Two U.S. Priests Defect To Anglicans in Kenya

Kenya bishops
Reverend William Atwood (L) and Reverend William Leo Murdoch (R) listen to the proceedings during a mass where the two were consecrated as bishops by Kenyan Archbishop of the Anglican Church, Reverend Benjamin Nzimbi (C), at the All Saints Cathedral Church in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 30, 2007. (Antony Njuguna - Antony Njuguna - Reuters)
Associated Press
Friday, August 31, 2007

NAIROBI, Aug. 30 -- Two American priests were consecrated Thursday as Anglican bishops in Kenya, the latest in a string of conservative priests who are defecting to African churches in a dispute over gay clergy.

Bill Atwood of Texas and William Murdoch of Massachusetts left the Episcopal Church -- the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- because it allows the ordination of gay priests.

"The Gospel . . . must take precedence over culture," said Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, one of 10 Anglican leaders or representatives who attended the ceremony in Nairobi's All Saints Cathedral. "Homosexual practice violates the order of life given by God in Holy Scripture."

The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has asked African archbishops not to consecrate U.S. priests to help avoid a schism. Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said there had been no direct communication with Williams over Thursday's ceremony.

Williams has no direct authority to force a compromise because each Anglican province is self-governing.

The Anglican Communion has moved toward the brink of splitting since the Episcopal Church, its 2.4 million-member U.S. branch, consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003. Most of the fellowship's 77 million members are based in the developing world, where homosexuality is strongly discouraged and often illegal.

A split would be a financial hardship for the communion because the small but wealthy Episcopal Church provides a significant chunk of the budget.

After Thursday's ceremony, Atwood and Murdoch plan to return home to minister to their congregations with Nzimbi as their spiritual adviser. Because they are no longer affiliated with the Episcopal Church, the men will have to find new church buildings and funding.

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