Church accused of `persecution`

A Christian gay rights activist has accused traditionalists within the Anglican Communion of entering a "new era of persecution" on the eve of a summit to debate homosexual clergy.

Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement, said calls for "theological purity" within the Church had echoes in calls for ethnic purity in 1930s Germany.

He said: "Hitler's ovens were only a more high-tech version of the bonfires of a Church that had for centuries endorsed and planned the massacres of homosexuals, Jews, new thinkers and any who were different.

"The Church practised inclusiveness by destroying the outsider, crushing dissent and reducing challenge to ash.

"It seems that the Church has entered into a new era of persecution."

Mr Kirker's remarks came as the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion were due to meet at Lambeth Palace tomorrow for a two--day summit on gay clergy.

The summit has been called by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams following the election of openly gay Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in the US.

His election follows the approval of same sex blessings within the diocese of New Westminster, Canada, and the bitter row in the UK over the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John, who is openly gay, as Bishop of Reading.

Canon John, of Southwark Cathedral, withdrew his acceptance of the post after a campaign by evangelicals within the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Mr Kirker's remarks were immediately attacked by the Rev George Curry, chairman of the traditionalist Church Society. He said: "We have never campaigned against anybody. His remarks are inaccurate and scurrilous. It seems to me that this is the sort of comment made by a person who has lost the argument."

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