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LONDON June 24 Sapa-AFP

The Anglican church was in turmoil on Tuesday after the
controversial decision to name an openly gay clergyman as bishop in England threatened to open up deep divisions among its hierarchy worldwide.

Jeffrey John was appointed Bishop of Reading in southern England
last week, whipping up a storm of protest from conservative
clergymen in Britain that has spread to other Anglican churches as
far a field as Nigeria and Australia.

Philip Giddings, a licensed lay minister in the Reading diocese,
warned he would fight the ordination of John as bishop, due to take
place in a ceremony in London's Westminister Abbey in October, as it would divide the church.

"This appointment should be stopped in the interests of the
church," Giddings told AFP.

"If this is not the case, it will lead to deep divisions inside
the Anglican Church." But Giddings stopped short of predicting a schism, as warned by the leader of the Nigeria's Anglican church, the world's largest Anglican congregation with over 17 million worshippers.

According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, Archbishop Peter
Akinola said the appointment was a "satanic act on the Church of

The head of the Anglican church in Nigeria has repeatedly
condemned homosexuality, which he says is an "abomination", and he has threatened to split his flock from any parts of the Worldwide Anglican Communion which endorse gay bishops.

Last week, Akinola broke off communion with the New Westminster diocese in Canada, which has begun blessing homosexual unions, accusing the rich world of straying from Biblical teaching and of bullying African believers.

The Guardian also reported that evangelical church leaders in 12
other countries have threatened to split from the 70-million-strong
church if John's formal appointment goes ahead.

In Australia, Sydney's six Anglican bishops on Monday issued a
scathing denunciation of the appointment of John and Gene Robinson, a homosexual nominated as bishop in the United States.

They told worshippers who supported such moves that they were no longer welcome in their diocese.

"It is sadly inevitable that these recent challenges have severely damaged the fellowship of the Communion," wrote the six bishops, led by Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen.

"Reversal of our Biblical and historical stance on sexual
immorality is too drastic to pass without comment and action," they said.

Opponents of John's nomination have appealed to the Archbishop
of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicans
worldwide, to overturn the decision by the Bishop of Oxford,
Richard Harries.

But on Monday, Williams said he raised no objection to the
nomination, saying it was "an appointment I have neither sought to
promote nor to obstruct."
The archbishop said he was informed John was regarded as a
highly gifted candidate, acceptable to his local diocese and he had
given "explicit assurances on various matters, including his
personal circumstances."

John has been in a relationship with another man for 27 years but says he is now celibate.

Williams said it was important to stress "that we are not embarking on, or colluding with, any policy of unilateral local
He added that the controversy over gay priests "has had the effect of generating real incomprehension in much of our society, in a way that does nothing for our credibility."
Source : Sapa-AFP