Outspoken Anglican archbishop warns church in danger of "fading away" if it doesn't welcome new members

Sydney's outspoken Anglican archbishop warned Monday that the church in Australia could "fade genteelly away" if it does not open its arms to new immigrants.

"I stick to my belief that the national church has a short life span if action is not taken urgently," Archbishop Peter Jensen said in his presidential address to the Sydney Anglican synod.

He said only four out of the church's 23 diocese nationwide had registered growth in their congregations between 1991 and 2001.

"The relative absence of people under 40 is alarming," he said. "So, too, is the smallness of many congregations and the aging of those in ministry."

Jensen said a key test for the church was its willingness to "accept and gladly embrace" the change brought about by decades of immigration from Europe and Asia.

"The diocesan mission must involve an on-the-ground, serious encounter with the real nation, the new nation in which we now live, or we will deserve to sink into obscurity as a failed British experiment," he warned.

Jensen said he was alarmed by "Anglo-centric churches set in the midst of vast ethnic populations with no task force, no cry for help, no plans to reach their new neighbors. They are set to fade genteelly away."

Jensen's speech came just hours before the release in London of a report by the Anglican church on the ordination of gay Anglican bishops _ an issue that has split the 77 million member church worldwide.

His spokeswoman said the archbishop would study the report before commenting on its contents on Tuesday.