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UK bishop compares opposition to gay priests to slavery

September 26, 2003

LONDON — A senior Anglican bishop in Britain has compared opposition to the ordination of homosexual priests to support for slavery and anti-semitism earlier in the church's history, according to an interview published Sunday.

In comments certain to enrage Anglican traditionalists, the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, said the issue of gay and lesbian priests would be seen in the future as something where the church had "got it wrong".

Earlier this year, Harries caused a storm in the Church of England by appointing the openly gay Canon Jeffrey John as bishop for the British town of Reading.

John later withdrew his candidacy to avert a schism between conservative and liberal factions.

"The Church has got it wrong in the past -- there's no doubt about it," Harries told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"For most of Christian history, for instance, it was assumed that Jews had no place in the providence of God," he said.

"I think you can take the view that, just as the Church eventually abolished slavery, so they ended up in favour of votes for women, so they voted for the ordination of women, and this is just one more issue where the Church has got it wrong."

Anglicans from around world are due to meet in mid-October for an emergency debate on the issue, which has threatened to split the church down the middle.

Harries -- who told the Sunday Telegraph he was "very sad" that Canon John had withdrawn his candidacy for the bishop's post -- said it was vital the church face the reality of homosexual people.

"My main point as a bishop has been that there is a genuine dilemma here," he said.

"There are gay and lesbian people. They didn't ask to be born that way, and what is the best pastoral provision that the Church can make for people who are gay and lesbian?" –Sapa-AFP

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