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Former Archbishop of Canterbury says gay bishop damage 'incalculable'

November 5, 2003

LONDON — The consecration of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church has done "incalculable" damage to the Anglican Communion, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said in a letter published Thursday.

However, he urged all factions in the communion to hold together and strengthen their "bonds of affection."

In a letter to The Times newspaper, Carey said he shared the distress of conservative evangelicals following Sunday's consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Subsequently, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, speaking in the name of the "Global South" of the communion, said he would no longer participate in any meetings with Episcopal Church leaders.

"I can only share the principled distress of the primates of the Global South and others who have expressed themselves so strongly in recent days," Carey wrote.

"They are surely right to do so. The damage done to ecumenical relations, interfaith dialogue and the mission of the worldwide church is incalculable."

Carey served as archbishop, and thus spiritual leader of the communion, from 1991 to 2002, and presided at the 1998 Lambeth Conference which denounced "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture."

Carey's successor, Rowan Williams, has appointed a commission to examine the practical issues of governance, both within the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, because of the deep divisions over Robinson's ordination.

"Whatever the way forward in maintaining communion between the two sides, I can only add my voice to that of my successor in encouraging all those most deeply affected not to drift away from each other, but to strengthen the bonds of affection that remain at the heart of Anglicanism," Carey wrote.

"Above all, let us resist encouraging the idea that the only thing we are interested in is this one issue. Even now, wherever one goes in the world Anglican Christians are working with others in issues of life and death -poverty, conflict resolution, Aids/HIV, relief to the very poor and compassion to the dying - to say nothing of the witness of the church to a living faith. In this country thousands of churches are still getting on with their work in faithful service," Carey wrote.

"My fear is that this action, taken so unilaterally by the Episcopal Church of the United States, will hurt most deeply the mission of the Church in the Global South. We must all pull together to avoid that. " –Sapa-AP

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