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US Episcopal Church rejects deadline on gay consecrations


Leaders of the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church say they will not respond to increasing pressure by others in the worldwide Anglican Communion that the US denomination reverse its policies on the ordination of openly gay bishops.

In February, a meeting in Tanzania of Anglican leaders, or primates, from around the world gave the US denomination a September deadline to promise that no one living in a same-sex relationship would be made a bishop, and that the US church would not authorise rites for same-sex blessings.

But the US church’s executive council, in a 14 June statement, said that changes in the policy of the Episcopal Church could be made only by the denomination’s general convention, which next meets in 2009.

"We question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion," the statement said.

The standoff was triggered in 2003 after the US church consecrated V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay divorced father, as a bishop in the US state of New Hampshire. Many Anglican leaders from Africa, Asia and Latin America are opposed to the views of what they say is a minority from the West who are tolerant of homosexuality in the Church.

Adding to the ongoing tension between the Episcopal Church and others within the Anglican Communion was the announcement that Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, the leader of the Anglican Church of Kenya, is to consecrate Bill Atwood, a former US Episcopalian, as a suffragan bishop of All Saints’ Cathedral Diocese in Nairobi.

The move would, Nzimbi said, "support the international interests of the Anglican Church of Kenya, including support of Kenyan clergy and congregations in North America," the Episcopal News Service reported.

Earlier this week, the London-based Daily Telegraph reported that "a powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel Church for conservatives in America in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury". The report said at least six primates were planning the consecration "of a prominent American cleric as a bishop to minister to Americans who have rejected their liberal bishops over the issue of homosexuality".

(c) Ecumenical News International