Gay priest predicts a new conservatism

The homosexual priest whose ordination sparked controversy in the Anglican Church, fears the Otago Southland diocese will become more conservative following the retirement of the Bishop of Dunedin, the Right Rev George Connor.

The Rev Juan Kinnear (39) said the decision by Bishop Connor to proceed with his ordination at St Paul's Cathedral on November 4, 2006, was a courageous move but could be "the end of an era".

"I fear we will not see a bishop of George Connor's courage make a stand and ordain a man or woman in an acknowledged same-sex relationship for many years to come."

Mr Kinnear's ordination attracted interest nationally and internationally, even prompting members of the Church to walk out of the ceremony.

Bishop Connor (67) will retire on November 30, and his replacement is expected to be named early next month.

But with the Church moving towards a more conservative Anglican covenant, even progressive bishops would have their hands tied, and the Church would be poorer for the decision, he said.

The St Paul's Cathedral assistant said the fate of those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in the Church would become "like the giant panda - slowly going out of existence".

Mr Kinnear said he urged people to write to their local bishops urging them "to stand up for what is right".

A spokesman for the New Zealand Anglican Church said bishops and dioceses had been asked to observe a moratorium on the ordination of people living in openly gay relationships.

This was a communion-wide recommendation, not a directive, he said.

Bishop Connor said while there remained divergent views on the topic of sexuality, it was unclear what direction the new bishop, or the Church itself would take on this issue in the future.

"I don't know . . . I am not a prophet."

• Last week, it was reported Pope Benedict XVI had approved a new structure to ease the way for Anglicans, including married priests, to become Roman Catholics.

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