updated 11/4/2005 11:42:21 AM ET 2005-11-04T16:42:21

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said Friday he believed that the wider Anglican Church will eventually embrace homosexuals, but perhaps not in his lifetime.

“We learned that with people of color, we have learned that with women and now we are learning that about gay and lesbian people.” said the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, whose promotion to bishop of New Hampshire caused a bitter rift among the world’s Anglicans.

Robinson was visiting Britain to join celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Changing Attitude, a group which promotes the acceptance of gay clergy. Robinson is not permitted to preach or preside at any Church of England services during his visit.

He met privately Thursday with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is struggling to hold the Anglican Communion together despite vehement and apparently irreconcilable differences over whether gays should serve as priests and bishops. Conservatives believe that is contrary to the Bible, and have condemned moves by Anglicans in the United States and Canada to affirm faithful homosexual relationships.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion.

'Cordial' meeting
Robinson described the meeting as “cordial,” while Williams’ office said it was “friendly but candid.” Neither side has disclosed the substance of their discussions.

“I believe that the acceptance of gay and lesbian people into the life of the Church is something that is going to happen,” Robinson said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

“It may not happen in my lifetime, but that is all right. It will happen in God’s own time.

“What I will say in the short run is that no one is asking any other province of the Anglican Communion to raise up gay and lesbian people and to ordain them as priests or consecrate them as bishops.

“We are only asking that we be allowed to do this in our own context, which is admittedly different to that of most of the world,” Robinson said.

Anglicans disagree on other issues including abortion, stem-cell research and the war in Iraq, he said.

“So the question is can we still live together and hold on to one another while we resolve this issue?” Robinson said.

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