Page last updated at 20:53 GMT, Tuesday, 29 March 2005 21:53 UK

Can Anglican rift be resolved?

Anglican Church
Scotland's Episcopal Church has said that being a practising homosexual is no bar to becoming a priest.

In a statement released on the church's website, the College of Bishops also revealed that clergy had occasionally responded to requests to bless same-sex couples.

The Scottish announcement comes as the Anglican community is divided over the consecration of an actively homosexual bishop in the US and the blessing of same-sex relationships in Canada.

What do you think of the statement by the Scottish Episcopal Church? Can the rift in the Anglican community be resolved? What should be the role of gay and lesbian Christians?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Is a politician allowed to be out of law? Of course not! Heterosexuality is the law of the Anglican Church...unless they change it? What a mess. It sounds like the EU constitution.
Dominique, Paris, France

As a gay man I find it hard to commit fully to the church, but I still feel the love of Jesus, and he would want them to modernise.
Rich Munn, Worcs

If you consider that a priest is to strive to be like Christ, I do not see how homosexuality can ever be considered acceptable in the church leadership. What would Christ do?
Nate, Atlanta, GA, USA

Churches that differ in their doctrine should go their separate ways
Ken, England

I don't think the rift should be resolved. Churches that differ in their doctrine should go their separate ways. A church that constantly changes to conform with modern thinking is not demonstrating a healthy flexibility, it is confirming that it has lost its way.
Ken, England

I am the most cheerful person now that the Episcopal Church is looking in the right direction, in a matter of evolution. It's about time the world changed so live and let live.
Maurice, Canada

It seems that the church adapts its profile to a world of corruption and madness! They exist under the umbrella of the utopia society that they fight at the same time. At the end, we made them be like that. It our fault.
Petros Papadopoulos, Rotterdam, Netherlands

I feel that the church has far more pressing concerns such as the reduction in regular attendance and should leave this matter alone. What difference does the sexuality of a member of the clergy make? Last time I checked, the Bible preaches love - not bigotry!
Erica, Bradford, West Yorks

Congratulations to the Scottish Episcopal Church for its courageous statement. As a practising Roman Catholic, I look forward to the day when I can move beyond cheering from the sidelines of this debate and applaud a similar climate of enlightenment in my own church.
Tim Burton, Cambridge, UK

The world has moved on in 2,000 years and so it should
Stewart, Fife Scotland
Being gay should be no barrier to being a priest. If we are not to move on with the times, then the Bible also says that it is okay to sell your daughter into slavery, that we should burn a bull on a Sunday, women should be stoned for infidelity and that no two differing crops should be planted side by side. You can't pick the bits you like and don't like. The world has moved on in 2,000 years and so it should - well done to the Anglican Church.
Stewart, Fife Scotland

As a Catholic, I have great difficulty understanding this decision. The posters who call the priesthood a job are wrong - it is a calling to serve God in a very specific way, which in the RC Church means, amongst many other things, dedicating your whole life to God at the expense of (and not limited to) sexual relationships of any kind. Us Catholics know only too well that is not always adhered to, but that is not a reason to alter the rules. In my opinion homosexuals, practising or not, do have as vital a role as anyone to play in the Church but that does not mean it has to be exactly the same. It is hard to see how practising gays can hold ministerial positions whilst deliberately and unrepentantly acting in ways against the teachings of the Church. Would we allow practising adulterers or prostitutes ?
Paul, London, UK

How many people have read the original Bible (written in Aramaic). I would imagine very few. The bible that we all read has been doctored and politicised by any number of people. To take these versions of the Bible literally is very foolish. As long as everyone is true to themselves that is what counts. It is down to God to judge, not us.
Jason, London, UK

I am deeply saddened at how a Church that is historically true to scripture can suddenly ignore the significant texts concerning homosexuality and endorse an immoral lifestyle. For shame!
Eugene McKinnon, Collingwood, Canada

Can we please put to rest once and for all a big misconception that many people here seem to have. I did not "choose" to be gay. I do not have a "preference" to be gay. I am gay, because your "God" made me that way. So what is the problem here?
Paul Girling, Toronto, Canada

I feel that the Church has far more pressing concerns such as the reduction in regular attendance and should leave this matter alone. What difference does the sexuality of a member of the clergy make? Last time I checked, the Bible preaches love - not bigotry!
Erica, Bradford, West Yorks

Can Anglican rift be resolved? No! Let's get the split over and done with and then we can begin to start the healing process.
Tim, Ashington, UK

