Gay bishop calls for firmer leadership

LONDON Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:25pm BST

1 of 3. The Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson of the U.S., speaks on the Andrew Marr show on the BBC in London July 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout

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LONDON (Reuters) - The gay bishop who sparked Anglican divisions said on Monday the head of the church must show firmer leadership and get conservative foes to tone down homophobic taunts.

But Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the 450-year history of the church, remained convinced that the world's 77 million Anglicans could still avoid schism.

He also felt it was time for the church, whose leaders congregate next week for a once-a-decade conference, to stop agonising over sexuality and start ministering to their flock.

Robinson, disappointed at not being invited to the Lambeth conference, called for a stronger stance from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans.

"He has been clear in the past that God's love extends to all God's children and that includes God's gay and lesbian children," he told Reuters in an interview in the grounds of a London church where he came to preach over the weekend.

He also called on Williams to be more public in response to "statements around the Anglican Communion about gays and lesbians".

"There is no place in the Christian Church for someone to say Satan has entered the church with my consecration or that gay people are lower than dogs," the 61-year-old bishop said.

But he had sympathy for Williams, walking a tightrope between liberals and conservatives. "He is in such a difficult place and I want to be supportive of him," Robinson said.

It was the U.S. church's 2003 consecration of Robinson that jolted the global church, already divided over biblical interpretation, the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Conservative Anglican leaders, meeting in Jerusalem last month, vowed to stay in the Anglican communion but pledged to form a council of bishops to provide an alternative to churches they say are preaching a "false gospel" of sexual immorality.

But Robinson was still convinced the church would not split.

"There is no one on the liberal side threatening to leave and every time the folks on the conservative side say that we are about to come to that point ... they pull back," he said.

He forecast that Anglicans, whose leader has none of the hierarchical discipline behind him that the Catholic pope does, would in time-honoured fashion opt for a fudged consensus.

"Our great contribution to Christendom is a little bit of this and a little bit of that," he said. "I could have far worse written on my tombstone."

(Editing by Keith Weir)

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