February 5, 2009 / 7:13 PM / in 9 years

Anglicans remain split on gay issues at meeting

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) - The worldwide Anglican Communion ended a five-day meeting on Thursday without reaching consensus on the thorny issues of homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages.

<p>Members of the Anglican Communion attend a session on the last day of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem, June 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun</p>

The final statement of the conference, released a day after a bishop from Sudan restated his opposition to the consecration of openly gay U.S. bishop Gene Robinson, stressed the complexity of Anglican divisions that have at times threatened to split the church.

It said that “it is imperative that further aggravation and acts which cause offence, misunderstanding or hostility cease”.

“The conflict between continuity and change -- continuity in doctrine and in pastoral practice and change in the discernment of new insights -- raises urgent (and potentially divisive and destructive) questions” about the limits of diversity that can be sustained within the church, the statement added.

“There are continuing deep differences especially over the issues of the election of bishops in same-gender unions, Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions, and on cross-border interventions,” the statement said.

Liberal and conservative clergy have been brought to the brink of schism over the ordination in 2003 of Robinson in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in the church’s 450-year history.

The statement urged the 80 million-member global church to “directly study the scriptures and explore the subject of human sexuality together in order to help us find a common understanding.”

The final statement was written in response to a report prepared for the head of the Anglican church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, and released by him for discussion at the conference, held in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria this week.

That report said much had been achieved via the Windsor Process -- a consulative process seeking agreement between churchs within the Communion -- but the church remains at an impasse, and viewpoints were in fact becoming more entrenched.

In 2008, a quarter of the world’s Anglican bishops, principally from Africa, Latin America and Asia, boycotted the decennial Lambeth (England) Conference of Anglican leaders because of the liberal stance on homosexuality taken by churches in North America.

In Alexandria, the church also issued statements on conditions in Sudan and Gaza.

It said it is “grieved at the continuing suffering of the people of Darfur” and endorsed “the rights of the peoples of both Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security, free from fear, and with dignity and hope”.

The conference on Tuesday called for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to resign.

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