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African Anglicans Rebuff Episcopalians on Gays

Anglican archbishops from Africa said Thursday they would reject donations from any diocese that recognizes gay clergy and recommended giving the Episcopal Church (search) in the United States three months to repent for ordaining an openly gay bishop.

The archbishops also said they will refuse cooperation with any missionary who supports ordaining gay priests. They said the Episcopalians — the American branch of Anglicanism (search) — should be disciplined for the election last year of V. Gene Robinson (search) as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson has lived openly with his male partner for years.

"If we suffer for a while to gain our independence and our freedom and to build ourselves up, I think it will be a good thing for the church in Africa," Archbishop Peter Akinola (search) of Nigeria told journalists. "And we will not, on the altar of money, mortgage our conscience, mortgage our faith, mortgage our salvation."

He spoke at a meeting of African Anglican archbishops and their counterparts from Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. The other regions planned to issue a statement Friday.

Akinola is also chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (search), which represents 12 national and regional churches plus the diocese of Egypt. Africans comprise about half of the 77 million members of the global Anglican Communion (search), and African churches are the fastest-growing in the world.

Robinson's election has created deep divisions within the worldwide Anglican Communion, a confederation of provinces that each govern themselves. All Anglican provinces in Africa — except for Southern Africa — have opposed ordaining homosexuals, and several have severed ties with the U.S. Diocese of New Hampshire.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, has appointed a commission to explore ways of holding the communion together, or perhaps managing a split.

The financial impact of the African bishops' stance is unclear.

U.S. dioceses and parishes have partnerships with churches in Africa and give money directly to them.

However, dioceses also provide funds for the donations that the U.S. national church sends to Africa, said Canon Patrick Mauney, director of Anglican and Global Relations for the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Mauney didn't know whether the African leaders were aware of this.

"It's hard to parse this statement and to figure out are there any loopholes here or what," said Jim Naughton, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Several church leaders expressed doubt that the very poor African provinces would reject all U.S. church funding.

Mauney said that eight of the 10 African provinces that receive an annual donation from the Episcopal Church have taken the money so far. Mauney added that no missionaries had been rejected in the year that the dispute has raged over Robinson.

"I suspect they're looking for a symbolic way to say we're unhappy," Mauney said of the African leaders.

But Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi indicated that the Africans were committed to giving up significant sources of funding.

Nzimbi said links with Trinity Wall Street in New York had to be severed, for example. The prominent parish distributes grants in the millions of dollars worldwide and supports many projects in Africa. A spokesman for Trinity's grant program was traveling and could not be reached for comment Thursday.