Tutu to gay clerics: be celibate

South Africa's Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he does not understand all the fuss about appointing a gay bishop, but he has urged homosexual clergy to remain celibate.

The appointment of the first openly homosexual bishop by the Episcopalian Church in the United States has threatened to split the Anglican Church and its 70 million followers worldwide.

The crisis prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury, who heads the Anglican communion, to call an emergency summit.

"For us, that doesn't make a difference - the sexual orientation," Archbishop Tutu said in the black urban centre of Soweto.

"In the Anglican Church in South Africa, that doesn't make a difference. We just say that at the moment we believe they should remain celibate and we don't see what all the fuss is about."

Archbishop Tutu was attending a farewell ceremony for Bishop Mvume Dandala, who is to head the All-Africa Conference of Churches, in Kenya.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, of Kenya, said on Sunday that the Anglican Church in his country might sever ties with the Episcopalians, the US branch of the Anglican Church.

"We are thinking of cutting ties," Archbishop Nzimbi said in Nairobi. "Homosexuality is not accepted; this practice is against the word of God."

Bishop Dandala has until now served as the presiding bishop of South Africa's Methodists, who have developed increasingly close links with the Anglicans. He said the furore had upset him.

"I am saddened that this issue is causing so much division in the life of the church. My hope and prayer is that the church is going to continue discussing this matter, that whatever decision people come to, that it will be handled in a powerful pastoral way."

On Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, summoned church leaders to an emergency summit in October to discuss the Episcopalians' appointment of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as Bishop of New Hampshire.