Anglican bishops break with Canadian church over gay row

Ottawa, Canada - A second Anglican bishop on Thursday deserted his Canadian church to join its more conservative branch in South America following a theological split over homosexuality.

Bishop Malcolm Harding said in a statement he will now minister under Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of the Americas, while setting up a parallel church in Canada.

"My heart yearns for revival in Canada and in Anglicanism but I have lost hope for reformation within the Anglican Church of Canada," he said.

"I now realize that we cannot have unity at the expense of truth. I cannot in conscience travel the path that the Anglican Church of Canada is traveling, away from historic Christian teaching and established Anglican practice."

Bishop Harding is the second Canadian bishop to break with the Canadian church to join the newly-formed faction.

On Friday, Right Reverend Donald Harvey said he was leaving the Canadian church to go offer episcopal oversight, under the authority of Venables, to "biblically faithful Canadian Anglicans distressed by the seismic shift in the theology and practice" of the Canadian church.

The Anglican Church of Canada quickly protested what it saw as a trespass, saying it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Southern Cone "in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders."

It also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican communion, to intervene, accusing the Southern Cone of "aggravating the current tensions in the Anglican Communion."

Homosexuality has divided the Anglican community since the US Episcopal Church, the US branch of the Anglican Communion, approved the appointment of an openly gay bishop in 2003, angering more conservative branches of the church.

In Canada, the general synod of the Anglican Church voted earlier this year not to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions. But three dioceses in recent weeks have authorized same-sex blessings: Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara.

Right Reverend Michael Ingham, whose Greater Vancouver diocese became the first Anglican jurisdiction to formally authorize the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002, accused the Southern Cone this week of worsening the rift by poaching congregations in Canada.

He also blasted the South American faction for planning to ordain two deacons in his diocese in westernmost Canada next month, despite his objections.

"Over many, many centuries the rule has been that there is only one church in one geographical area, so we think it's improper" for anyone to try to set up a parallel Anglican church in Canada, his spokesman Neil Adams told AFP.

"Historically, the Anglican Church came from a split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1400s," Adams conceded. "But afterwards it became a big tent church ... open to a wide variety of theologies, and we think that's good and we'd like it to remain that way."