The loving sexual relationship between man and woman is basic, sacred and must be upheld as the model for our children
Anon, Kagoshima, Japan
The loving sexual relationship between man and woman is basic, sacred and must be upheld as the model for our children and for future generations. Homosexual feelings are always with us, but they are not a practical "alternative" to the sexuality that brought us all into the world and creates the future of the human race. We all know that. The Church of England is right to uphold and reaffirm this basic distinction.
Anon, Kagoshima, Japan

I'm a gay man, in a long term and committed relationship, and strangely enough, I believe in God. He has never made it plain to me that my love for my partner is a sin, and I don't believe he views it that way. So, am I deluding myself, or is God telling me something? Every single objector to gay priests, or gay people in general, bases their objection on their interpretation of the Bible. If the good book really is the word of God, then the one person who can truly interpret it is no mortal man. If God really hates me, as some people seem to think, why did he give me the gift of love?
Rob G, Dorset, UK

The issue goes further than just applying to join the priesthood. It also encompasses teaching as a gay person in a church school. The bible is open to interpretation as are all other belief systems, and since it is not entirely clear on what authority most of its passages were first written, except the views of those doing the writing, this suggests that like other organisations it is subjective and liable to the usual societal changes which all of us find ourselves living under. The decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church just reflects that fundamental truth.
Dave, England

The last thing the Anglican Church need is further isolation. They should be wise and enter the 21st century, and thereby acknowledge the right of every true believer to be a part of his or her church.
Roger Kagie, the Netherlands

Whether you're accepting of gay priests, as I am, or one of the people who, whilst normally accepting the person as one of God's children cannot in good conscience accept them as a priest, a position which I respect completely, I think as a church this should rank about four million and nine on our priority list at the moment. We live in a world with millions of people with no food, no education, no political freedom and little hope for the future. I can't believe anyone has ever read the bible and said, "well the message is clear- we must concentrate on clergy sexuality immediately. We can do that loving your neighbour bit later."
Richard Reece, Stevenage, UK

Aren't we all supposed to be God's children?
Anon, Leeds
I'm an atheist and find a bit difficult to understand. Aren't we all supposed to be God's children? As for the Bible being written 2000 years ago and it shouldn't change, shouldn't religion move with the times, after all this out-dated organisation is trying to attract new followers? A church that reflects modern-day society might be a good start!
Anon, Leeds

In my (albeit limited) understanding, Jesus taught about forgiveness and understanding. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. I don't remember anything about being gay as a sin; though I'm pretty sure there is something about adultery. When are they going to exclude all priests and bishops that have committed adultery?
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK

Nojjer - you can no more choose to be gay then you can choose your own skin colour. It is ignorance like that which perpetuates that being homosexual is a "wrong choice". No religion can tell you what sexuality to be, and personally I believe it is time religion stopped trying to tell us all to live. It has caused more harm then good.
Robb Dunphy, Dublin, Ireland

What is at stake here is whether there can be some areas which are off-limits to gays. The pro-gay lobby wish homosexuality to be viewed as no different to heterosexuality when it comes to religious and social issues, but truthfully it is different. In the same way that we know a child develops more normally with heterosexual parents, the Church's faithful are better served by heterosexual clergy.
Ash C, London

The Church should ask itself how Jesus would have responded; after all, it is because of Him the Church exists! He would, of course, have welcomed the news of a new priest - regardless of their sexuality - with open arms and tears of joy!
Toby Cottrell, England

The Bible teaches intolerance - to sin, but compassion - to people
T Hunt, Cambridgeshire
In response to James of Harlow, as a Christian I do not believe that the Bible teaches tolerance. The Bible teaches intolerance - to sin, but compassion - to people. That is certainly the approach that Jesus took. Jesus showed compassion to everyone, with the aim of turning them away from sin, not with the aim of tolerating it and allowing it to continue and grow. The church cannot allow people who choose to continue to live in sin to be involved in leadership. But it should be compassionate and sensitive always with the aim of bring people back into relationship with God.
T Hunt, Cambridgeshire

Why do people waste so much time talking about a sexist, homophobic bunch of idiots? Any other organisation that was as backward as them would be hounded out of existence by the press, government and public.
Graham, UK

Those in authority in the church should try to model the values set out in the Bible. This includes sexuality, but this is only one area. The Bible is clear on this and other issues, take it or leave it as a whole.
Andrew Webb, Banbury, Oxon

Being gay and being straight are two preferences. It's like going into a restaurant; I order pasta, the other orders rice. The role of a Christian regardless of gay / straight is to serve God, try to be more like Christ in our daily lives. Be a beacon so others can see the light. Well done on the statement!
John Paul Ritchie, Edinburgh, UK

