Anglican Church in Crisis over Sexuality

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The top Anglican bishop in Sudan is calling for V. Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, to "resign for the sake of the church," according to an Anglican expert.

Homosexual ordination "is not what is found in the Bible" and is "not the norm of the Anglican world," the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul - Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan - said at the communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, which runs through Aug. 3.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Anglican family plan to settle the issue that threatens to break apart the fellowship: homosexuality and the Bible.

"We all know that we stand in the middle of one of the most severe challenges to have faced the Anglican family in its history," Williams said Sunday in an address to the 650 bishops at the assembly.

But Anglican expert David Virtue, who operates the Orthodox Anglican Internet hub VirtueOnline, doesn't have much hope that the Anglican Communion will come to an agreement on the matter. The entire fellowship, he says, is "hanging by a thread."

"The real underlying issues here are Gene Robinson and homosexuality," Virtue told CBN News. "And really, the truth of it is that the whole Anglican community is hanging by a thread at this point in time."

"We're not sure where things are going to go (with the conference). It's still in the early days ... but it's not looking good," he said.

At Lambeth, Williams and church leaders will try to rebuild the ties among Anglican national churches shattered after the 2003 consecration of Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

However, the meeting's progress is complicated by a boycott. One-fourth of the invited bishops didn't show up because Williams invited bishops who accept gay relationships, even though he barred Robinson and a few other problematic bishops from attending the conference.

Virtue believes the conference has been driven largely by the media's questions regarding sexuality. When asked how the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to those questions, Virtue said it's a mixed message.

"On one message, (Williams) wants to uphold Lambeth Resolution 110 that said marriage is between a husband and wife. On the other hand, he talked about marriage as a covenant relationship, but not mentioning heterosexual marriage as that covenant," Virtue said.

"In other words, (he) left open the possibility that gays could be married, or gays living in a covenanted relationship would be just as acceptable to him as people living in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. So it's a mixed message," he added.

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion is a global fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England. It is the second-largest group of churches in the world, behind Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

But divisions have been widening as strictly Bible-interpreting Anglican churches in the developing world have become the largest and fastest-growing churches in the communion.

Last month, a group of Anglican conservatives from Africa, Australia, and elsewhere formed a new network within the fellowship that challenges Williams' authority, but stops short of schism.

Some of the network organizers are attending Lambeth, but most are staying away.

No one expects the Anglicans to resolve their problems by the assembly's end. Organizers instead hope their discussions will help clarify what direction they should take to stay together.

Source: VirtueOnline.org, CBN News, The Associated Press

Listen to more of Anglican expert David Virtue's comments to CBN News by clicking play.

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