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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 11:44 GMT
Civil partnerships
On 23 November 2003, Sir David Frost interviewed the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey

DAVID FROST: On Wednesday the Queen will announce the Government's new legislative programme and it's expected to include a civil partnership bill. This will allow gay couples to register their union formally.

The idea of gay marriages is condemned by the Church of England, but does the proposed legislation amount to a gay marriage, or nearly?

The last Archbishop of Canterbury, who handed over to Rowan Williams last year, addresses a range of concerns about modern society in a landmark speech at the Evangelical Alliance which he's making tomorrow.

When I spoke to Lord Carey earlier I asked him first about the culture of cynicism in British society today. Who is to blame - politicians?

DR GEORGE CAREY: I'd want to say to the politicians - I believe that most of them go into political life with great idealism, they want to change the world and maybe a bit like the rest of us, little by little you are disappointed and it becomes a routine - I want to say to them get back to your hopes, what you, what you dream about.

In my speech I'm going to quote Martin Luther King, you know, his great "I have a dream" and he is a great example, although he wasn't in the foremost a politician, he used political realities to try to change things.

DAVID FROST: And in general do you feel that people today are happier than they were when you first entered the ministry? Is this country happier?

DR GEORGE CAREY: I think there isn't the same contentment that there used to be and maybe we've got to get back to some of the basics, you know, of happiness and the fulfilment of hope, encouragement, what kind of society do we want to create, how can we do it together.

DAVID FROST: And talking of Westminster, what do you feel about all we hear about the legislation in the Queen's Speech to put gay relationships on more of an equal footing with marriage and so on? Is that a good step forward or a risky one?

DR GEORGE CAREY: Will I think it's a bit of both in a way. The bill for civil partnerships is one that many Christians and people from other faith communities may greet with some degree of alarm.

And I would counsel, let's wait and see what the bill is stating first of all. But, in my book, as long as we don't call it marriage - because marriage for me and for many people is a relationship between a man and a woman for life and it's not to do with a same sex relationship - but there may well be a case for looking sympathetically at civil partnerships.

Let me give an illustration. I remember teaching a young man years ago who lived with an older man - and I don't think there was anything improper or anything like that in the relationship, he cared for him, he gave up almost his entire life for that older person who was quite sick.

So I think there are many illustrations like that where we have to look sympathetically at rights, responsibilities and so we shouldn't automatically - and I'm speaking to the church here - automatically assume there's anything necessarily sinister about civil partnerships, as long as this is not the thin edge of the wedge to try and get gay marriages in. I would resist that but in terms of civil partnerships let's look at this sympathetically.

DAVID FROST: And we've heard also of course about church blessings for gay couples and so on - is that right or wrong?

DR GEORGE CAREY: Well I would be against church blessings on the premise what are you blessing? If we are blessing friendships, there's no need to do that. Blessing of weddings, a relationship between a man and a woman, that - we call that marriage.

So I am again worried that when we slip in the blessings in church we are very quickly talking about gay marriages, and I've already made it clear that is something I do not approve.

DAVID FROST: Since we last talked, George, of course, there's been the whole development with the first gay bishop in the States, in New Hampshire. Do you feel that the American church should have found some way to intervene to stop it happening, or was it inevitable?

DR GEORGE CAREY: I think the consecration of Gene Robinson has made, has created ecumenical problems and interfaith problems.

I think it has the potential to divide the Anglican Communion very seriously indeed. I've been saying to American Christians, look hold in there, wait and see what the commission says, that Rowan Williams has organised, it will report within a year, don't do anything rash until you know where you stand in this matter.

Inevitably the horse has bolted the stable and there's little we can do about that, but it's a question of waiting to see what the commission comes up with.

DAVID FROST: And at the moment, would you say the Church is in a position of suspended animation or would you say we have in effect a schism, or a split, or not yet?

DR GEORGE CAREY: I don't think the split has happened yet, although there are rumours of realignment and one thing and another. What I'm urging, and this comes out in my lecture, is that this is not the only thing the Church is discussing at the very moment and it is in my book not the most important thing.

The mission of Jesus Christ is to change society, to change the world, that's why in this temple lecture I'm emphasising hope.

DAVID FROST: But the thing that concerns you on this issue particularly is the global south aspect of it.

DR GEORGE CAREY: Yes, the global south, that's probably where the strength of Anglicanism is today.

Vibrant churches, churches really reaching out in their society, and they have been terribly disappointed by this American action and my thoughts and prayers are with Rowan Williams as he has to handle this. It's a very big problem.


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