A sexually active, unmarried gay (or for that matter, straight) priest is in constant state of sin
Leslie G Ladomery, Edinburgh
A priest cannot partake of or administer holy communion during holy mass in a state of sin. A sexually active, unmarried gay (or for that matter, straight) priest is in constant state of sin if he/she has regular extramarital sex. Marriage is needed to resolve this problem; otherwise a gay priest would continue to have to choose between sex and being a priest.
Leslie G Ladomery, Edinburgh Scotland

If 'God' thought homosexuals were that bad, 'he/she/it' would not have put any on this planet. How does the Church explain that?
Amy, Droitwich

Key for me here is how to you maintain a church that can grow and be accepted by more and more people but not divide into to different factions. One of the most significant aspects that make religion easy to be mocked is to set a topic up on which no one can agree. This discourages people who would otherwise step forwards and explore their curiosity. Isn't the main issue here whether the Church wants to be seen to back or oppose the issue - let's just ignore it and let parishes vote with their feet!
Chris, Ipswich, UK

Christianity has got to move forward with the times: abandon ridiculous believes such as inerrancy of the Bible, get rid of rule by precedence, literal interpretation of the Bible, etc. Religious communities have a great contribution to make to society, but if they refuse to move with the times, they will hold back society.
Edwina Lee, High Wycombe, UK

The Episcopal church hasn't changed with the times, it's led the way
Nick Adams, Edinburgh, Scotland
I used to be a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, but am now not really religious. However I applaud the courage of the Bishops in this case for saying publicly that which they all have felt privately. I think Christians who are against homosexuality for whatever reason should concentrate on what Jesus would have done, not what those people who wrote the Bible felt. The Episcopal church hasn't changed with the times, it's led the way and opened its doors to people from all walks of life, just as Jesus himself did 2000 years ago.
Nick Adams, Edinburgh, Scotland

It's precisely issues like this that make people like me question whether religion is really relevant to modern society any more. It seems that it continues to exist as it promises people what they want, but does religion really deal with present day issues? It seems to me that it just causes more problems and conflict than it solves.
Andy, Southampton, UK

I am in a loving, committed lesbian relationship, and I know that God/Goddess is much larger than anyone can imagine. Certainly large enough to include gay people under the umbrella of love.
Stacey Jo, East Jordan, USA

The church is so confused about itself that it can offer nothing to influence my life and the way I live it
James, Harlow, UK
I have been following these events with a growing sense of amusement and disbelief. I am a gay man who was brought up as a Christian in the Church of England but long before I came out it was clear to me that the church is so confused about itself that it can offer nothing to influence my life and the way I live it. The Bible, as interpreted by the church, teaches tolerance and compassion but then seeks to stigmatise those who fall outside its narrow perception of "the norm". It cannot have it both ways, it either embraces all of God's creatures with equality or it chooses to be divisive and, in this case, homophobic.
James, Harlow, UK

I don't know where the Scottish Episcopal Church gets its stance from. My husband and I are members and, when our views were canvassed recently, neither of us were prepared to accept gay priests in any capacity.
J R, Kintyre

As a Christian I have spent a long time trying to decide what God's view on homosexuality is. I'm still not entirely certain, but I think that sexual monogamy is a far more important issue which we should be challenging modern culture with and I feel warmed by any loving monogamous relationship I see.
Lynda, Durham, UK

Religion is something that should remain true to its origins
Morgan, Winchester, UK
I really don't think it is correct to argue that the church should change with the times. I am not particularly religious and I also don't have a problem with homosexuality, but I strongly believe that religion is something that should remain true to its origins and should not be altered to fit with the fashions or attitudes of the times.
Morgan, Winchester, UK

I am not a homophobe, and I really don't care if someone is gay or not, but I do know that the Bible is very specific about homosexuality. The rules laid down in the Bible are not supposed to "move with the times". They are there to teach people to live by a particular set of values. Perhaps these Bishops and Deacons have been in discussions with God and have agreed a "New Millennium Manifesto"? I can't see any other way for them to reconcile these views with the teachings of the Bible. They should either follow the teachings that they are supposedly devoting their lives to, or leave the Church. They can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to follow.
Mark, Ips, UK

I can't see what all the fuss is about. Back in the early nineties I personally knew three Church of Scotland ministers who were gay and sexually active - whether or not their congregation knew was to them (and to me) irrelevant - they did a fine job. When it came to 'that abomination' line, well, they thought it was extremely unclear in the original texts what it meant and who it applied to, the original text being very confusing.
Bruce, Scotland

