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    Anglicans to discuss gay issues - 10-May-2006
    Canterbury University Maori and Pacific Island Anglicans are declining to publicly discuss the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops, despite growing international pressure for the church to address the issue.

    At the Anglican General Synod, which began in Christchurch yesterday, both groups had yet to respond to an international report by a commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury that questioned the principles of the Anglican community and its diversity.

    Anglican Church New Zealand spokesman Lloyd Ashton said feedback on the report known as the Windsor Report 2004 was necessary for the church to grapple with issues such as homosexuality.

    Ashton said none of the members representing the Maori and Pacific Island tikanga (cultural streams) at the synod were yet prepared to speak openly about the issue.

    However, a conference motion to be tabled today urges Anglicans to continue talks with the gay community on its needs within the church, while making no decisions about gays' future roles.

    The motion has been proposed by Tauranga vicar Edward Prebble, who said a similar motion at the last synod started "the listening process" on gay and lesbian issues.

    He believed it was important that this continued to help the church formulate its policies.

    "There are some conservatives who would shut down debate and decide right now, but we have to keep talking and make sure both ends of the spectrum are listening," Prebble said.

    "We need to keep the broad middle ground rather than retreating to fixed positions, so that regardless of our own views we respect the integrity of others."

    Disputes over homosexuality, including gay priests and bishops and same-sex unions, have rocked the church worldwide, with growing gaps between liberals and conservatives.

    In the US, the Episcopal (Anglican) Church's diocese of California has gained worldwide attention, as three of the seven candidates for the election of its new bishop last weekend were openly gay. A split was avoided when the Californian diocese elected a heterosexual father of two, Mark Andrus.

    The choice of Gene Robinson, the Episcopal church's first openly gay bishop, in New Hampshire three years ago set off a bitter fight.

    A senior lecturer in religious studies at Canterbury University, Michael Grimshaw, said homosexuality within the church was an issue all Christian churches were having to address.

    "The debate is intensely political and a great schism is possible worldwide," Grimshaw said.

    "The power basis in churches is shifting, with liberals in retreat and a large conservative push in all churches worldwide. It is split along races and cultures, too, and in New Zealand, Maori and Pacific Anglicans are more conservative.

    "In the end, the last thing any church wants is a split, so it is a pragmatic compromise to avoid a snap decision. Any national decision will have international implications so anything decided here will affect the wider Anglican communion," he said.

    Auckland Anglican vicar Hugh Kempster said while he conducted civil unions between same sex couples, he was only allowed to do so in a secular setting.
    Ref: - The Press

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