African archbishop says Anglican church still faces 'gay' crisis

Lagos, Nigeria - An influential African archbishop said Thursday that the Anglican church was still in crisis despite the US Episcopal Church agreeing to halt the ordination of gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions.

Benjamin Kwashi, archbishop-elect of Jos province in Nigeria, insisted that the gay crisis was "not resolved" by the statement by US church leaders.

"The statement by the US Episcopal bishops should be taken with extreme caution," Kwashi told Nigerian media.

"The US bishops have not said anything different from their earlier liberal stance, which supports same-sex unions."

The US Episcopal House of Bishops reaffirmed a decision to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."

Church leaders also pledged "not to authorize or use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges" within the wider Anglican church.

The gay dispute has divided the Anglican church since 2003 when an openly gay bishop was named in the United States. A summit of global Anglican leaders in February gave the US church a September 30 deadline to bar blessings of same-sex unions and the consecration of openly gay bishops.

But four Episcopal dioceses in the United States are moving to split from the US church. African bishops, who have been among the most outraged at the US move, have broken with church rules and consecrated bishops to oversee the breakaway US congregations.

The Anglican primate in Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, is to ordain two Nigerian bishops who will go to the United States.

"We do not need anybody's permission to preach the gospel," said Kwashi.

"When the missionaries came to Africa, they did not get our permission before they arrived. Today, we (Africans) only need visas to get to US, to preach God's word."

The Anglican church has about 17 million followers in Nigeria, making it the biggest in Africa.