The Episcopal Church is to be congratulated for this bold step
Alasdair Binns, Glasgow, Scotland
I recently attended a gay blessing ceremony at a Scottish Episcopal church. As an Atheist the religious significance of such things are lost on me. However, it was a beautiful service and at the reception I spoke to the priest and he seemed to me to be a man of love and compassion. He told me that his greatest wish was that more Christians realised that love and commitment between two people was more important than any moral concerns over homosexuality. A fine sentiment. The Episcopal Church is to be congratulated for this bold step.
Alasdair Binns, Glasgow, Scotland

As a Lay Minister in the Church of England all I can state is the Biblical truth that same sex sexual relationships are abhorrent to Almighty God and condemned in both the Old and New Testament. That is the teaching of our God therefore by definition it, by default has to be the teaching of His Church. If those within the Church wish to think themselves above the teaching of Almighty God they should resign, and go quickly.
Mike Hall, Kingham, UK

The rules are clear enough in the Bible and if they could all agree to obey their own rule book it would make life a lot simpler. Who will take them seriously if they break their own rules?
Vincent Coles, London, UK

You can choose to be gay or a Christian, that is your choice but gay priests are wrong. The Bible was written 2000 years ago, it's true, but this does not mean it should change.
Nojjer, Dudley UK

The various parts of the Anglican communion need to respect the church's teaching
Michael Ridge, Southport
The intervention of the Scottish Episcopal Church will hardly help an already difficult and divided public debate. The present position of the Anglican Church that practising homosexuals should not be ordained to the priesthood seems to be a fair compromise that deserves support and reflects the authority of God's word. The various parts of the Anglican communion need to respect the church's teaching and concentrate on the most important task of preaching the gospel rather than getting bogged down in issues which are given far to much importance by a vocal minority who are intent on getting their own way.
Michael Ridge, Southport

Isn't there enough injustice in the world for the church to concern itself with, without creating more of it in its own ranks? Well done Scottish church, may the rest of the Anglican communion learn from you.
Anna Langley, Cambridge

What annoys me about all of this is, why does it have to become an issue? I am sure that for as long as there has been a Church there have been gays within the ministry. The problem is that in today's society everyone has to have this matter debated openly. Just get on with it and then start to concentrate on the more important things going on in the world.
Sam Johnston, Uckfield, East Sussex

I would be more worried if I belonged to a faith that never discusses anything
Matt, Chelmsford
I believe that ongoing debate in an establishment constitutes an active, thriving one - not one in its death throes. I would be more worried if I belonged to a faith that never discusses anything and was closed to debate.
Matt, Chelmsford

Who cares? There are probably more practising gays in the UK than there are practising, church going Anglicans, so who is the minority group here?
John, Lancs

Religious bigotry gone mad! Where is 'love thy fellow man' in all of this. Gays, whatever sex are valued human beings like anyone else. To decry them a priesthood because of this is pure hypocrisy. How can an establishment espouse moral virtues of love, compassion, and kindness from the pulpit and do something else when the sermon is over.
Karen Smith, London, UK

The Scottish Episcopal Church is ignoring its leaders' instructions. Practising homosexuality is contrary to the clear instructions laid down in the Bible.
Stewart Geddes, Billericay

Certainly a very provocative action at this time. Looks increasingly hard to see how a split can be avoided, but many on each side of the argument would see that as a good thing, I suspect.
J, Huddersfield, UK

This latest statement will not solve the existing crisis but will definitely give an extra spin to the whole issue.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

I honestly believe that the Bible was written as a guide to living a better life. However, it was written two thousand years ago, and things change. Today, by all means use it as a guide, but I wish people wouldn't attach such dogma to it.
James, Hertfordshire

Given its small size and the fact that it is not the national church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopalian Church has very little real influence in the Anglican communion. At the current rate of decline, soon the only people left will be the bishops and priests, and perhaps the homosexuals who they are so keen to ordain and whose partnerships they are so keen to bless!
Michael Lakey, Newcastle

Of course homosexuality shouldn't stop anyone becoming a priest! Being part of a committed relationship, whatever the sex of the participants, is exactly the example we need to be set.
Linda Tompson, UK

It's the year 2005 and people are still having difficulty dealing with homosexuality?!?!?! Of course being gay shouldn't be a barrier to being a priest, or any job for that matter.
Mark Malik, Teesside, UK

Hallelujah for the Scottish Church! A shining light in the darkness of closed narrow minds of the English Anglican Church. Jesus would approve!
Steph Dodwell, Chelmsford

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