The Rt Rev V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay US Anglican bishop whose 2003 consecration has deeply divided worldwide Anglican Communion, says African critics who describe homosexuals as "worse than beasts" are using the kind of language once employed in the United States to justify slavery - writes Martin Revis.
"Coming out of the experience of the United States where we treated people who came from Africa as less than human and used scripture to justify slavery and bondage, it is painful to me. But we did repent," Robinson said in an interview broadcast by BBC radio on 28 August. "I think some people in Africa are using the same thinking, in some sense, about gay and lesbian people."
The consecration in 2003 by the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church of Robinson, a divorced father living openly in a same-sex relationship, as a bishop in the US state of New Hampshire triggered the ire of many Anglican leaders in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Asked in the BBC interview if he had thought of stepping down as a bishop to lessen the danger of an Anglican schism, Robinson said he had been asked by the clergy and laity of New Hampshire to be their bishop.
"I love the Anglican church and I value the communion, and I will do everything short of standing down to benefit the communion, but I will not reject God's call to me," Robinson stated.
Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola, one of the Anglican Communion's most prominent critics of Robinson's consecration as a bishop, has been reported describing homosexuals as being "worse than beasts".
Robinson said, however, "I believe Peter Akinola believes he is following his call to God as best he can. I just wish he could believe that I am following my call as best I can."
Bishop Robinson denied that choosing a date one month before a conference of the world's Anglican bishops in July 2008 for a civil partnership ceremony with Mark, his partner of 18 years, was deliberately provocative. Any date, he responded, would offend his critics and it was the fifth anniversary of his becoming a bishop.
Some bishops from the global South have threatened to boycott the bishops' meeting, called the Lambeth Conference, if it is attended by their counterparts from the United States.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]