Analysis; Sex Relations Issue Splits Huge Church of England

Article excerpt

Byline: RIAZAT BUTT in London Guardian News Service (RBLAMBETH)

AROUND 70% of Church of England bishops worldwide have already registered for the Lambeth conference to take place in Kent this summer, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said yesterday (JAN21).

Speaking at a press conference to launch the 10-yearly gathering of Anglican bishops, Williams said there remained a "very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together" within the Anglican communion.

He acknowledged the "painful controversies" the church had been facing over the last few years, as the debate about gay priests and the blessing of homosexual relationships has intensified.

Conservative Anglican leaders have threatened to boycott the conference following the consecration of the gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, in the United States in 2003. Churches in Nigeria and Uganda have indicated they will not attend Lambeth and there is doubt over the presence of some bishops from the Church of England, including the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali.

Last year it was announced that Robinson had not been invited to the conference, but that Williams intended to "explore the possibility" of inviting him as a guest.

Asked yesterday about Robinson's attendance, Williams replied:

"Gene Robinson has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference and it is proving extremely difficult to see under what heading he might be invited to be around, and that is where we are."

He said he hoped more bishops would register before the summer. …