Anti-Gay Bishops Vote to Split Evangelical Church

A new church structure has been created yesterday for evangelicals in the United States who oppose homosexuality, initiated by leaders of the Anglican Church's conservative wing.

Archbishops from the 20 African and Asian provinces in the Anglican "Global South" grouping said that they understood the "serious implications" of their decision, following a meeting in Rwanda.

But they added: "We believe that we would be failing in our apostolic witness if we do not make this provision for those who hold firmly to a commitment to historic Anglican faith."

The primates will now push for a two-Church solution in the US, serving as a model for Anglican provinces elsewhere with liberal majorities and strong conservative minorities, such as in England, Wales and Scotland.

They are to develop an alternative Anglican structure in the US for the seven Episcopal dioceses who appealed this year to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for alternative oversight.

Their appeal came after the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, when a female and pro-gay primate, Bishop Katharine Schori, was elected to succeed Frank Griswold as leader of the Episcopal Church. The conservatives are also angry that the Episcopal Church has stood by the election of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

A new church structure would also offer a home to conservative parishes within liberal dioceses. The Global South is not planning to leave the Anglican Communion, but aims to develop a separate structure that will be a member in its own right of the Anglican Church.

The two Anglican Churches would not be in communion with each other, but both would remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the Communion's "instruments of unity". Such a structure exists in Europe, where both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church have a diocese that exists alongside each other in the same geographical territory.

The Global South group have also appealed for another bishop to sit alongside Bishop Schori when all 38 bishops meet in Tanzania next year. They do not recognise Bishop Schori, who backed the election of Bishop Robinson.

"We are convinced that time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognised as separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican communion in the USA," the primates said in a statement yesterday.

An insider said that the Church was moving with the times. "This is taking the realities seriously and saying that Anglican identity is not something to be determined by a single province but is something done globally.

"In a globalised world with new communications, the medieval notion of one Church, one bishop, one territory is totally outdated.

"The Global South primates are saying: 'Let's live in the modern world and recognise there are various possible configurations and these should not be determined by geography alone'."