bishop Duncan announced that Pittsburgh and six other dioceses would not recognise her leadership.

"In connection with this I would like to inform you that the Russian Orthodox Church supports your action and expresses readiness to resume relations with your diocese," Kirill wrote to Duncan in the letter posted on the Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian church cut ties with the Episcopal Church after the 2003 consecration as a bishop of V. Gene Robinson, a divorced father who is openly homosexual and lives in a same-sex relationship.

Bishop Duncan is moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, formed in early 2004 by opponents of Robinson’s consecration.

On 28 August, Russia’s Interfax-Religion news service reported on Bishop Duncan’s response.

"For the Diocese of Pittsburgh (and the small number of dioceses who continue to stand with us) to achieve the restoration of relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church would be of the greatest significance imaginable," it quotes from his letter to Metropolitan Kirill.

But Duncan also expressed concern noted that due to his diocese, and some others, allowing for the ordination of women "to the diaconate and presbyterate" (as deacons and priests), the Russian Church might feel compelled to forego a resumption of relations.

(c) Ecumenical News International