40 senior Anglican bishops today debated homosexuality at the Lambeth Conference although there was no formal proposal for how to move forward on the issue. Gay rights protesters displayed provocative banners at the bishops.

The Lambeth Conference, a once a decade gathering of Anglican clergy is being held in Canterbury. A spokesperson for the bishops refused to give specific details of the debate.

However, there was agreement that it is unfortunate that issues relating to human sexuality have overshadowed more significant topics including world poverty and the environment.

The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell colleagues from the gay rights group Outrage! and the Lesbians and Gay Christian movement, staged a demonstration outside the conference.

Mr Tatchell held a placard saying:”Defend gays, fight Christian bigots.”

“Dr Williams would not appease a racist or anti-Semitic bishop, why is he appeasing boastful homophobes like Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and Archbishop Orombi of Uganda,” he said.

“Archbishop Akinola has endorsed anti-gay legislation in Nigeria that would ban gay organisations, gay churches, gay safer sex education and the advocacy of human rights.

“Archbishop Orombi supports Uganda’s state sponsored persecution of lesbians and gay men. He excommunicated Bishop Christopher Senyonjo for ministering to the lesbian and gay community of Uganda.

“Dr Williams’ failure to speak against this abuse by these archbishops is a tragic betrayal of lesbian and gay rights.”

Yesterday, a Vatican official told the conference that homosexuality is a behaviour disorder that must be battled against.

Walter Cardinal Kasper said: “This teaching is founded in the Old and New Testament and the fidelity to scripture and to Apostolic tradition is absolute.”

“Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour,” he said. “The activity must be condemned.” He called for a clear message against homosexuality from the Anglican communion.

The openly gay American Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest and walking with a bodyguard for fear of being attacked.

Bishop Robinson made the revelation during an address he gave, ‘The Lambeth Conference: A View from the Fringe’ at Kent University earlier this month.

The bishop has been attending fringe sessions that coincide with the 14th Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

Robinson was not invited to the once-a-decade meeting of Anglican leaders.

Liberal and conservative factions of the Anglican Church have been at loggerheads ever since he was ordained in the US in 2003.

Quoting extensively from the scriptures during his talk, he challenged traditional perceptions of same-sex relations:

“Heterosexism is the problem with today’s society,” he said, according to www.kentonline.co.uk.

“Homosexual families are still viewed as second class citizens, but what we are seeing today is the death of patriarchy.

“In order for the Church to come round to the idea of gay marriage, we need to separate the civil right from the religious right. If we can do that, we might get more religious support for the issue.

“It’s an exciting time to be alive. There are live issues floating around the Church to do with civil rights, but I think God’s heart would break to see people marginalised.”

Bishop Robinson claimed even Jesus possibly would not be welcome to attend the Lambeth Conference for the views he once held.

“I think Jesus might find himself on the fringe like me, and not inside the big top with the so-called powers that be!”

He is expected to continue attending fringe sessions at the Lambeth Conference, which runs until August 3rd.

In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk earlier this year, Bishop Robinson revealed that he faces constant threats of violence because of his stance against homophobia in the church.

“There are lots of crazy people out there and you know more and more crazy people are turning to violence.

“I’m not willing to put my life at risk without taking advantage of what protections I can put in place, in a civil union for my partner and family. I think that’s what any wife or husband would do.”