Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gay relationships can be as good as marriage, says the Archbishop of Canterbury | Mail Online

Gay relationships can be as good as marriage, says the Archbishop of Canterbury | Mail Online

By Nick Mcdermott
Last updated at 11:54 AM on 07th August 2008

Controversial: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, with his wife Jane
The Archbishop of Canterbury has equated gay sexual relationships to heterosexual marriage.

Leaked private letters from eight years ago reveal Rowan Williams's innermost thoughts on gay partnerships, which he says can 'reflect the love of God'.

The revelations come just days after the Anglican Communion reached an uneasy truce over the issue, with the row over ordaining gay priests threatening to permanently split the Church.

At the end of the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, Dr Williams called for an Anglican rulebook to keep the Church of England and its warring sister churches together.

In a decision aimed at appeasing orthodox bishops, he recommitted the Church to a more hardline stance saying there should be no more gay bishops until the rules are agreed.

But despite supporting the conservative majority, Dr Williams's view in private is much more closely aligned to the liberal factions of the Anglican church.

In correspondence with an evangelical Christian written while still Archbishop of Wales, Dr Williams claims the Bible does not criticise people who are gay by nature and in a committed relationship, but promiscuous gay sex.

In excerpts of the letters published in The Times, he writes: 'I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.'

Despite being in 2000, two years before taking up the post as head of the Anglican church, Dr Williams writes that his view in the letters are his 'definitive conclusion'.

Considered a liberal before his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams has since faced criticism for backtracking to a more traditionalist stance.

The church, which has 70million worshippers worldwide, has been in deep division since an openly gay priest, Jeffrey John, was nominated as Bishop of Reading in 2003.

Dr Williams forced Canon Jeffrey John to give up the post, but was unable to prevent to stop American Anglicans from endorsing actively homosexual Gene Robinson from being appointed bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire.

In the correspondence with Dr Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist who lives within his former archdiocese in south Wales, Dr Williams distinguishes between his personal views as a theologian, and his position as a church leader for which he must consider the more conservative views of the majority of Anglicans.

He wrote: 'If I'm asked for my views, as a theologian rather than a church leader, I have to be honest and admit that they are as I've said.'

Dr Williams describes in the letters how his opposition to gay relationships softened in 1980 when he as a university teacher he became 'unsettled' by conversations with Christian students who believed the Bible forbade promiscuity not gay sex.

Ordained a priest in 1978, he later became a lecturer at Cambridge and was appointed Dean of Clare College in 1984.

In the correspondence, he says that by the end of the 1980s he had 'definitely come to the conclusion' the Bible was not opposed to faithful relationships between gay people.

One of the academics cited by Dr Williams as pivotal in influencing his more liberal view is ironically Dr Jeffrey John.

He also says he regrets that the issue of homosexuality and the church has become 'very much politicised' and is treated by many as 'the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy'.

In 1989, Dr Williams' hinted at his liberal views on homosexuality in a paper called The Body's Grace, where he argued that the Church's acceptance of contraception meant it recognised the virtues of sex for non-reproductive purposes.

This was interpreted in some quarters to be a tacit approval of gay sex.

Lambeth Palace last night responded to the revelations by quoting a recent interview made Dr Williams where he stated:

'When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why.'

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