JOHANNESBURG/NAIROBI (Reuters) - As an Anglican row over gay clergy deepens, growing numbers of conservative American priests are abandoning the liberal U.S. church and pledging allegiance to traditionalist African bishops instead.
Africans, who take a tough line on homosexuality, are keen to recruit the dissident priests as bishops under their own authority and to provide a new spiritual home for their clusters of wealthy U.S. congregations.
But liberals say African bishops are violating church rules by setting up fiefdoms in the United States and deepening a crisis that threatens to split the Anglican communion, a world-wide federation of 38 member churches.
"It's a terrible breach of longstanding Christian tradition. You don't invade someone else's territory just because you disagree with them," said Jan Nunley, deputy communications director for the U.S. Episcopal Church. . .
The 77-million-strong Anglican church has been divided since 2003 when its 2.4-million-member U.S. branch consecrated Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in its history.
Conservatives say the U.S. church has disobeyed biblical commands and broken with Anglican teaching by backing gay priests, while liberals support a looser interpretation of scripture and say Anglicanism has always embraced diversity.
The Africans say they want to rescue U.S. churches and individuals who might otherwise abandon Anglicanism.
"We are not undermining the authority of anybody. We are actually saving a situation of people who so much need us," Kenya's Nzimbi told Reuters. "Otherwise if they are left on their own they would be like sheep without a shepherd." . . .
Jim Naughton, canon of communications for the Washington diocese, said most defecting parishes were small. He suggested financial gain could be a factor for struggling African churches -- a charge they vehemently deny.
"The budgets of large American churches are sometimes larger than the budgets of entire African countries," he said.
On an earlier story, I sarcastically said, "Feel the love." Here I say, "Feel the condescension" (and I'm not being sarcastic - Jim Naughton as canon on "communications" must only be "communicating" to the choir, because this type of language I find amazingly insulting, to everyone involved).
Read it all.