Conservative African Anglican bishops have applauded a compromise by the US Episcopal Church on its policy on including gays in church structures. The resolution calls on American church leaders to ”exercise restraint” in consecrating openly gay candidates.

The non-binding resolution was made last week at the Episcopal Church’s nine day General Convention in the US, which was marked by controversy over the issue of gays in the church. The worldwide Anglican community has come close to splitting ever since, openly gay, Gene Robinson from New Hampshire was made Bishop in 2003.

Conservative branches of the church, most from Africa, have threatened to break away from liberal dioceses over the issue. The resolution was seen as an attempt to maintain unity while avoiding stricter and more conservative policies that would result in an outright ban on gay bishops. It also dodged demands that openly gay bishops who are already in office step down.

Nevertheless, anti-gay clerics welcomed the resolution which asks that dioceses ”exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration” of candidates for bishop ”whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,” as a step in the right direction,

Father Eason Mpembamoyo, spokesman for Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana’s single archbishop, told Reuters that, “This is what we have always asked and we are happy that the word of God is prevailing,”

Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, the Anglican Bishop of Kumasi in Ghana also welcomed the measure but added that, “Homosexuality is against our biblical teachings. We are not going to succumb to any compromise,” he told Reuters.

Africa is seen as an increasingly powerful voice in the worldwide Anglican Church as its membership grows rapidly on the continent.

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