Akinola denounces Church of Englands gay partnership policy

Abuja, Nigeria - The head of the 17.5 million-member Anglican Church of Nigeria has denounced the Church of England's new policy on partnerships for gay clergy and laity, and wants world Anglicanism to discipline its mother church unless it recants.

The dispute adds to the already severe split over same-sex blessing ceremonies within America's Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, and foment created by the Episcopalians' consecration of a bishop living with a gay partner.

The Church of England's new policy responds to Britain's Civil Partnership Act, which goes into effect Dec. 5 and grants same-sex couples many privileges of marriage, though that term is not used.

The English bishops announced July 25 that gay priests in same-sex partnerships will remain in good standing if they promise to follow church teaching that limits sexual relations to heterosexual marriage.

Clergy are directed not to provide blessing services for same-sex couples but lay members registering gay and lesbian partnerships will not be denied baptism, confirmation or Holy Communion.

Nigeria's Archbishop Peter Akinola denounced what he called "a deliberate change in the discipline of the church" that world Anglicanism must deal with, just as it has taken steps against the U.S. and Canadian denominations.

Akinola said telling partnered gay clergy to remain celibate "is the height of hypocrisy," "totally unworkable" and "invites deception and ridicule." He said the policy on lay couples "dishonors the laity and the sacraments."

"For the Church of England to promote such a departure from historic teaching is outrageous," Akinola said.