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Former Anglican head calls on gay bishop-elect to step down

October 21, 2003

Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (AFP) CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The former spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans urged the first openly gay bishop-elect in the Episcopal Church to step down before his consecration next month.

But Dr. George Carey, who retired as archbishop of Canterbury last October, also said he hoped no one would split from the Anglican Communion over the Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

"I strongly resist a realignment of the communion," Carey said, in a speech Sunday at a church in Charleston. He traveled to South Carolina to lead a clergy retreat there this week.

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion, represented by the Episcopal Church in the United States, has been debating homosexuality for years. But the issue erupted after the Diocese of New Hampshire elected Robinson in June and national Episcopal leaders confirmed him in August.

Robinson, a divorced father of two, has been living with his male partner since 1989. Some of the 38 Anglican leaders, called primates, have threatened to sever ties with the Episcopal Church over his election. A group of U.S. conservatives is also moving toward a break with the church.

The current archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, summoned the primates to an emergency meeting on the issue last week in London. They collectively issued a statement warning that Robinson's consecration Nov. 2 could "tear the fabric" of the communion.

Carey noted that Robinson's election had disrupted Anglican relations with other denominations. Pope John Paul II told Williams this month that it has caused "serious difficulties" in efforts to unify the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Carey called the situation an "ecumenical scandal."

He said the communion has always been known for diversity, held together by a common liturgy while accepting a variety of theological opinions, but Scripture has always been recognized as the highest authority. In 1998, Anglican bishops approved a resolution saying that gay sex violates Scripture. Carey said the primates need to continue to work together to come up with ways to discipline members who step out of line.

The same day that Carey spoke, Robinson addressed parishioners in New Hampshire, saying the bitter church debate over homosexuality would continue whether or not he gave up leadership of the diocese.

"It's not all going to go back to being nice and pretty again.

It's going to be messy for a while," Robinson said. "This is not our church to win or lose. It's God's church." – Sapa-AP

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