Bishop plays down Kenyan 'snub'

THE Bishop of Chelmsford has played down stories he was “abandoned” during a trip to Africa and insisted ties with the Kenyan Church were stronger than ever.

THE Bishop of Chelmsford has played down stories he was “abandoned” during a trip to Africa and insisted ties with the Kenyan Church were stronger than ever.

The Right Reverend John Gladwin and a group of curates from the Chelmsford diocese were halfway through a tour of Kenya when it was widely reported hospitality had been “withdrawn” due to the bishop's view on homosexuals.

During the tour, it had been announced Bishop John was one of the new patrons of Changing Attitude, a campaigning group aiming for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people within the Anglican Church.

In response the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Reverend Benjamin Nzimbi, released a statement saying the Kenyan Church was “unable to continue with advancing the lined-up activities with the diocese of Chelmsford”.

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The controversy broke during the first week of the party's tour last month, but yesterday Bishop John said matters had been resolved and he had carried out other engagements.

Speaking at a press conference in Chelmsford yesterday, Bishop John said when he finally got to meet Archbishop Nzimbi, he was given a “warm Kenyan welcome” although he admitted he did not know why there had been a change of heart from the Archbishop after his initial comments.

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He said: “Quite clearly in Kenya, some of the issues we deal with in the UK are extremely sensitive and in a different context. The visit was not cut short - every part of the programme was completed.”

However, a decision was taken to avoid some high-profile occasions while out in Kenya in a bid to “avoid being drawn into any controversies” over the issue of homosexuality within the Anglican Church.

Bishop John said he and Archbishop Nzimbi had discussed the issue of the Anglican Church and its stance on homosexuality during conversations, but said the discussions would remain private.

However, he did admit when he read about the snub in Kenyan newspapers he felt “downhearted” and that it had been a “very low moment”, especially as they were unable to make further contact with the Archbishop.

Bishop John said he was not aware of comments reportedly made by Archbishop Nzimbi in recent days saying there could not be a future relationship.

“He is entitled to his view and needs respect and encouragement and support,” he said.

In a prepared statement at the press conference, Bishop John said: “I am extremely proud of the 20 colleagues who accompanied me on the companion link visit to the four dioceses: Meru, Mbeere, Kirinyaga, and Embu which were formerly the diocese of Mount Kenya East.

“As a result of all that has happened, our link is deeper, and the bonds of love and affection between us seem indestructible.

“When this controversy hit the news, we as a group were determined that we would not be diverted from the central purpose of the visit: to building these important relationships between Christians in Chelmsford Diocese and in the wonderful, vibrant Anglican Church in Kenya. Now, having returned home, I am in a position to say we were entirely successful in that aim.”

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