Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - The rift between leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa and their counterparts in the United States appears to be widening, with a decision by African clergy to consider severing links with U.S. dioceses and missionaries supporting the consecration of homosexual bishops.
The move will have a price, as the African leaders will also refuse any financial support from such churches.
Meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the churchmen said they would start by cutting ties with the Trinity Wall Street Church in New York City, which distributes millions of dollars in grants worldwide and supports projects in Africa.
"Africans are committed to giving up significant sources of funding" unless the U.S. churches concerned repented of their stance, said the head of the Kenyan Anglican Church, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.
The conflict between U.S. Episcopalians and Anglican Churches in Africa and some other parts of the world was sparked last year by the election of a homosexual, Gene Robinson, as bishop in New Hampshire.
The move raised fears of a split in the Anglican Communion worldwide, prompting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, to appoint a commission to explore ways of dealing with the issue.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, said the African church has accepted the need "to suffer for a while to gain our independence and our freedom and to build ourselves up."
"We will not, on the altar of money, mortgage our conscience, mortgage our faith, mortgage our salvation," he told reporters here.
The African bishops were meeting with their counterparts from Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, to deliberate on the issue of homosexuality and church leadership.
Religious experts said the decision by African bishops, if implemented, would deny the churches significant funding from the U.S., but was otherwise unlikely to affect their day-to-day running.
Africans comprise about half of the around 77 million Anglicans worldwide, and the African congregations are the world's fastest growing.
As such, said one Anglican leader in Nairobi, African churchgoers could provide the financial resources to make up for the losses of foreign funding.
On the other hand, per capita income in sub-Saharan African is among the lowest in the world.
Homosexuality is regarded as a taboo in most African societies, with South Africa a rare exception.
In many parts of Africa, homosexuality is a crime.
The Tanzanian island of Zanzibar last week passed legislation mandating 25 years' imprisonment for any man convicted of being in a same-sex relationship, and seven year terms for convicted lesbians.
The administration there said the bill was needed to prevent Zanzibar's culture from being corrupted.
Ernest Ngigi, a religious scholar based at the University of Nairobi, said because of African views on homosexuality, the Anglican Church here will have to make its position very clear if it does not want to suffer a backlash from members, especially those in rural areas who tend to be most conservative - and also form the largest body of members.
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