As the Archbishop of Canterbury grapples with the “marriage” of two gay clergy in a Church of England service, one of his most senior bishops, the Bishop of Rochester, will join two other English bishops and 250 from across the world to boycott the Lambeth Conference.
Bishop Gene Robinson, who is gay, will attend the conference.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester will not attend the key meeting of the Anglican communion.
Held once a decade the 2008 Lambeth gathering is the first presided over Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Bishop Nazir-Ali was among the principal objectors to the consecration of the celibate but openly gay Reverend Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading in 2003.
The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, and the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, will also not attend Lambeth.
Bishop Benn told the newspaper: “I’m not going because those who’ve torn the fabric of the Communion have been invited, and bishops from the missionary groups in America haven’t.
“A group of English bishops has been unhappy at the invitation list and that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not called a Primates Meeting to consult about invitations and respond to the American Church statement on gay clergy.”
It is understood that six more English bishops are likely to also join the boycott.
The ordination of the gay Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, who this month entered into a civil union with his partner has thrown the future of the Anglican Communion into doubt.
Sixty Church of England clergy are meeting at the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference this week, where Bishop Nazir-Ali will deliver a key-note address on the future of the Communion at a time when it is being torn apart over its approach to gay rights.
An English group of a thousand parishes, Reform, is now also warning that it may split from the Church.
Rod Thomas, its chairman, told The Sunday Telegraph: “The Church of England now faces the same sort of division as the Episcopal Church [of the USA].”
Conservatives, mainly in Africa and the developing world, have threatened to split from the Church of England unless the tide of acceptance of homosexuality is stemmed.
Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, will also address the Global Anglican Future Conference.
In a book, The Way, The Truth and the Life will be published today. In it he states:”There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified communion.
“The intransigence of those who reject Biblical authority continues to obstruct our mission, and it now seems that the Communion is being forced to choose between following their innovations or continuing on the path that the Church has followed since the time of the Apostles.
“We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success.
“Now we confront a moment of decision.
“If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”