Archbishop: passions abating in England over gay bishop

February 27, 2004

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams
Photo: AFP
LONDON — The Church of England has calmed down from a furious debate about the nomination of a gay bishop, but it's unclear whether that will lead to a change in its teaching on homosexuality, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says.

"I do not think that change is ever inevitable," Williams said in an interview released Friday by the Press Association news agency, but he said he took heart from the debate at the church's governing synod earlier this month.

"I think that the Church of England's position, whatever was said after the synod, remains pretty much where it was. What changed, I think this is important, is the tone of the debate," Williams said.

"I sensed less anger and anxiety in the debate and wherever the church finds itself, I think that has to be a good thing." Williams, 53, granted the interview to mark the first anniversary of his enthronment in Canterbury Cathedral as leader of the Church of England and the global Anglican Communion.

His first year was dominated by bitter controversies over the nomination of a celibate gay man as an English bishop, and the decision by the U.S. Episcopal church to confirm Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who lives with a gay partner, as bishop of New Hampshire.

The Robinson appointment, denounced by conservatives around the world, has threatened to split the U.S. church and the Anglican communion.

Williams has appointed a commission, headed by Irish primate Robin Eames, to explore ways of holding the communion together, or perhaps managing a split.

Jeffrey John, who had been nominated as bishop of Reading in England, withdrew in the face of protests about his sexual orientation - even though his declared celibacy conformed to the church's teaching.

Williams said many people were "taken aback" by the powerful reaction against John's nomination.

"What it focused for me, most painfully, in a way, is what it means to try and hold and articulate what the church overall is thinking and wanting," he said.

"It was a very difficult period trying to listen to what I thought the church overall, worldwide as well as in England, was wanting on this."

"Of course, the personal cost to lots of people is very high." – Sapa-AP

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Blessing for same-sex marriages divides Anglican dioceses in Vancouver [14/10/2003]
Senior African cleric rallies to gay Anglican cause [16/10/2003]



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