World summit over gay bishop
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Archbishop of Canterbury has called together world Anglican Church leaders for a summit to discuss the fallout from the affirmation of an openly gay bishop in the United States.
"I am clear that the anxieties caused by recent developments have reached the point where we will need to sit down and discuss their consequences," Archbishop Rowan Williams said in a statement Friday.
"I hope that in our deliberations we will find that there are ways forward in this situation which can preserve our respect for one another and for the bonds that unite us."
After a contentious week of deliberations -- including 11th hour allegations of misconduct that proved to be without basis -- the U.S. Episcopal Church on Tuesday approved the selection of the Rev. Gene Robinson to serve as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire.
The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Church of England and is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Williams' statement said the meeting of archbishops and bishops would take place in London in mid-October, and that invitations would be sent next week.
"I hope we can use the time between now and then to reflect, to pray, to consult and to take counsel," Williams said.
The summit also will discuss the approval of a resolution this week by the Episcopal Church's General Convention acknowledging that some member congregations bless same-sex unions.
Despite the approval, the convention deleted a request that the church's liturgical committee begin work on liturgy for the ceremony.
Robinson, who is openly gay, was elected bishop by members of his diocese, but his appointment had to be ratified by the General Convention before he could be confirmed.
His confirmation has now been set for early November -- after the planned summit.
Robinson's election sailed through a committee and the church's House of Deputies, a congregation of lay and clergy people.
But it nearly derailed on the eve of the final vote by the House of Bishops when an e-mail alleged Robinson had inappropriately touched another man.
A separate complaint alleged that the Web site of a group for gay and lesbian teens that Robinson co-founded was linked to another site that contained pornography.
Episcopal investigators looked into the allegations and absolved him of any wrongdoing.
Bishop Gordon Scruton, who oversaw the investigation, said a Vermont man's allegation of inappropriate touching referred to an incident when he and Robinson were at a 1999 convocation in Massachusetts.
The man said that when he asked Robinson a question, Robinson put his left hand on the man's arm and his right hand on the man's upper back as he listened and answered.
As for the Web site, Robinson's involvement with a chapter of the group ended four years before the group offered the link online. The group told investigators Robinson had no part in creating their Web site.
Episcopalians associated with the orthodox American Anglican Council have warned that both votes could split the church.
Last month in Britain, Williams averted controversy when Canon Jeffrey John -- a self-described celibate homosexual -- decided not to take up the post of Bishop of Reading following weeks of bitter argument within the Church of England about whether he should be allowed to hold the position because of his sexuality.
Some evangelical groups in the Church of England have said they are considering looking abroad for alternative spiritual leadership because they believe Williams disregards the Bible's teaching on homosexuality and other issues.
"It seems to me rather sad, and rather revealing, that when it comes to sex we suddenly become much less intelligent about our reading of the Bible," Williams told the BBC late last year.
"If the Bible is very clear -- as I think it is -- that a heterosexual indulging in homosexual activity for the sake of variety and gratification is not following the will of God, does that automatically say that that is the only sort of homosexual activity there could ever be?
"My own personal conclusion is that I can see a case for acknowledging faithful same-sex relationships," he added.