Consecration in Kenya Widens a Religious Rift

August 31, 2007

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: Globe Staff

NAIROBI - Delivering a blistering rebuke to the Episcopal Church for its support of gay and lesbian rights, spiritual leaders representing tens of millions of Anglican Christians from around the world gathered here yesterday to consecrate two conservative American priests as bishops despite the opposition of the US church.

As female worshipers ululated with joy, the archbishop of Kenya, Benjamin M. P. Nzimbi, declared that the two new bishops, William L. Murdoch of Massachusetts and Will G. Atwood III of Texas, would return to the United States to serve as missionaries to a nation that Nzimbi said is losing the Christian faith it once exported to Africa.

The five-hour consecration service, held in a simple stone cathedral on the outskirts of downtown Nairobi, brought an end to any remaining comity between conservatives and liberals in the global Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is the US province.

Throughout the worship service, speakers repeatedly criticized the Episcopal Church, which is among the most liberal of American denominations; at one point, a letter was read suggesting the American church has been "misled by the devil." Although the critics generally say they believe the Episcopal Church has lost its way on a variety of theological matters, the issue they cite most often is homosexuality.