LONDON — A senior Church of England bishop has angered gay-rights campaigners by saying homosexuals should repent.
Archbishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that the Bible defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He said the church welcomed gay people, "but we want them to repent and be changed."
Nazir-Ali is a leading member of the conservative wing of the global Anglican Communion, which is riven by divisions over homosexuality and the ordination of women.
Gay groups condemned the bishop's remarks. Campaigner Peter Tatchell said Nazir-Ali's view "goes against Christ's gospel of love and compassion."
And Derek Munn of gay-rights group Stonewall accused the bishop of promoting inequality and intolerance.
The 77 million-member Anglican Communion has been splintering since 2003, when the Episcopal Church _ the Anglican body in the U.S. _ consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has tried to hold the fragile communion together by getting churches to observe a voluntary moratorium on consecrating another openly gay bishop and developing prayers for same-sex unions. But many fear a split is inevitable.
Nazir-Ali's remarks appeared a day before the launch in Britain of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, a coalition of conservative parishes from around the world, which Nazir-Ali supports.
He was quoted as saying that people who depart from traditional Biblical teaching "don't share the same faith."
"We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the church," he told the newspaper. "We don't want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the church."