Pittsburgh, Nov. 11 - An international panel of Anglican bishops called upon a gathering of their conservative American counterparts Friday to split from the rest of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

"Yes, we will stand with you as long as you remain faithful, biblical, evangelical and orthodox," said Bishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung, who represents South East Asia.

The seven bishops from Africa, the West Indies, and Asia spoke at the Hope and a Future Conference organized by the Anglican Communion Network.

The network is headed by Pittsburgh's Episcopal Bishop Robert W. Duncan. He helped form the group in 2003 after the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire and gave tacit approval to blessing services for same-sex couples.

Although Duncan's group represents a minority of Episcopalians in the 2.3 million-member American church, his group's views are shared by a majority of bishops in the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, said Douglas LeBlanc, spokesman for Duncan's Anglican Communion Network.

Duncan opened the conference, which runs through Saturday, by drawing a line between the beliefs held by his group and the leaders of the American church.

"These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture," Duncan said.

Supporters of church policy on gays, meanwhile, have labeled Duncan and his backers as "neo-Puritan" Protestant fundamentalists.

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