JANGWANI BEACH, Tanzania (Agence France-Presse) — The American branch of the Anglican Church has expressed “regret” over a looming churchwide schism that has resulted from its ordination of an openly homosexual bishop, a spokesman for an Anglican conference being held here said yesterday.
“The Episcopal Church of America expressed a sense of apology and regret for what happened,” conference spokesman Archbishop Philip Aspinall told reporters in Jangwani Beach, where Anglican Church leaders met to grapple with the future of their church.
The American branch, which sparked an uproar among traditional Anglicans when it consecrated homosexual pastor V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, did not issue a statement.
Archbishop Aspinall, head of Australia’s Anglican branch, acknowledged that the events in the American church had “led to the strains in the Anglican Communion.”
The internal church conference, which began Wednesday and was scheduled to last through Monday, was expected to be the scene of a showdown between two factions of the Anglican Communion: a conservative bloc known as the Global South, from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and liberals from the West.
The Global South, representing countries where the church is rapidly expanding, has condemned homosexuality as sinful. The liberals counter that the church should focus on issues such as Third World poverty, AIDS and the shrinking population of its congregations.
The acrimony between the two sides worsened in June last year, when Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, 53, was elected as the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church, a move considered by conservative clerics to be against biblical teaching.
Bishop Jefferts Schori’s subsequent assertion that homosexuality was not a sin did nothing to ease matters.
The prospect of a permanent schism in the Anglican Church, which counts 77 million faithful worldwide, is especially great in developing countries, where many church leaders stick to the scriptural precept that the practice of homosexuality is a sin.