In Depth

Anglican church avoids split over gay rights

Liberals left counting cost of unity as summit affirms marriage as being 'between a man and a woman'

The Anglican church has narrowly avoided disintegrating over the issue of gay rights, but liberal adherents will be "dismayed" by the compromise involved in staying together, says The Guardian.

At a critical global summit in Canterbury, church leaders issued a statement in support of the "traditional doctrine" that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The week-long meeting has its roots in a crisis dating back to 2003, when the liberal US branch the Episcopal church ordained its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, along with recent developments such as same-sex marriage.

What has been happening in Canterbury?

The city's cathedral has been playing host to 39 primates - chief archbishops or bishops of the Anglican church - from all over the world this week in a meeting organised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The summit continues today.

Could the church really have split?

It was widely predicted the church would experience a "schism" over gay rights, with primates opposed to gay marriage or gay clergy leading their churches as part of the global Anglican communion.

What was the Archbishop's plan?

Archbishop Welby hoped to put an end to the disputes and shift the church's focus to issues such as religious violence and climate change. He proposed the communion become a loose federation of churches, with differing views on some doctrine.

Who opposes gay rights in the church?

The strongest opposition comes from African countries, especially Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, where the churches support the recriminalisation of homosexual relations. The US and Canadian branches are the strongest proponents of equality.

Was there a schism in the end?

Only the Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, walked out of the meeting, says the BBC. He had failed to gather support for his motion demanding the US and Canadian branches leave the communion.

What compromise was reached?

The global church held together - but at a cost to liberals. The primates agreed to impose sanctions on the US Episcopal church for accepting gay marriage and signed a joint declaration that marriage is "between a man and a woman".

Will the agreement make anybody happy?

The Episcopal church's Presiding Bishop Michael B Curry said the declaration would "bring real pain" to gays and lesbians. Conservative primates, meanwhile, said in a statement that they were pleased with the result but it must "not be seen as an end, but as a beginning".

Has the row weakened the Anglican communion?

In an opinion piece for The Guardian ahead of the meeting, religious affairs writer Andrew Brown said the church has "never really existed as a coherent body" in any case, but feared the row would show the world that the church is more interested in sex than tackling war and need.

Brown wrote: "Apparently [the primates believe] that genocide is more biblical than sodomy."

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