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Kenya's bishops join boycott of Anglican meeting

A group of Anglican church bishops gather around Reverends William Atwood and Reverend William Murdoch during a consecrated ceremony by Kenyan Archbishop of the Anglican Church, Reverend Benjamin Nzimbi (C), at the All Saints Cathedral Church in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 30, 2007. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s Anglican bishops will join the boycott of a major church gathering this year because of a rift over gay clergy and same-sex unions, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said on Friday.

The announcement is another setback for the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, who is struggling to heal divisions between liberals and traditionalists.

“We are not attending the forthcoming Lambeth (Conference),” Nzimbi told local broadcaster NTV. “We are not pulling out of the Anglican communion.”

Bishops in neighboring Uganda said on Thursday that they would not be attending the meeting, being held in July in Canterbury, southern England.

The consecration of openly gay U.S. Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 has split the 400-year-old church and set a liberal minority against a conservative majority, mostly from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One of Australia’s most powerful Anglican leaders has said bishops from Sydney will also miss the Lambeth Conference, a meeting of senior figures which is held every 10 years to discuss church governance and policy.

The Anglican archbishop trying to mediate between conservative and liberal clergy said earlier this month that he believed a schism could be avoided but added that he did not expect 100 percent attendance at the Lambeth Conference.

Some conservative Anglicans have announced plans to hold an alternative summit in Jerusalem in June.

Reporting by Daniel Wallis; editing by Keith Weir