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Gay activist gate-crashes Anglican church council

July 11, 2003

Tatchell protesting against Mugabe in Paris in February 2003 (AFP) LONDON - A British gay activist burst into a meeting of Anglican Church leaders on Saturday in protest after an openly gay clergyman was forced to withdraw his acceptance of the post of bishop.

Rights activist Peter Tatchell, flanked by six supporters, climbed onto the podium at the University of York in northern England, unfurling a poster that read: "Church of hate stop crucifying queers".

Half of the assembly immediately walked out, but there were also some cheers from among the crowd and several people engaged Tatchell in conversation.

Tatchell accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of "betraying his own principles" by accepting the resignation of Canon Jeffrey John, who was appointed Bishop of Reading, southeast England, in May.

He told the archbishop, who remained seated in silence throughout the episode, that he had "bowed to pressure from theological homophobes".

John, an Anglican clergyman who has had a male partner for 27 years, but says it is now a celibate relationship, turned down his nomination on July 6.

British newspapers suggested he had acted under pressure from the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who feared the appointment could spark a rift in the church and its 70 million adherents worldwide.

Conservative Anglicans across the world fear in particular that the liberal wing of the church is moving secretly to promote gay marriages.

In Africa in particular, Church leaders including the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, have denounced homosexuality as an abomination.

"If you are Bible-believing Christians, Leviticus Chapter 20, Verse 13... says that homosexuals shall be put to death," Tatchell continued.

"If you believe your bible then put us to death." One member of the synod countered that he was himself gay but disapproved of Tatchell's methods, asking him to engage with the Church "through letters, through writing and through conversation".

Police were called to the scene but were not obliged to intervene, since Tatchell and his followers left quietly after about 40 minutes. - Sapa-AFP

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