Gay Episcopal bishop declines all overseas speeches

Posted: Friday, March 05, 2004

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson is avoiding all speeches outside the United States until a commission finishes studying the effect of his consecration as the Anglican Communion's first openly gay leader.

After the commission is done, Robinson said Monday, he will ''gladly join the international conversations about the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians.'' He had been scheduled to join a debate on gay clergy March 11 at England's Oxford University.

Anglican leaders warned that Robinson's consecration last November could shatter the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and events since have underscored that concern. The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the global communion, made up of groups that trace their roots back to the Church of England.

In other developments related to the debate over gay clergy:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said there's now ''less anger and anxiety'' in the Church of England over the nomination of the gay but celibate Jeffrey John as a bishop, later withdrawn, but it's unclear whether that means church teaching against gay clergy would change.

Archbishop Peter Akinola, head of Nigeria's Anglican church as well as the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, refused to attend an annual meeting of world Anglican leaders this week because the head of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, is present. The Nigerian church believes the U.S. denomination removed itself from the Anglican fellowship by approving Robinson.

Anglicans from four African nations (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe) said their suspension of relations with the Episcopal Church will become permanent unless the Americans repent of their decision.

The Episcopal Church's Alabama Diocese rejected the approval of Robinson and declared opposition to gay clergy and same-sex blessing rituals. Officials said some congregations are cutting contributions to church headquarters.

Five Episcopal dioceses have now formally affiliated with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, formed in January to unite opponents of gay bishops and clergy, an official announced.

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