The Anglican archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen raised the stakes in the debate on the acceptance of gay clergy last week by suggesting the Australian church break ties with the US communion.

In an article published in the UK magazine New Directions, Jensen wrote of the need for decisive action by withdrawing recognition of the Episcopal Church (US Anglicans).

The blessing of structural communion becomes a curse when it involves us in partnering those who endorse major doctrinal or moral deviance from the scriptural norms, wrote Jensen. There is a limit to communion -¦ In the blessing of same-sex unions (and the endorsement of a gay bishop) the limit has been reached.

Although Jensen later rejected claims he had called for the expulsion of US congregations, he told The Sydney Morning Herald there will be a whole realignment.

Jensen’s article is one of many recent additions to the debate on the appointment of openly gay Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in August. The archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams defended the decision, but called an upcoming emergency meeting of church primates to discuss the issue.

Retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong criticised Jensen’s comments on ABC Radio this week, saying, Peter speaks to a world that, as far as I can see, doesn’t exist any more, except maybe in Sydney. The controversial author of books including Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism is visiting Australia on a lecture tour.

Spong also spoke on the recent visit by Archbishop Williams to the Vatican, where Anglican support of gay clergy threatens unity with the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II told Archbishop Williams the church must ensure the deposit of faith is proclaimed in its integrity and preserved from erroneous and misguided interpretations, the UK Sunday Times reported.

Spong told the ABC the pope’s comments were almost rude.

I’m not interested in being a member of a homophobic church, and if the price of unity with the bishop of Rome is that we have to begin to treat women as second-class citizens and reject our homosexual brothers and sisters, I’m simply not interested in that unity, Spong said.

Support also emerged this week with a group letter signed by bishops including Archbishop Desmond Tutu seeking an inclusive, open church where there is generous space for lesbians and gay people, Catholics and evangelicals. The global open letter was sent by members of Changing Attitude bishops from the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Uganda working for lesbian and gay affirmation in the Anglican Church, according to the Anglican Communion News Service.

The letter follows a missive of support sent last week to Dr Williams by rabbis, bishops and Muslim imams aimed at fighting fundamentalism, aggressive proselytism and homophobia, and -¦ defending the values of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect for differences, which we all cherish.

The meeting of church primates will be held in Lambeth on 15 and 16 October.

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