The Worldwide Anglican Church is hoping to shift public attention away from internal rifts over gay priests and onto pressing global issues of poverty and disease, bishops revealed today.

South Africa’s Archbishop, Njongonkulu Ndungane, told Reuters: “The Anglican church has always been at the heart of social justice issues … but like any family sometimes there is a row, and a row tends to make loud noises.”

He is now calling on the church to get on with business and forget about the splits over homosexuality in preparation of a poverty and AIDS conference next year. He said: “What has happened in our communion is that some people, who happen to be few in number, make the loudest noise.”

“In my travels around the communion, I would like to think that the majority of Anglicans want to get on with the business of the church.”

The Anglican hierarchy has attempted to heal the rifts over gay ordination and has appealed for unity, but issues of sex continue to cloud the church’s work on global problems.

Orris Walker, American bishop from Long Island, said it was hoped the conference would sensitise the Anglican congregation to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a set of United Nations targets to cut poverty and disease.

“We have been perturbed that the church has been side-tracked by internal debates that have sapped its energy and we wanted to call the church back to mission and ministry,” he told Reuters.