Conservative Anglican leaders pledged Sunday to stay in the worldwide Anglican Communion, but they also announced plans to form a separate council of bishops to counter a movement within mainstream Anglicanism that they say promotes immoral behaviour.
Their intentions were announced on the final day of the week-long Globan Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, convened largely in response to growing acceptance of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions in North American churches.
"We cherish our Anglican heritage and the Anglican Communion and have no intention of departing from it," conference members said in their final statement. But they also said some Anglican leaders are trying to rewrite the Bible along liberal lines.
In its statement, the group, which says it represents 35 million Anglicans, accused churches in the West of proclaiming "a false gospel [that] undermines the authority of God's word" and promotes a "variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour."
Canadian Cheryl Chang, a delegate at the meeting, said the Jerusalem Declaration is an important way to preserve church traditions.
"This sets out the fundamental, essential beliefs of Anglicanism that we have had since the beginning of the church," she said.
"This is not about gay marriage. Gay marriage is nothing more than a symptom of the bigger problem that this conference is concerned with, and that is, how are we going to view the Bible and how are we going to view our relationship with one another in the church," Chang said.
Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, one of the organizers of the conference, blamed the rift in the 77-million-member church on a decision by the U.S. Episcopal Church five years ago to consecrate its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson.
Jensen told the Sydney Morning Herald that Anglicans "are in a battle for ideas between the liberal wing who want to export their ideas to the rest of us and the biblical Anglicans."
The declaration did not mention the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams by name, but said the Anglican leadership had done nothing to discipline the Episcopal Church for its stand on gay clergy or the Anglican Church of Canada for blessing same-sex marriages.
Although the conservatives, a coalition mainly of African Anglican churches and orthodox U.S. Episcopalians, said their movement does not represent a complete split in the church, they appeared set to challenge the authority of Williams.
"While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury," they said.