NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi consecrated two conservative American priests as bishops on Thursday to lead U.S. congregations who have split from the Episcopal Church over its stand on homosexuality.
William Atwood and William Murdoch are among a growing number of conservative U.S. clerics pledging allegiance to African bishops who take a tough line against homosexuality.
“The gospel is clear on which relationships correspond to God’s order of life ... homosexual practice violates the order of life given by God in the Holy Scripture,” said Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, in a sermon at Nairobi’s All Saints Cathedral attended by hundreds of worshippers.
Atwood and Murdoch will be in charge of 30 congregations in the United States who have asked for leadership from Kenya.
“As a bishop...you are to maintain the Church’s discipline, guard her faith and promote her mission in the world, “Nzimbi told the two men.
The 77 million-strong Anglican Communion has been divided since the Episcopal Church, its 2.4 million member U.S. branch, consecrated Gene Robinson as Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop four years ago.
At the service, where traditional Anglican hymns were sung to African beats, they vowed to “serve the international interests of the Anglican Church of Kenya, to serve clergy and congregations in North America under the Kenyan jurisdiction”.
The five-hour service was attended by several primates from the “Global South”, made up of churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America who support traditional Anglicanism.
“Today’s ceremony is not about making a political statement. It is about the gospel of Jesus Christ and caring for people,” Atwood said. “There are 52 million Anglicans worldwide and the fact that the leaders of 40 million of them are here shows that it is hardly a renegade act.”
Homosexuality in Africa is denounced as immoral and is outlawed in many countries on the continent.
“These people are here (in the congregations) but we cannot appoint them as lay leaders, priests or bishop because that would be condoning wrong, and we cannot do that,” Nzimbi told Reuters earlier.
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola raised a storm in May when he consecrated Martyn Minns as bishop in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is linked to the Church of Nigeria, despite being asked not to by the Anglican spiritual head Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On Sunday, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi will consecrate John Guernsey from Virginia in Uganda.
The U.S. Church has accused Africans of invading their territory by consecrating Americans. But conservative Africans say they only want to provide refuge for orthodox believers who are at odds with liberal views.
Murdoch is rector of the All Saints Episcopal Church in West Newbury, Massachusetts, while Atwood is general secretary of the Ekklesia Society, a global group promoting orthodox Anglicanism.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual head of the Communion but does not have powers equal to those of Pope Benedict in the Catholic Church. The gay clergy row has sapped his influence and brought the Communion close to schism.
The Communion is discussing proposals for a so-called Anglican Covenant that could strengthen the Archbishop of Canterbury’s authority, but opinions on it are deeply divided.